Once More into the Breeches


IF you thought the expression, once more into the breeches, had anything to do with warfare you could be right. The saying has its origins in the battle of the sexes. The term refers to the codpiece, a medieval male dress accessory that, excuse me, emphasises a certain part of the male anatomy.

No chortling please; the ladies also have a few gimmicks for celebrating and emphasising their sexuality.


The term has little to do with the fish of the same name. In olde English a codd described a bag as in scrotum.

Even in the 15th and 16th centuries there was much confusion over the terms. Many a banquet was interrupted by a brawl should someone utter those show-stopping words: “This is the tastiest cod I have ever had in my mouth.”




The cod-piece began life as a flat triangular piece of material inserted into the trouser slit we know as the fly.

This allowed easy access: For the first time men could relieve themselves whilst standing up, without the need for them to lower their pants.

A sartorial breakthrough it coined the term, once more into the breeches as ale house clients headed for the great outdoors to relieve themselves.

The codpiece remained flat for years but given a little padding gradually did for men what the padded bra does for women. Is purpose became threefold when it was tailored in such a way that it resembled a purse in which wearers would place their valuables; hence the expression; ‘it’s where he keeps the family jewels.’




In court circles the cod piece became very popular. Henry V111’s attire provides a good example of its purpose. We can’t be sure if her unguarded remark had anything to do with her being beheaded. Queen Anne Boleyn might have put her foot in it when she remarked to the visiting Duke Fabrizio of Bologna: “Be that thine coddling or art thou glad to see me?”

It is known that King Henry, not to be upstaged by the Italian duke or perhaps envious, commanded: “My codpiece must compare favourably to Bologna.” As Marilyn Monroe once quipped: “It is all make believe isn’t it?”

By Mike Walsh



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