Men's Underwear: Your Masterclass in Briefs, Boxers, Trunks, Thongs, and more

This long post is your masterclass in men's underwear. Why did we take the time to write so much about undies? Well, your underwear is the foundation of any outfit and getting it right can help so much else go right.

Boxers, Briefs, Jocks, Trunks, and Everything In Between

We get it. You wear underwear every day (unless you're one of the 3% of men who prefer to go commando). But here's the thing: most guys think of underwear as just something to wear that you're supposed to. In reality, however, your underwear is as important a part of your outfit as the layers that others see more easily. From your comfort to your hygiene, sex appeal to health, your underwear matters. If you're just grabbing whatever is clean out of your underwear drawer to put on, you're not putting enough thought into it. Taking your personal preferences, body shape, and complexion into consideration is hugely important. But don't worry... we're here to teach you how.

Most of us wear underwear on a daily basis. And those who don't typically have very strong opinions about why no underwear is the right underwear. In fact, people who prefer to go commando typically thought a lot more about underwear than those who wear it daily. 

For those of us who get up each morning and slip on a pair of undies, we do so without much thought. After all, you've probably spent most of your life thinking about your underwear as just a piece of cloth that protects your outfits from that little bit of dribble you can never shake out, and to ensure that your glans don't have an unfortunate run-in with a zipper gone wild. Glans and zippers... now there's a sentence I never thought I would write. 

But here's the thing: your underwear is actually as important to your outfit as the shirt, pants, and shoes that everyone sees. Even if nobody sees your underwear– and especially if somebody does– your underwear has a much bigger impact than you likely realize. 

First of all, underwear serves several very functional purposes. While it does help to keep your pants clean, and it does provide a soft surface for your glans, the functionality of men's underwear goes beyond that. Not all guys have testicles, but for those who do, different styles of underwear can support the testes in different ways, providing the ideal comfort for a variety of situations. Additionally, underwear can:

  • protect your legs from chafing,
  • keep you smelling fresh,
  • accentuate your body,
  • decrease your likelihood of getting crotch rot (yes... that's a thing),
  • and enhance your sex life. 

Your underwear does so much more than just protect you from a painful zipping accident. It's an accessory that serves as the starting point for any outfit that you wear, influences your outlook on the day, and even assists with your hygiene. 

In a nutshell ("nutshell," by the way, would be a fabulous underwear brand name), your underwear may be the most important part of your outfit.

 

We want to help you make sure you're wearing it right.

Underwear Style and Body Shape

To get things started, let's make it clear that there are no wrong body types, and whatever shape your body may be, you can wear whatever underwear you want to wear.

What we are advising, however, is that depending upon your body type, some styles may be more flattering or more comfortable than others, so take these insights as guidelines for unlocking and celebrating your own sense of fashion.

BIG GUYS

Heavier guys who carry their weight in their midsections are often marketed clothes and products meant to hide or conceal their bodies because of our culture's obsession with skinny bodies.

Yet, for guys with thicker thighs and larger stomachs, boxers– perhaps the most popular go-to style of modest underwear– are not a style we'd recommend. 

Because many of today's clothes are made for slimmer bodies, bigger guys often report having issues with their thighs chafing or their skin being pinched by their clothing. As a preventative for this, boxer briefs can be a good choice. Because boxer briefs fit snugly against your thighs and extend down to the middle of them, boxer briefs are ideal for preventing chaffing while still being great for daily wear. 

That being said, for many, boxer briefs lack the sex appeal that you desire, especially for date nights or romantic times. As a close runner-up to boxer briefs, the slightly shorter trunks would be a good option. Trunks also fit snugly against your body but don't extend as far down your thighs. Plus, with trunks being the dominant underwear style on the market today, there are dozens of colors, patterns, and cuts to choose from. A longer cut with a soft waistband is ideal.

SKINNY GUYS

Guys who are quite thin face similar issues to bigger guys- clothes just aren't made for them. Often, guys with lanky body types are caught in a tricky spot where they have to choose between clothes that are too loose or too short. 

While underwear doesn't typically have this same issue, it's pretty common for skinny guys to want to not draw attention to their size, especially if they're insecure about being perceived as "scrawny." 

As a result, trunks are the ideal fit for guys with a narrow waist and thin thighs. Trunks have a rectangular shape without being heavy and boxy. Because of this, they make for a very solid silhouette, and their square shape prevents your thighs from looking too narrow. 

If you don't want to draw attention to your thinness, you'll want to avoid boxers. Underwear that is loose and long will engulf you and make you look smaller than you are– it's similar to the effect of wearing oversized shirts. It may be tempting as a means of concealing your size, but all it's going to do is draw attention to it.

THE "AVERAGE" BODY TYPE/ DAD BOD/ SKINNY FAT

As much as I hate the term "average" to describe a body type, that has become our accepted term for a body that is neither overweight or underweight, and isn't particularly muscular. This body type may have a few extra pounds in the shape of love handles or a small gut, but it's still not quite on the chubby side. To put it in terms of #hashtaggable terms, we're talking about guys who might be labeled as "skinny fat" or as having a "dad bod." 

However you want to label it, this body type falls in the middle of the body type spectrum, and when it comes to underwear, this can give you an advantage. 

Because this body type can be thought of as the median of body types, most styles of underwear are going to work well, and you have to think in terms of specifics rather than generalities. 

