AskDefine | Define codpiece

Dictionary Definition

codpiece n : (15th-16th century) a flap for the crotch of men's tight-fitting breeches

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A part of male dress in front of the breeches, formerly made very conspicuous.
    • 1598: Borachio. Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is, how giddily 'a turns about all the hot-bloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty, sometimes fashioning them like Pharaoh's soliders in the reechy painting, sometime like god Bel's priests in the old church-window, sometime like the shaven Hercules in the smirch'd worm-eaten tapestry, where his codpiece seems as massy as his club? — William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing, Act III, Scene III, line 130.
  2. A conspicuous protection for the male genitals in a suit of plate armor.
    • 1786: On some suits were screwed large iron cod-pieces; these, according to tradition, were intended to prevent the ill consequences of those violent shocks received in charging, either in battle, or at a tournament. Same say, they were meant to contain sponges for receiving the water of knights, who in the heat of an engagement might not have any more convenient method of discharging it. But most probably, they were rather constructed in conformity to a reigning fashion in the make of the breeches of those times. — Francis Grose, A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons, page 21.


See also

Extensive Definition

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. Men's hose (leg coverings) were typically very snug on the legs and open at the crotch, with the genitalia simply hanging loose under the doublet. As changing fashions led to shorter doublets, the codpiece was created to cover the crotch. Alternative theories of the origin of the codpiece exist.
As time passed, codpieces were shaped to emphasize the male genitalia and eventually often became padded and bizarrely shaped. They also often doubled as pockets, handy carrying places for a variety of items such as coins. (In this respect, the codpiece was an early forerunner to the more recently popular Bum Bag when worn in front.) In the latter half of Queen Elizabeth I's reign, men's clothing became more feminized; the codpiece became smaller and eventually returned to a simple flap of cloth, at least in England, by the time of Elizabeth's death.
Armour of the 16th century followed civilian fashion, and for a time armoured 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; codswallop'' ("nonsense") is an associated term.

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:
  • 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.
  • 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.

Pop Music

  • Tom Jones was notorious for wearing codpieces during concerts.
  • Murdoc Niccals of the Gorillaz frequently calls singer 2D "codpiece-face."

Codpieces in Film, Electronic Media and Modern Literature

  • 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.
  • 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 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 the British sitcom Blackadder episode "The Archbishop" the eponymous anti-hero Edmund wears a vast, erect "Black Russian" codpiece to the ceremony at which he thinks his hated brother Harry will be announced Archbishop of Canterbury; he is happy because the King has a habit of having Archbishops of Canterbury murdered, opening up Edmund's chances of becoming king. Instead, Edmund is declared Archbishop, and hurriedly tries to hide the codpiece from the disapproving clergy by hanging a nearby bishop's mitre on it.
  • 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.


  • 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.
codpiece in German: Schamkapsel
codpiece in Spanish: Bragueta
codpiece in French: Braguette
codpiece in Dutch: Braguette
codpiece in Norwegian: Skamkapsel
codpiece in Polish: Mieszek (część ubioru)
codpiece in Russian: Гульфик
codpiece in Finnish: Kalukukkaro
codpiece in Swedish: Blygdkapsel
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