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50 Underwear Questions: a Bare-All History by T. L. Kyi

Kyi, Tanya L. 50 Underwear Questions: a Bare-All History. Toronto: Annick Press, 2011.

Have you ever wondered where long johns and jock straps got their names? Or where the phrase ‘going commando’ came from? Then this is the book for you! This book, framed as a series of 50 questions and responses, takes the reader through a social history of underwear from the ancient times of the Egyptian pharaohs through to the present day. While much of the focus is on Western Europe and North America, the reader also learns briefly about undergarments in India, Japan, and a few other regions.

The book consists of seven chapters replete with fun-filled facts and humorous cartoon images. Throughout are so-called ‘private parts,’ which are quick trivia bits printed on underwear labels. There are also several recommended activities called ‘garment games’ for readers to pursue, such as how to tie your own subligaculum (i.e. gladiator underwear) or tie-dye a pair of boxer shorts (with parental supervision, of course).

This well-researched book informs the reader not just about what was worn, but why. Fads and fashions of the various times were influenced by the need for protection from the elements, the wearer’s social class, the onset of war, or in more recent times, the apparel of models and actors in commercials and movies.

This entertaining and educational read is intended for children ages nine and up, but is fun and fast for adults to read as well. There are two previous books in the 50 questions series which are about poisons and fire. If they are anything like the underwear book, they will be enjoyable books to read as well!

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Trish Chatterley

Trish is a Public Services Librarian for the John W. Scott Health Sciences Library at the University of Alberta. In her free time she enjoys dancing, gardening, and reading books of all types.