Gents, it’s time to mention the unmentionables; time to have an open and honest talk about what’s being worn under there, and down under. It’s time to bring all men, everywhere, into the fold of common decency and good taste. Because, my fellow Dappered readers, there’s a crisis in men’s style. A crisis…in our pants.
Beth has already covered this topic from a woman’s perspective. Men who are otherwise bastions of good taste inexplicably falter when it comes to stylishly covering their Tumbler. But that can be fixed. Style doesn’t stop at what’s visual to the general public. But balancing form and function in this area is key. To help you decide (or even consider a new option) here are the pros & cons for the most common styles of men’s underwear:
Boxers (aka Boxer Shorts)
Boxers are the simplest form of men’s underwear; they are the brown lunch bag of undergarments. Boxers are formless and unflattering on the most athletic of men. They quickly veer into adult-diaper territory if they’re the least bit loose-fitting. Boxers provide no support to the boys, and men with a bit of sag may find the twins making a run for it out of one leg. The well-endowed man can also find himself an unintentional exhibitionist if Cave Johnson makes a cameo.
Boxers do offer a few advantages over other styles: they allow air to flow, they feel less restricting than more supportive underwear, and there’s speculation that boxers help improve a man’s sperm count (some men, who aren’t looking to reproduce, might not really see this as an advantage).
- Uniqlo Supima Cotton Patterned Boxers — $6.45. Patterned, but subtle. The 100% supima cotton is soft and hard-wearing. Also available in solid colors.
- Lands’ End Solid Broadcloth Boxers in Classic Navy — $39/3. Hard not to like navy. The poplin broadcloth fabric is thin, silky, and should breathe well.
- JCPenney Stafford Knit Cotton Boxer — $11.99. A slimmer boxer (if such a thing exists). The light charcoal grey color is a great choice to wear in the spring and summer under white or beige trousers and shorts.
Briefs have a bad reputation due to their association with children’s underwear. However, some men find briefs to be incomparably comfortable. They provide support in the right areas without restricting the groin or thighs. To pull briefs off (figuratively), a man should be in good-to-excellent shape. Unlike other underwear options that add to a man’s style by covering up loose bits and pieces, briefs leave little to the imagination and rely entirely upon a man’s natural physique.
- Uniqlo 100% Supima Cotton — $6.45. These may be the perfect brief. The supima cotton feels luxurious against the horse and carriage, and the quality is comparable to luxury brands.
- JCPenney Stafford — $16/2. A no frills option in either black or heathered medium blue. The briefs have received highly positive reviews on JCPenney’s website. Like everything else at JCPenney, always on sale.
- Jockey Low Rise V-Front Briefs – $26.99/6 pk. If putting on a pair of standard rise briefs make you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, give these a shot. Lower rise up front. Sold in exact waist sizes (32/34/36 etc). Bit of extra support up front with the Y-front fly design.
Boxer Briefs are the sleeker, sexier alternative to boxers. They’re typically the same length as boxers, but they have the crotch and buttocks support that boxers lack. Boxer briefs are flattering to all body types. They’re the safe option, and in most cases the best option for daily wear. That said, some men have found that the legs on boxer briefs will bunch and gather throughout the day, flooding groin-valley in an uncomfortable deluge of fabric.
- Uniqlo 100% Supima Cotton — $6.45. Date night worthy. The premium supima cotton is high quality and compares well with premium options. The cotton is on the thicker side, but it’s exceptionally soft and durable. Also available in a pattern.
- Lands’ End Knit — $34/3. A great value at full price or on sale. The construction is better than most store brands, and the fabric is soft ringspun cotton.
- J.Crew Knit — $25. A splurge (a term that should be used sparingly when dealing with this region) at full price, J.Crew’s boxer briefs are regularly on sale for 25-50% off. High quality with minimal branding. A J.Crew Factory version is available, but due to regular discounts the factory version is often more expensive than the main line offering.
