Going commando

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Going commando, free-balling for males, or free-buffing for females, is the practice of not wearing undergarments to cover the genitals from outer clothing.[1]

Certain types of clothes, such as cycling shorts,[citation needed] Bermuda shorts, jogging pants,[citation needed] kilts, and men's sarongs are designed to be or are traditionally worn while going commando.[2][3] This also applies for most clothes worn as swimwear, sportswear or nightwear.

In modern times, the term has been used by news sources in the media, specifically when female celebrities have free-buffed under their skirt or dress.[4] Dr. Vanessa Mackay of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests that going commando can be healthy for the vagina and may improve certain conditions while sleeping.[5]


The origins of the phrase "go commando" are uncertain, with some speculating that it may refer to being "out in the open" or "ready for action".[6]

Slate magazine's Daniel Engber dates the modern usage to United States college campuses circa 1974, where it was perhaps associated with soldiers in the Vietnam War, who were reputed to go without underwear to "increase ventilation and reduce moisture".[7] However, more recently, Graeme Donald has pointed out that the US forces are "Rangers" rather than "Commandos", and that in any case, the phrase was in use in the UK, referring mainly to women, from the late 1960s.[1] The connection to the UK and women has been suggested to link to a World War II euphemism for prostitutes working in London's West End, who were termed "Piccadilly Commandos".[8][9]

The term appeared in the 1982 novel Groundrush by Greg Barron, in the sentence, "Bigfoot's jock snapped underneath, leaving him to 'go commando'."[10] In the Chicago Tribune of January 22, 1985, Jim Spencer wrote, "Furthermore, coloured briefs are 'sleazy' and going without underwear ('going commando', as they say on campus) is simply gross." The term gained currency in the popular vernacular after appearing in a 1996 episode of Friends.[11][12]

In Chile, the act of not wearing underwear has been called "andar a lo gringo" (to go gringo-style) for decades.[13]


The phrase has been adapted to describe a lack of certain other items of clothing. One example would be "going fommando", believed to be coined by Thomas Dobbs Lazaro in reference to going outside in bare feet.[14] The phrase, coined during the 2013 Spanish heatwave,[15] has become particularly popular among British expat populations living in Spain.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Donald, Graeme (2008), Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis: The military origins of everyday words and phrases, Osprey Publishing, p. 94, ISBN 9781846033001, retrieved October 19, 2012
  2. ^ "Uniform", Gordon highlanders 1914–18, He told her the battalion never wore them. She didn’t believe him, so before he returned she made him a pair – but on his first spell in the trenches they were done away with, and his mother's work had gone for nothing.
  3. ^ Andrew Pearson. "What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt?". Scottish Tartans Authority. However, there is nothing mysterious about what was worn below the clansmen's shirts. 'You cannae tak the breeks aff a Hielanman!', runs an old saying, signifying the futility of attempting the impossible!
  4. ^ "Eva Longoria suffers wardrobe malfunction: Stars who go commando on the red carpet". New York Daily News. May 19, 2013.
  5. ^ Andrea Downey (September 28, 2017). "Going commando is healthy for your vagina". New York Post.
  6. ^ Gisesa, Nyambega (16 April 2012). "When a little goes a long way to ruin your reputation". Zuqka. Nairobi: Nation Media Group. Archived from the original on 23 July 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013. It's during the Vietnamese war, that the earliest cases of going without underwear were recorded. It meant ... being 'out in the open' or 'ready for action'.
  7. ^ Engber, Daniel (January 10, 2005). "Do Commandos Go Commando?". Slate. Retrieved 2006-12-23.
  8. ^ Gardiner, Juliet (2005). Wartime: Britain 1939-1945. Headline Review. ISBN 0755310284.
  9. ^ Wagner, Paul. "Rest and Relaxation, WW II Style". 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association. Retrieved 2014-12-23.
  10. ^ Barron, Greg (1982). Groundrush. p. 29. Bigfoot's jock snapped underneath, leaving him to 'go commando.
  11. ^ Heller, Jason; Koski, Genevieve; Murray, Noel; O'Neal, Sean; Pierce, Leonard; Tobias, Scott; VanDerWerff, Todd; Zulkey, Claire (June 21, 2010). "TV in a bottle: 19 great TV episodes largely confined to one location". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 21, 2010. [T]he episode also introduced the term 'going commando' into the popular vernacular.
  12. ^ Hendrickson, Eric (27 October 1996). "Buzz word 'going commando' gets an airing on 'Friends'". Sunday Times-Sentinel. 31 (38). p. C3. (copy from The Detroit News)
  13. ^ Brennan, John; Taboada, Alvaro. How to Survive the Chilean Jungle (2nd ed.). Santiago, CL: Dolmen Ediciones.
  14. ^ a b Martin, Eugenio Cascon (Oct 1, 2013). Espanol Coloquial: Rasgos, Formas y Fraseologiea de La Lengua Diaria (Expanded, Updated ed.). Editorial Edinumen. ISBN 978-8-498-48532-5.
  15. ^ Peter Upton (31 July 2013). "Killer heatwave hits Spain: Tourists warned to expect dangerously high temperatures of 43C as scorching winds sweep in from Africa". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2018-01-02.