  • If you have long legs, you'll look good in most styles of underwear, but we advise that you go for trunks to accentuate your butt.
  • If your legs are pretty muscular, go for briefs, which look amazing on developed hamstrings and glutes.  
  • Briefs are also recommended if you have shorter legs. Longer styles of underwear can create a silhouette that cuts your legs off and makes them look even shorter.
  • If you have love handles you want to hide, pick something that doesn't have a low-rise waist. You may want to pick something with a thicker waistband as well.

TONED

If you're a toned guy, your torso is shaped like an inverted triangle. Your shoulders are wider than your hips, and your body is pretty muscularly developed. This is pretty common for lifelong athletes and diet-focused gym goers.

Once again, toned guys can typically wear any style of underwear comfortably and stylishly. Again, if you're pretty short, you'll want to avoid boxers or boxer briefs which can make your legs look even shorter. Boxer briefs can also be restrictive and uncomfortable on your legs if they're particularly muscular.

Regardless of height, trunks or briefs are ideal for daily wear. Both will allow your developed legs and glutes to be accentuated without squeezing them.

HIGHLY MUSCULAR/ BODYBUILDER

Hey, Dwayne Johnson and Jay Cutler, it's nice of you to be reading. I'm glad to see you. You want to shoot me an email and critique my diet and workout routine? No, you've got better things to do and just want to know more about underwear? That's fair. Let's dive in.

Briefs. You need to wear briefs.

If you're a shredded muscular beefcake, briefs are your best friend. You don't skip leg day (or glute day or core day or back day or chest day or arm day or shoulder day or neck day), and the thickness of your legs show that. For thick, muscular legs and a developed posterior, briefs are going to be your best choice showing off your hard work. Plus, they'll also be the most comfortable, as the fabric won't be restrictive on your thighs. 

Don't worry– a good pair of briefs won't be as constricting as your show speedos. Plus, if you want more room up front, plenty of brands make briefs with pouches that lift and support your... kettlebells and barbell... while keeping fabric off your thighs 

Matching Your Underwear to Your Skin Tone

Think of picking your underwear based on your body type as being like Underwear 101. 

Picking undies by color to match your skin tone is Underwear 201. It's the next-level ish that, once you get good at it, will make you an underwear guru. 

The key to picking the right color underwear is like picking the right clothes for your complexion: contrast is key.

For example, I have very peachy skin with warm undertones. Do you know what color I should always avoid? Anything pastel. What I should wear, however, are shades like navy and olive green and cool browns and cooler shades of red.

Pastel colors are washed out against my skin tone. They're too similar, and therefore they don't stand out when I wear them. Plus, because they are so similar to the undertones of my skin, they can actually draw attention to blemishes and discoloration that I'd rather not draw attention to. 

Understanding your skin tone and undertones can be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature to identify the colors that are going to look good on your skin tone. The chart below can be a quick reference and a starting point for getting used to thinking about color pairing. As a quick heads up, this chart is far from comprehensive. For example, someone whose complexion is close to Tone 6 may have warm undertones or cool undertones, and those undertones will affect which colors look best on them. 

Ultimate skin tone matching guide for clothing infographic

By matching your underwear color to your complexion, you're going to be sure that if you get caught with your pants down, you'll be making a good impression.

Okay, but seriously... Obviously, that doesn't happen that often, and you generally are going to have some advance notice if you're going to be spending time in your undies. So why does it matter? 

It all goes back to the idea of "dressing for success." To quote Psychologist World,

[...]your fashion choices can affect both your self image, the impression that you convey to others and in turn, the way in which people behave towards you. They can influence everything from the outcome of a sports match (Hill and Barton, 2005) to an interviewer's impression of your ability to perform effectively in a job position (Forsythe, 2006).

Whether or not anybody is going to be seeing you in your underoos, how you dress matters. Knowing that you look your best from head to toe and at every layer of your outfit will help to elevate your mood and boost your confidence. And since you've already mastered Underwear 101 by picking underwear that works for your body type, you're not going to be encountering issues of ball bunching undermining your newfound color-matching confidence. 

The Cost of Underwear

Underwear, like the rest of fashion, is going to run the gambit from really cheap to really expensive. Deciding how much you're comfortable spending on a given pair of underwear is going to depend a lot on personal preferences and what is important to you. 

For example, if you're looking for a pair that's comfortable and practical, but don't necessarily find it important that your underwear feel like silk and look runway ready, there are plenty of brands that make multipacks or individual pairs that you can get for under $10 and be quite happy with. 

On the other hand, if you're wanting to find a pair of undies that feel ultra-luxurious against your skin and feel like a layer of air under your work attire, you could pay upwards of $70-$80 per pair.

Naturally, you can also find a lot in the middle of the spectrum. Brands like Coconut Supply, for example, make Modal briefs that feel awesome and have prices in the $20 range.

Depending upon how much spare cash you have to spend and your comfort level with investing in your underwear, these are the brands that we'd advise checking out.

CHEAPER MEN'S UNDERWEAR OPTIONS

LUXURY MEN'S UNDERWEAR OPTIONS

From Loincloths to Tighty Whities- The History of Men's Underwear

loincloth
5000 BCE

Loincloths

Around 7,000 years ago, our prehistoric ancestors started using leather loincloths to cover and protect their loins. Loincloths were practical and met the needs of ancient man, so they stayed around for several thousand years.

Congrats! You've Passed Underwear 101

Like we said at the beginning, your undies are more than just flaps of cotton that protect your naughty bits. They're a garment with a long history of affecting our daily lives since they're the foundation of any outfit that we wear. 

What are your underwear preferences? Let us know what brands or styles you love in the comments below!