Brexit

Collapse of Cox’s codpiece clears way for an epic crisis in the Commons

BY Iain Martin | iainmartin1   /  10 March 2019

Very few codpieces survive. There are a handful of metal versions on display in armoury collections, and a couple of velvet originals are stored at the cathedral in Uppsala in Sweden. Other than that, an item of clothing that was standard dress for men across Europe (in the 16th century) has all but vanished from the face of the earth.

Where did the codpiece originate? It was a 15th century Germanic, Swiss and Italian invention rooted in showing off about war, an expansion and reinforcement of the flap of material men wore over their prototype tights to prevent social embarrassment. Backwards, and loutishly socially reprehensible as ever, the British were late to the party. But once we got the hang of it, no man in the early 16th century could be seen without his codpiece. The bigger the codpiece the richer the man. The historian Victoria Bartels, a leading expert on dress codes of the period, says: “Ideas about masculinity were closely linked to notions of martial strength. The defensive codpiece was an integral part of the costume worn by German and Swiss mercenaries. On the battlefield, the armour codpiece was both protective and assertive.”