By  on February 5, 2018

PARIS — When it comes to France’s most iconic heritage brands, Petit Bateau — in the children’s wear domain — counts among the national treasures. But the historic house also has another claim to fame in the legacy department, as the inventor of the underpant, or the culotte.

One hundred years ago, explained Patrick Pergament, the brand’s chief executive officer, Etienne Valton — as one of three heirs to Valton & Sons, a respected knitter based in Troyes in northern France — snipped the legs off the traditional long-john undergarment to create what the brand claims was the first incarnation of the modern underpant. Valton, a shrewd entrepreneur, was also the one who dreamed up, and trademarked, the brand’s Petit Bateau moniker, inspired by a popular French lullaby, “Maman, les P’tits Bateaux.”

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