Uncle Sam's men think undies aren't necessary; why should civilians?



It's getting hot in here. So take off all your clothes. I am getting so hot, I want to take my clothes off.

-- Nelly, 2002

Unfortunately, or fortunately, we can't be naked all of the time. There are moments, quite a few of them, in fact, when clothes are not just a necessity but a legal requirement. How then do we deal with the sweltering heat? If you're already down to shorts and a tank top, or your breezy little sundress isn't breezy enough, there's only one thing left to do: You've got to "go commando."

Call it free-balling, California casual, alfresco, or the much-preferred "going commando." Unless that sundress is super susceptible to breeze, super short, or you're super drunk, no one will know the difference. Fans of fashion swear by it, and ever since Joey popularized the phrase on Friends, everyone knows what it means but few have the, ahem, balls to go through with it.

Why is that, you ask? Perhaps it's the puritan in all of us. We may not wear knee-length knickers anymore, but even that strand of butt floss provides a last line of defense against, well, whatever. We simply like the sense of security that underwear provides.

But another question remains: Why is it called "going commando"? Ever the journalist, I decided to find out so that you wouldn't have to. An Internet search yielded some pretty interesting Web sites -- discussions about the merits of letting it all hang out, other articles about being anti-panty. But nothing I saw had a definitive explanation of the origins of the term. Well, dammit, I'm an investigative reporter and won't be stopped by dead ends.

As luck (my God, the luck!) would have it, when I was on vacation a few weeks ago, I stumbled across 12 Special Forces soldiers who were staying at my hotel. These were Army guys, Green Berets, commandos in the truest sense of the word. What better way to find out the origin of the term than to just go looking myself? It's war time, these are commandos, and while I'm no USO girl, surely I could serve my country by solving this puzzling question.

Long story short, commandos go commando. That's apparently how the term came about.

I'll admit this was not a scientific investigation. I certainly didn't go around checking all of them, but the one I checked was definitely anti-panty, and he says every Special Forces guy he knows does the same. They do tend to stay in bunkhouses, so it stands to reason that they'd be aware of the other soldiers' habits. But, still, I wasn't satisfied. I needed more information.

A week later, the same commandos were scheduled to be in northern Mississippi attending a shooting school that specializes in training Special Forces. For this school, they'd all be staying in the bunkhouse. So I got my favorite soldier to let me in the house. The floor was covered in clothes, both clean and dirty -- imagine summer camp for boys who have passed puberty, wear night-vision goggles, and shoot automatic weapons. (Can I just say now that I'm becoming patriotic?) I looked around the mounds of clothes and saw nary a boxer or brief or even a boxer brief. He guessed what I was doing and said, "I told you. We don't wear underwear. Is that why you wanted me to bring you here?"

It turns out they have good reasons for free-balling.

"We spend so much time in tropical, moist environments that, if we wear underwear, we'll get crotch rot," he told me. Underwear can also give rise to other maladies in men. Enticing things like anal itch, chafed penis, jock itch, and infertility.

As the soldiers' jobs require extensive swimming, one of their official uniforms consists of swim trunks and a gloriously tight T-shirt. (Did I mention the luck?) Anyway, the trunks are very short by contemporary men's fashion standards, and, feeling coy, I commented that it's a good thing those trunks are lined, otherwise it could get obscene.

But, according to another soldier, the trunks aren't lined at all. And, yes, sometimes the little decision-makers do fall out. But that's the uniform the Army makes the commandos wear, so they just deal with it. (I had never felt greater affection for Uncle Sam in my entire life.)

I asked, "If it bothers you, why don't you just wear underwear?" I was met with blank stares.

"We don't wear underwear," I was told.

"Ever?" I asked.


It's getting hot in here, indeed. In the spirit of the Greatest Generation, I propose we all swear off those poly-cotton, 2 percent Lycra blends. Our grandmothers got to skip pantyhose for the war cause. In this time of terror, going commando is the least we can do.

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