Men’s Underwear Types: Everything You Need To Know
There is something special about wearing new pants. That fresh feeling as you take them from your drawer, the firmness of the cloth, taught over your skin, the gentle thwack of the waistband. It sets you up for the day – whatever you are doing.
But it can so easily go wrong. There are so many different types of men’s underwear, choosing the best style for you is not necessarily the most straight-forward task. And wearing the wrong pants can just as easily spoil your day. All that squirming and itching is very uncomfortable.
The dilemma is knowing where to start your search. Of course, we reckon you have come to the right place to find out. Our aim is to build the best website for men’s underwear, where you will discover all your favourite brands and their most popular styles, so we think we know a thing or two about how to choose the best male underwear styles.
Some of it depends on body shape, some on personal preference. Our basic premise is that there are five different types of underwear, and as you look through Pants & Socks you will find the wide variety of styles, edited into the following headings: Boxer, Boxer Brief, Trunk, Brief and Thong. Once you understand this you can then think a bit more about the types of fabric available and even the colours best suited to you.
Pants are probably the most important item in your wardrobe. Worn everyday, they sit close to your skin and cover the more sensitive parts of your anatomy, so read on to discover the difference between the main men’s underwear types and to gain an insight into what will help you look good and feel great.
What are the main types of men’s underwear?
Boxer shorts are the classic underwear style – popular since your dad was a lad, if not before, and so called because they are similar to the shorts worn by boxers. Simple really.
First marketed by Everlast in the 1920s, they still have a feel of vintage America, which is why we turn to Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger first. Boxers are normally made of pure cotton and are quite loose fitting; they let the air circulate and your moving parts, well… move. Often designed with a button fly, they generally sit on your hips and reach over the tops of your thigh.
Boxers are fine if you wear trousers that are quite loose – say a suit or something high-waisted - but anything too tight and the fabric will start to bunch, which will be uncomfortable and will show through your clothing. Generally, they are good for guys with thinner legs and with a narrowness at the hips so they hang rather than cling… Allegedly, they are also good for your sperm count.
In many ways, boxer shorts have had a bit of a bad rap in recent years. They are often depicted as being a bit old-fashioned but we remain big fans – we prefer to see it as retro-chic – and think they are a great option if you have a tendency to overheat.
The boxer brief is the modern classic. The go-to pants for a generation. Of course, the benchmark is Calvin Klein, who started the stretch boxer revolution in the early 1990s, but most brands now have boxer briefs in their repertoire.
Boxer briefs are a variation on the original boxer but are made from stretch fabric – often cotton with a touch of elastane, or alternatively modal, which is softer, with a silkier touch, again with a touch of elastane. The cut is generally more fitted, though by how much depends on the brand. The best styles provide more support where it matters, offer better definition behind, and are cut closer to the thigh. They are normally worn higher on the hips to show off the waistband and sit between the middle and the top of the thigh.
In truth, they work for most men, but if you have particularly well-developed thighs you might find them a bit constricting at the top of the leg and there is a possibility that the fabric will bunch up – this is bot uncomfortable and unsightly.
Boxer briefs work best for taller, bigger men, especially those with more ample posteriors. The extra fabric, with an element of stretch, covers and defines while the higher waistband provides a better fit. The high waist is also good for the taller man who will often find their underwear slipping when they bend down. Best hide that crack, Jack.
The men's brief is something of a catch-all title (and, as we will see, a bit of a catch-all style too!). As well as the modern brief – think of a Cristiano Ronaldo or David Gandy photoshoot – the term also includes hipsters and the contemporary take of the Y-front (yes, they still exist). But they all, essentially, do the same job.
Made from stretch cotton, or its silkier cousin modal, with a touch of elastane in order to enhance definition and add extra comfort, with the brief, the cut and styling are key. Designed so the leg hole curves up towards the top of the thigh, this is perfect for the man with bigger thighs, as there is no likelihood of the fabric bunching (this is both unsightly and uncomfortable). But also, if you’ve been working on those thighs in the gym, the brief is the perfect vehicle for showing them off to best effect. And as they sit lower on the hips, they’re quite good at enhancing a flat stomach as well.
But it is not just about aesthetics (well, not really). There is also the practical aspect of the pouch that cups and holds your privates – good if you are always on the move… or working out… or so endowed that the extra support is welcome…
Size is also important in other areas – before buying, check the fabric at the back as well. Often the high cut can mean there is not so much cloth at the rear, which isn’t great if you have more of an expanse to cover there as well.
