A codpiece (from Middle English cod, "scrotum") is a flap or pouch that attaches to the front of the crotch of men's trousers to provide a covering for the genitals. It was held closed by string ties, buttons, or other methods. It was an important item of European clothing in the 15th and 16th centuries, and it is still worn today in performance costume and in the leather subculture.


At first, the codpiece was entirely a practical matter of modesty. In the 14th century, men's hose were two separate legs worn over linen drawers, leaving a man's genitals covered only by a layer of linen. As the century wore on and men's hemlines rose, the hose became longer and joined at the centre back but remained open at the centre front. The shortening of the cote or doublet resulted in under-disguised genitals, so the codpiece began life as a triangular piece of fabric covering the gap.

As time passed, codpieces eventually became so padded as to emphasize rather than to conceal, reaching an extreme of size and decoration in the 1540s before falling out of use by the 1590s.

Armor of the 16th century followed civilian fashion, and for a time armored codpieces were a prominent addition to the best full harnesses. A few of these are on display in museums today: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has one, as does the Higgins Armory in Worcester, Massachusetts; the armour of Henry VIII in the Tower of London has a codpiece.

In later periods, the codpiece became an object of the derision showered on outlandish fashions. Renaissance humorist Francois Rabelais wrote a book titled On the Dignity of Codpieces'.


Through the same linguistic route, cods became a modern slang term for the male genitalia

Codpieces in contemporary culture

Subcultural Attire

Codpieces are worn in leather subcultural attire to cover and confine the genitals of a man, sometimes while wearing chaps.

Heavy Metal Fashion

The codpiece crossed over from the leather subculture to become an established part of heavy metal fashion performance costume when Rob Halford, of the band Judas Priest, began wearing clothing adopted from the gay biker and leather subculture while promoting the Hell Bent for Leather Album in 1978. Notable subsequent uses of the codpiece include:

  • Ian Anderson, front man for Jethro Tull, wore a codpiece during his performances in the mid-1970s.
  • Gene Simmons of the American Rock Band Kiss often wore black and silver costumes with codpieces.
  • The lead singer of 1980s music group Cameo, Larry Blackmon, wore a large, bright-red codpiece in all of his performances.
  • Shock rock performer Blackie Lawless, leader of the group WASP, has been known to wear a codpiece that features a saw blade and is capable of shooting out flames and sparks.
  • Heavy metal singer King Diamond has been known to wear a codpiece as part of his performance outfits.
  • Electric Six lead singer Dick Valentine can be seen wearing a brightly flashing codpiece in the music video for the band’s 2003 hit single Danger! High Voltage.

Metal singer Till Lindemann of Rammstein occasionaly wears codpieces on stage

Pop Music

  • Tom Jones was notorious for wearing codpieces during concerts.
  • Larry Blackmon used to wear a red codpiece over his pants, which was his trademark.

Codpieces in Film, Electronic Media and Modern Literature

  • In Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange (and later Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation), Alex and his gang wear codpieces.
  • In William Tenn’s novella The Masculinist Revolt (1965), the codpiece becomes the symbol for an antifeminist movement, with hilarious results.
  • In the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the Earth is covered in radioactive dust from nuclear fallout, so male characters must wear lead codpieces to avoid becoming sterile.
  • Codpieces are seen as part of the uniform of Imperial stormtroopers in the Star Wars movie series.
  • The films Batman Forever and Batman & Robin received much publicity over the size of the molded rubber codpieces of the Batman and Robin costumes.
  • In Jim Henson’s movie Labyrinth, the Goblin King (played by David Bowie) sports a codpiece beneath his riding breeches.
  • In The Pirate Movie (1982), a rock music version of the Pirates of Penzance, the Pirate King wore an enormous jeweled codpiece for comedic effect.
  • In the Wachowski brothers’s second Matrix sequel The Matrix Reloaded, two men can be seen wearing codpieces at the entrance to the Merovingian’s nightclub.
  • In Babylon 5, G’Kar, played by Andreas Katsulas, sports a codpiece as part of his Ambassadorial garb.
  • In one episode of Metalocalypse, Murdering Outside the Box bassist William Murderface purchases a diamond-encrusted codpiece which is reinforced by titanium alloy and is shaped like a horn. Meanwhile, guitarist Toki Wartooth purchases a strap-on dildo, mistaking it for a codpiece. An assassin sent by the Tribunal later trips and falls face first into the codpiece and is skewered.
  • In the 1995 film Se7en, a lust-related murder involves a man being forced at gunpoint to don a codpiece with a long blade attached as a pseudo-phallus and have sex with a prostitute, killing the woman in the process.
  • Actor Dougray Scott, on his role in Ever After, said, "I had never worn a codpiece before and I don’t think I ever will again." — IMDB
  • In Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II, Izzy Sparks’ main costume features a skull-shaped codpiece.
  • Codpiece was a supervillain who appeared in Doom Patrol #70. He was armed with a mechanical codpiece but was defeated by Coagula, who melted it.
  • In the British sitcom Blackadder episode "The Archbishop" the eponymous anti-hero Edmund wears a vast, erect "Black Russian" codpiece.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Demoman, a self-proclaimed "black, Scottish cyclops", wears a codpiece. His taunt with his primary weapon involves lifting the codpiece to expose a smiley face on his crotch.
  • In the movie From Dusk till Dawn the character "Sex Machine" played by Tom Savini wears a black leather codpiece which he can unfold open to reveal a crutch machine gun that is shaped like genitalia.
  • In the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, an episode is called "Codpiece Topology" because the story includes a renessaince faire, among other things.

See also



  • Ashelford, Jane: The Art of Dress: Clothing and Society 1500–1914, Abrams, 1996. ISBN 0810963175
  • Ashelford, Jane. The Visual History of Costume: The Sixteenth Century. 1983 edition (ISBN 0-89676-076-6), 1994 reprint (ISBN 0-7134-6828-9).
  • Edge, David: Arms and Armor of Medieval Knights: An Illustrated History of Weaponry in the Middle Ages
  • Hearn, Karen, ed. Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630. New York: Rizzoli, 1995. ISBN 0-8478-1940-X.

External links

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