Briefs, boxers, boxer briefs, jockstraps, trunks, G-strings, bikini shorts, and long underwear—there is a style of comfortable and attractive men’s underwear for every occasion and every activity. This article discusses the history, purposes, and value propositions for eight styles of men’s underwear and where to get them.
There was a time when men’s underwear was limited to boxers and briefs. Nowadays the types of men’s underwear are so varied that you could wear a different style every day for a week and still have more styles to try. In this expert guide to men’s underwear, you will find a description of each of the styles of men’s underwear and its pros and cons so you can decide which styles work best for you.
Types of Men’s Underwear Chart
Most men own a few pairs of briefs. They are your everyday, run-of-the-mill underwear that comes in a range of rises and designs that are good for light sports and going out. They cover your package and buttocks, but they don’t put any coverage or constraint on your thighs or legs. This makes them comfortable no matter what you wear over them. The men who do best with briefs need some support to keep everything in one place but don’t care for all the extra fabric found in boxers.
Briefs come in low-, medium-, and high-rise cuts that can accent the backside and profile. They leave the thigh and the side of the thigh exposed. The absence of excess fabric is key. Briefs can fit under tighter-fitting clothing without giving you a wedgie.
Low-rise briefs sit below the waistline over the hips. They give you just enough fabric to cover up what needs to be covered up and not a whole lot more. Many are designed to enhance the outline of the package. You wear low-rise briefs with low-shorts and low-rise jeans, and with gym clothes.
High-rise briefs come up to right below the belly button. They can eliminate love handles and smooth the stomach. Wear high-rise briefs with high-waisted pants.
Popular features for briefs include fast-drying fabrics, waist-minimizing waistbands, and cuts that enhance the natural contours of a man’s body.
Briefs are usually available anywhere men’s clothing is sold.
In 1992 designer Calvin Klein introduced a line of men’s underwear modeled by rapper Marky Mark that have come to be known as boxer briefs. This enduring popular style of men’s underwear could be regarded as “briefs plus”. A classic boxer brief is a mid-rise brief that extends down so it covers about half of the thigh. Some brands of boxer briefs only cover about one-third of the thigh. They provide the same amount of support as briefs with complete coverage.
Boxer briefs are fine for everyday use. They are usually made of a comfy blend of fabric like cotton and spandex that works beneath athletic gear for moderate sports. They usually have a keyhole fly, but that’s not their defining feature. Like briefs, there are boxer briefs with moisture-wicking fabrics, odor guards, waist-minimizing waistbands, and “package enhancements” that bring out the contours of a man’s body.
Some men tend to drop the “boxer” when they are referring to “boxer briefs” so there is some confusion about the differences between the two styles. If the underwear extends over your leg, it’s boxer briefs, not briefs.
Boxer briefs are usually available anywhere men’s clothing is sold.
FYI, boxer briefs are my favorite. Specifically, I consider these boxer briefs the best.
Boxer shorts are a style of men’s underwear that was once extremely popular, in the 1920s, that have made a comeback to the men’s fashion scene.
Boxer shorts were invented in 1925 by Jacob Golomb, the founder of the Everlast Clothing Company. Before 1925, boxers wore leather-belted trunks. Golomb invented boxer shorts with an elastic waistband to give the legs more freedom of movement, a critical feature when they were worn in the ring.
The popularity of boxer shorts soared in the 1920s until Jockey-style briefs came to the market. Since the 1920s, Jockey-style underwear and boxer shorts have been the leading contenders in the men’s underwear market, with men about the same age or in the same part of the country having a strong preference for one style or the other.
Before 1985, most of the men who preferred boxer shorts were older men who had worn them in the U.S. military, and the bestselling color of boxer shorts was white. Since 1985, boxer shorts have been available in a variety of colors and patterns and have become more popular with younger men. Currently, boxer shorts make up about 20 percent of the U.S. underwear market.
Boxer shorts are usually made of stiff fabric. They often have a balloon seat, which is a panel of loose fabric at the back of the shorts to accommodate the buttocks when the wearer bends forward. Most boxer shorts are made with a rear panel seat, which has two seams that run to the edges of the seat of the shorts.
Gripper boxes feature an elastic waistband that has three or four snaps on the fly and waistband so the shorts completely open up. Yoke front boxers have a waistband that can be completely opened without any snaps on the fly itself. For men who get contact dermatitis from exposure to elastic, there are yoke front boxers with a drawstring on the side that can pull the waist for a comfortable fit without using any elastic in the shorts.
Boxer shorts are usually available anywhere men’s clothing is sold.