The practical element also leads us to the enduring appeal of the Y-front. It is a classic, almost iconic. But of course, the design has been adapted so it no longer looks as it did in Grandad’s day. With a higher leg and a more fitted cut there is some real style here, as well as the sensible bit about easy access.
The men's trunk (also referred to as hipster) offers the best of many worlds: a pouch for comfort and to hold everything in place; a shorter leg, so there is no uncomfortable bunching; and a lower rise, meaning the waistband sits below the hips, all the better to show-off your six pack.
Made from stretch cotton or modal, which is made from beech tree pulp and has a silky touch, the trunk is more body-hugging than many boxer briefs (read our boxer briefs vs trunks comparison), and still gives full coverage at the rear. It has grown in popularity alongside the fashion for skinny trousers and is ideal for the tall, slim guy with strong, though not over-developed, thighs.
The men's thong is part of the skimpy-brief family that includes the jockstrap and the G-string. All three have practical aspects – honest – as well as aesthetic principles.
The jock strap was invented in the 19th century as a very practical response to the arrival of the bicycle: men needed more protection when they were sitting on a hard thin saddle. With nothing more than a pouch, two strings and a waistband, these cycle jockeys had a strap to look after their privates. And so today, the same principle remains: the thong offers comfort and support while still giving the opportunity to go semi-commando.
Generally made from cotton with a little bit of elastane added for enhanced comfort in the pouch, the thong sits low on the hips and just has a narrow strip of fabric at the rear.
Of course, the main reason for the thong is the look – if you have a body to be really proud of, then this is the best type of men’s underwear to show it off. It leaves little to the imagination, but then the thong is not about being suggestive…
What colour is best?
All the types of men’s underwear come in a variety of colours, the classics are black, white, navy and grey. And to be honest, you won’t go wrong with any of them.
Black is undoubtedly the most popular colour and the black boxer brief probably accounts for more pants sold than most of the other styles put together. It is easy to see why, no-one is going to give you funny looks in the gym or be disappointed when you take your trousers off – classic, understated and dependable (oh… and they don’t show the dirt so much).
White has had a bit of bad press in recent years as everyone has decried the tighty-whities of their childhood. But there is something very clean and simple about white. It says you don’t have to try too hard and, as with the white-collar worker, it implies there is something gentle and sophisticated about your life which means you pants won’t get too dirty! However, once they start to go grey, bin them…
Grey itself is often associated with a sportier look and suggests a certain athleticism. But on a more practical level, it sits apart from the ubiquitous black and is likely to have a longer life than white (see comments above about greying – as opposed to grey – pants).
Navy, or any other blue, is the perfect way to introduce a bit of colour to your pants drawer and a bit of personality to your pants wearing. Yes, you understand the classics, but you are confident enough to know that blue can flatter and enhance in a way black never can.
Of course, pants do come in a variety of other colours – almost any colour you want, if you look far enough. And we encourage you to embrace colour as your underwear drawer develops.
But tread warily – one man’s style statement is another’s Christmas party novelty. Consider also your own skin tone – acid green does not necessarily sit well with pale and pimply; and you need a certain confidence to pull off bright orange.
The same can be said of pattern – some brands do it wonderfully, check out SAXX for example. But again, it is about your own personality as well as your own skin-tone. Indeed, we would go as far as to say that pattern is for the man with real confidence who dresses as much for himself as for those who might see him with his trousers off.
How to choose the right type of underwear
So what to do, know that you are armed with all this knowledge? You are, we hope, ready to become the consummate pants buyer, forever comfortable in your own pants and confident that when the trousers are down, you will look your best.
If we have any last bits of advice, it would be this:
1. Consider your body shape
Your priority should be comfort so choose a style that is likely to make you most comfortable. Think thighs, package and bum.
2. Consider activity and use
Try to bear in mind what activity you will be doing - does it all need to be held in - and what you will be wearing. It’s possible you will have different styles for different occasions.
3. Start with the classic colours
Work out what you look good in, what tones with your skin, before you venture into the world of colour.
There is no pleasure in wearing the wrong pants. Uncomfortable underwear can ruin your day. It cuts, it chafes, it rides up, it slides down. In short, it makes you feel miserable. So spend time choosing the right styles for you and stride forth into the world. Comfortable. Confident. Sexy.