There’s much more than just boxers or briefs when it comes to men’s underwear now. Take, for example, Bombas’ boxer brief, so you don’t have to choose between one or the other, or Calvin Klein’s trunks, which feature a lower rise and the brand’s well-known logoed waistband. Sales for men’s underwear even rose at the end of last year, according to data from market research firm The NPD Group. Alongside that, the pandemic didn’t “kill the bra,” — it made way for the popularity of wire-free options. So while undergarments aren’t usually seen, some seem to be much more interested in them now — Google searches for underwear have surpassed those for swimwear over the past year. But for those considering updating their underwear drawer, it can be frustrating to know what to get when it comes to men’s undergarments. To help, we consulted menswear experts on guidance to help you sort through a growing selection of boxers, briefs and boxer briefs when deciding what to put on first.
SKIP AHEAD Best men’s underwear to shop
Now in men’s underwear basics: More choices than ever
For some men, the default might still be a value pack of cotton briefs or plaid boxers from a familiar brand name. But men’s basics have multiplied — and then multiplied again. Along with the standard tighty whitey or athlete-endorsed boxer, there are now categories spanning designer wear, activewear and high-tech everyday wear, each promising improved comfort, cleanliness and support. “What people have done is to take better-quality fabrics and engineer the garment,” says Mark-Evan Blackman, assistant professor of menswear at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
It’s no longer a one-pair-fits-every-occasion product. For exercise, men “want options that can hold up in the gym — something breathable with compression properties,” says Gregory Fass, director of brand marketing for men’s and women’s undergarment maker MeUndies. For long-haul travel, says Fass, “you want something that’s going to be more breathable and moisture-wicking."
For functionality, there’s the traditional, vertical fly (seam, button, middle or side), horizontal fly and no fly. ”Guys are very outspoken about fly/no fly,“ says Brian Berger, co-founder and CEO of Mack Weldon menswear. Then there’s also the pouch or no pouch debate. Style counts, too, especially in social-media spaces where people modeling preferred or promoted brands “want to look really good,” says men’s fashion reviewer Jon Shanahan, founder of The Kavalier YouTube channel and style blog, where you’ll find rankings for dozens of different men’s basics makes and styles.
Underwear comfort, sometimes at an uncomfortable price
Some men still rate comfort ahead of any other feature in a pair of underwear. “That isn’t really new,” Fass said. “Men's trends kind of take a while to build, but they're interested in quality and style more than ever before, and purchasing from brands that they can really identify with.” A new generation of direct-to-consumer companies — such as Bombas and SAXX — has helped make it easier to shop from home.
“I hate shopping for underwear,” Berger said. Mack Weldon was born in 2012 out of a frustrating trip to a men’s aisle, he told us . “One day, my wife threw everything out and I had to go to a department store,” he explained. “When I was standing there, the sales guy came over to me and said, ‘Are you confused yet?’ And that was my aha moment.” In this diverse and competitive new environment, “those companies that have committed to the fabricating, engineering and cut of an item have really done well,” Blackman suggested.
Perhaps the biggest change is in price. Designed to feel better and last longer, newer brands tend to cost more, too. “It’s a huge mental hurdle to go from $20 for a five-pack to $20 for one pair,” Shanahan said, “but I think once guys get that experience, they understand.”
The experts we consulted found quality, wearable undergarments at prices closer to the norm, but Blackman agrees that budgeting for better underwear is worthwhile: “I truly feel that once you put on a well-made pair, it really becomes very difficult to go back.” Just remember to wash them daily.
Best men’s underwear to shop
Brooklyn-based Tani says its SilkCut Hip Brief as ideal for running, but doesn’t discourage all-around wear of this lightweight MicroModal fabric garment. Shanahan counts himself a fan of Tani, even considering their higher price per pair. “When I wear Tani, I feel better through the day,” he said. This brief currently comes in sizes S to XX and four colors: White, Black, Gray Heather and Sky.
One of the brand’s signatures is the BallPark Pouch, a contoured pouch with two mesh panels to help prevent skin-on-skin friction and keep “everything in place.” Another of SAXX's notable anti-chafing measures is having panel seams turned outward, on the garment’s exterior, away from the skin. SAXX is “still one of the best” in the crowded men’s underwear market, according to Shanahan. He gives the company high marks for design, comfort and its use of a flexible, moisture- and odor-beating Modal-Spandex fabric mix. The company “continues to improve” its product line year after year, Shanahan added. The brief is available in sizes S to XXL, two solid shades and seven patterns.