Boxer Trunks / Low Rise Boxer Briefs
Boxer Trunks are the sexiest option that a man has available in his arsenal. They’re sleek, fitted, supportive, and they leave nothing to the imagination. Unfortunately, boxer trunks are not flattering on all body types. With shorter legs than mid-thigh reaching boxer-briefs, there’s less fabric to bunch into the groin.
- Uniqlo — $6.45. The seamless construction and crotch contrast puts these firmly in the date night category. They’re soft, elegant, and flattering on most men. Also available in Uniqlo’s Airism fabric.
- J.Crew — $22. Expensive at full price, but perpetually on sale in the $14-$16 range. Solid construction, and they accentuate all the right areas.
- JCPenney Stafford — $16/2. A dependable, no frills trunk. Wait for a sale to find these in the $5 range in store or online.
White Briefs (aka Tighty Whiteys)
Obviously the least sexy of the bunch. Completely devoid of the sexy. Male granny-panties. Still in the arsenal for some men, but like running shoes/white athletic socks, these are reserved for exercising. Unlike synthetic workout-underwear, all cotton briefs won’t hold onto stank, and if sized properly, will offer support. And white briefs are more likely to come in exact waist sizes, which help in terms of getting the right size. Also, they’re cheaper… which is good if you’re grinding (eesh) through many workouts a week.
- Kirkland Signature Mid Rise Briefs – $8.99/6 pairs. Surprisingly well made, extremely inexpensive, has a strong waistband and comes in exact waist sizes (32,34, etc..) as opposed to the ball-park (ha!) S/M/L.
- … do we really need more than one pick for tighty whiteys?
FINAL NOTES: Colors & Patterns, Material, and Lifespan
Color: Aim for solid, dark colors, or dark plaids and tasteful stripes. and have a decent batch of light grey underwear on hand for the spring & summer seasons. Why? That’s when we wear lighter colored pants that can often (looking at you linen) end up being slightly translucent. Light grey blends in with most skin tones and usually does not show through a light colored or woven pair of pants.
Patterns & Branding: Avoid pindots or other patterns that may be mistaken for a stain. Avoid flashy logos, brand names, or eye-catching graphics. Some men appear to be under the impression that these ostentatious visuals are beneficial because they draw the eye to the nether regions. They’re not. Your lover of choice isn’t going to tear their clothes off as soon as they get an eyeful of the advertising rimming your groin.
Also, try to avoid underwear… that comes with its own cape?
Material (cotton vs. synthetic)
Over the last few years, synthetic blends engineered for breathe-ability have become a more common fabric of choice for underwear makers. Uniqlo’s much-loved Airism boxer briefs are great for the gym, jogging, and yoga, but they’re not optimal for regular wear for one reason: Odor.
Once an odor gets into polyester, it tends to stick around. And underwear is privy (pun) to certain odors that are not welcome to stick around. Some have had luck using vinegar to delay the smell-invasion that can saturate workout gear, but for regular wear, 100% cotton is the best choice. But cotton’s downfall is sweat: once cotton becomes damp it’s game over. This highlights the importance of underwear situational awareness. Make smart choices: choose the right pair for the job.
Try using vinegar to fend off odors in your synthetic underwear & gym gear.
(Of course, you might want to take it out of the bottle.)
The Lifespan of a Pair
The 52-wear general rule: A pair worn once a week will most likely have a lifespan of a year. Underwear isn’t something that you hold onto in the hope of passing it on to your descendants. After a year, you enter Carlos Danger territory. It can be hard to say goodbye, but let go of your old pairs for the sake of your friends, family, coworkers, and community.
Fellas, we may be in an era of derrière-sitzfleisch emergency, but with the help of the Dappered community we can elevate the style of our sous-vêtements! Remember, style does not end at the outer layer. Now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of this situation, let’s hear from you guys. A twist on the debate for all ages (boxers vs. briefs). If you had to pick one style to wear, for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
About the author: Chris (aka Bruschetta) is an America-born university researcher and teacher based in Glasgow, Scotland, as well as a moderator on Threads. His sense of style is inspired by a childhood dressed in Ivy league trad, and the fact that he is enormously well bred.