Why Superman’s Briefs Matter

The Hobbit is due to touch down in theatres next month [yes, I watched the Grey Cup last night], and with it will come a new, full trailer for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel With all of that happening, I’m going to touch on . . . hm, maybe not the best choice of words. . . I’m going to write a little about the new suit we’ll be seeing in the 2013 summer flick.

On the right is what Henry Cavill is expected to look like as the Last Son of Krypton. Many fans have [as usual] expressed great displeasure in the loss of Supes’ signature undies, as can be read in the aptly titled “‘Man of Steel’: Is Superman’s new suit made of fanboy Kryptonite?

What’s probably unknown to most of them, however, is that director Zack Snyder fought to keep the supehero’s look traditional. In an interview with the New York Post he said:

“The costume was a big deal for me, and we played around for a long time. I tried like crazy to keep the red briefs on him. Everyone else said, ‘You can’t have the briefs on him.’ I looked at probably 1,500 versions of the costumes with the briefs on.”

Ultimately the studio [as usual] had their way, and the iconic red briefs were done away with. There are a few reasons why I think they should’ve stayed, though, and they have nothing to do with the iconic depictions of the character.

The first reason, if you look up, is staring you right in the face. It’s- well, it’s distracting to say the least, and was actually a problem when suiting up Brandon Routh for the 2006 Superman Returns. From what I can tell, costume designer Louise Mingenbach had her hands fu- sorry . . . had a lot to deal with when it came to the suit. The film’s IMDB page tells us:

According to an article in the 12 September 2005 issue of Newsweek, the biggest question concerning Superman’s costume involved the size and shape of the bulge in the front of his tights. Costume designer Louise Mingenbach finally decided on a bulge that wasn’t too big. “Ten-year-olds will be seeing this movie,” she explained.

A less reputable source [The Sun], told second-hand via KillerMovies reports that a source had this to say about the film:

“It’s a major issue for the studio. Brandon is extremely well endowed and they don’t want it up on the big screen. We may be forced to erase his package with digital effects.”

The current costume design is definitely not doing them any favours in that department, and if anything calls even more attention to Superman’s unmentionables.

My second point has to do directly with design. As archaic and old-fashioned as the red shorts over tights are, they were great in breaking up the blue of the rest of the costume. Although the golden belt buckle attempts to do that in Cavill’s costume, it ultimately fails, and in fact draws added attention to my first point.

To bring up something I mentioned in passing in my post about the immensely talented Kris Anka, there are ways of omitting the briefs while still maintaining a good balance:


In the above design Superman’s midsection is broken up by  the two red lines and the golden buckle, which form an incomplete belt. This, along with the darker blue of the costume’s sides does wonders in not making it feel like the character is simply wearing a full set of blue tights and a cape.

I suppose we’ll have to wait until next summer to really determine whether or not the new suit works. Until then, these are my thoughts

If you want to keep reading about this particular topic, io9 wrote a great article called “The War on Superman’s Underpants.”

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