Tom Ford introduced his underwear line in 2018. Fashion stylist Neil Cohen called the collection “as sexy as you’d imagine,” which originally featured things like animal prints. The line includes silk boxers, which are much more expensive than other offerings on the market. But the brand also carries subdued shades including cotton briefs and these boxer briefs, which come in colors like Tan, Brown and Beige. You can choose between colors S and XXL.
A self-described “briefs guy,” Shanahan said if he were just buying clothes — and not grading them — he might fill his entire underwear drawer with these Mack Weldons. Shanahan credits the Polyamide fabric in AIRKNITx products with wicking away moisture in a garment that’s designed to fit snugly. They come in sizes S to XXL and colors like Succulent Heather and Billiard Table Heather. Blackman also mentioned that Mack Weldon’s best men’s basics are in the AIRKNITx line. He’s a fan of the Silver Trunks made with an antimicrobial cotton.
Blackman recommended this boxer brief as both comfortable and antimicrobial. Notable features of this undergarment include a flat front and a flyless pouch. Swiss brand HANRO makes this brief from Egyptian cotton and elastane. It currently comes in sizes S to XL and six colors including Black and Cerulean Blue.
Uniqlo Supima Cotton Boxer Briefs (limited availability)
While Blackman’s original recommendation is currently sold out, which he called a comfortable garment with a slim cut and an unobtrusive fly, this boxer brief is similarly made from premium cotton Supima. It’s designed to make the front fly less bulky and features odor control, according to Uniqlo. It currently comes in sizes S to 3XL and seven colors including Red and Black.
Rhone’s Pima cotton boxer brief features a 5-inch inseam, no-roll waistband and horizontal fly. It has a distinctly athletic cut and is designed to be chafe-free, with a gusset meant to provide breathing room. Blackman mentioned that it’s a good choice for athletic builds and “perfect” for wearing under slimline trousers. You can choose between sizes S to XXL and eight colors including Navy, Olivine and Black.
While Lululemon is synonymous with yoga wear, the brand also carries this sporty, quick-drying undergarment for guys. “They have done a beautiful job,” Blackman told us of Lululemon’s foray into men’s underwear. This may be labeled as a boxer but might be better described as a leg-hugging boxer brief. It’s available with a 5-inch and 7-inch inseam. And, either way, Blackman said to expect all-day comfort with a good range of motion from this versatile pick. It’s available in sizes S to XXL and eight colors including Wild Mint and Sports Red.
Founded in 2015, Related Garments uses a lightweight, luxurious-feeling fabric called Modal. “They spent money on technically engineering a very sound garment that fits well,” Blackman said. The brand claims its boxer briefs won’t ride up the thighs, and the company offers a variety of colors and designs. “Many people consider it the entry-point luxury wear,” says Blackman of FIT, “but in terms of quality they’re really competitive with the big boys.”
These briefs are popular with Amazon shoppers, earning an average 4.5-star rating over more than 4,500 reviews. With sleek, dark fabrics, David Archy menswear is meant not just to be worn, but actually seen in. “Those are very designed for a guy to look his best for when he’s just wearing his underwear,” Shanahan said. The briefs are made of a bamboo fabric blended with rayon and spandex, and have a reinforced pouch available in fly- and no-fly models. They’re also more affordable compared to many of their competitors. These briefs currently come in sizes S to XXL.
Nice Laundry offers a relatively more affordable solution to the constant problem of boxer briefs riding up: Leg bands to hold the garment in place. The company is one of the few to have figured this out, Blackman told us. For Nice Laundry wearers, this means no more tugging at their underwear seams. This boxer brief with a horizontal fly is made with a custom blend of the MicroModal fabric that has caught on with several menswear companies. “It’s basically still polyester, but it’s a high-end polyester and it’s extremely comfortable,” Blackman said. The brief is designed for odor-resistant, breathable support. “It’s a good bargain for what they do,”Blackman added. It currently comes in sizes S to XL.
Known for their prints and color palettes, the Los Angeles-based subscription service uses MicroModal in its designs. Using this wood-derived cousin of Modal fabric in underwear was a “breakthrough” in men’s basics, according to Shanahan. He likes the brand for its playfulness with design: He and his wife have pairs in matching patterns. Like most MeUndies, the Men’s Trunk comes in three styles for colors: classic, bold and adventurous. You can choose between sizes S to XL.
Where as many underwear is knitted, this British brand weaves in order to produce a more durable garment that will stand up to washings without disintegrating over time. Blackman described the Sunspel weave boxer as something of a “throwback” from a company that dates back to 1860. It’s a well-made and “very English” garment, he said, with a lightweight feel and a comfortable back panel to replace the standard middle seam that most underwear makers thread between the legs. It currently comes in sizes XS to XL and eight colorways including White/Red Pinstripe and Blue.