1915: Austrians invent electric underwear for trench warfare

In late 1915, newspapers in Europe and the United States reported that freezing German and Austrian soldiers on the Western Front could soon benefit from a thrilling new invention: electric underwear.

Developed by Max Beck at the University of Innsbruck and Professor Herman von Schroter of Vienna, the underwear were made of non-conductive fabric interwoven with thin wires, in a similar fashion to modern electric blankets. Each pair contained a safety fuse to prevent overloading and electrocution. They cost approximately eight pounds Sterling or $US20 to manufacture. According to American reports:

“For each series of trenches it is necessary to install an electric plant, from which conducting wires are carried. When a soldier feels cold, all he has to do is connect up his underwear with the current wires… As now perfected it will be possible for soldiers to warm themselves with this electrical clothing [up to] 1,500 feet away.”

Source: The Sunday Times (London), November 21st 1915; Keowee Courier, December 29th 1915. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.