Trunks are an increasingly popular option in men’s underwear. They are a cross between a brief and a boxer brief that doesn’t have the heap of fabric you find in boxer briefs. They have a square-cut appearance and short legs. If you want to try something a little different, try trunks!
Trunks are not the same as boxer briefs. They are more of a square-cut brief, sometimes referred to just as a square-cut. A trunk is, depending on how you look at it, either a shorter boxer brief or a longer brief. Many men don’t realize that the style of underwear they wear is trunks. If the leg is short, but it’s not quite a brief, it’s probably a trunk.
Trunks have been around since 1999 when they were introduced by Calvin Klein. They have become a popular option in men’s underwear because they provide enough support and just enough coverage for casual wear. They allow a man to show off a little bit more of his sex appeal without feeling too exposed.
Trunks aren’t a good choice for playing sports, but they are a good choice when men want a balance between sexy and comfortable. They are not too short, not too long, and fully functional, with just enough coverage for the parts for which their wearers want to leave something to the imagination.
Trunks are usually available anywhere men’s clothing is sold.
A jockstrap, also known as an athletic supporter, a posing pouch, or simply a jock, completely protects and supports the front side, but lacks fabric over the backside. The jockstrap was invented in 1874 by C. F. Bennett to provide support for bicycle delivery men, also known as bike jockeys, who rode their bikes over the rough cobblestone streets of London. Jockstraps lift the package up and away from the body for cooler and dry wear during heavy sports activity and when they are worn underneath bike shorts or uniforms.
A jockstrap has an elastic waistband. Two leg bands that fall to the sides of the glutes connect between the legs at the underside of the pouch. A classic jockstrap will have a pouch inside the front piece that can hold a cup, typically made of impact-resistant plastic. Wearers can insert cups into their jockstraps for extra protection during intense sports such as American football and martial arts.
The jockstrap was the preferred undergarment for athletic wear from the 1800s until the 1990s when more men started buying compression shorts. But jocks are cooler and allow sweat to evaporate more quickly from the uncovered back area. Their ability to prevent “swamp balls” is why they are still popular today.
One of the latest innovations in jockstraps is fashion jocks in a tremendous variety of designs and colors. Some men wear them because they want to feel sexy under their clothes.
You can find jockstraps in sporting goods stores and in the athletic gear section at clothing retailers and stores specializing in sports and outdoor gear. They are also available from online retailers.
In May of 1946 Paris, fashion designer released a two-piece swimsuit he called the “Atom”(Atome), the smallest swimsuit in the world. It covered women’s buttocks and navels and failed to capture much attention. In July of 1946 designer, Louis Réard introduced a new, smaller design that exposed a woman’s navel and buttocks he dubbed the “Bikini”, after the atoll that had recently been the site of the world’s first publicly announced test of a nuclear bomb. No runway model would wear a bikini in public, so Réard hired a nude dancer to wear the first bikini at a fashion show.
Men’s bikini bottoms are usually designed without flys or waistbands. They are mostly used for recreation and sunbathing, although they are often part of a bodybuilder’s uniform. Bikini briefs have more material than a jockstrap of a g-string, making them more acceptable for popular wear.
Bikinis for men are designed for sunning and display, not for activity. Bikini swim briefs are not designed for the reduction of drag in the water or for swimming efficiency.
Bikini’s design has not changed much in the 74 years since they came on the market, but comedian Sasha Baron Cohen recently made his take on the bikini famous. Cohen’s mankini is a sling bikini for men that stretches to the shoulders and leaves the hips and glutes bare. The microkini uses wire or adhesive to cover just enough of a man’s private parts to meet requirements of laws prohibiting public nudity and is used as an alternative to total nudity.
Your best bet for finding bikini shorts is an online retailer specializing in men’s underwear. You can also find them at major online retailers.
G-strings are pretty much the “bare minimum” of men’s underwear. Not for the avid athlete or the faint of heart, a G-string comes with a thin piece of fabric that connects a pouch to the waistband. The buttocks are left fully exposed. Men who don’t want to “go commando” under tight-fitting jeans may prefer to wear G-string underwear, as many men for whom underwear is an important lifestyle statement.
Your best source for G-strings is usually an online retailer specializing in men’s underwear. Major online retailers also carry them.
Also known as thermal underwear and long-johns, men’s long underwear has an interesting history. Long underwear originated in the nineteenth century as underwear for women seeking less restrictive undergarments. It was part of a one-piece garment known as a union suit. The concept caught on for working men in the twentieth century.
Long underwear gained popularity among men who work outdoors for its thermal qualities. Also popular was its rear flap, known as a fireman’s flap, or drop seat, aor access hatch. Long underwear today is most sold as two-pieces, top and bottom, and features lightweight, form-fitting fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin. Long underwear keeps me warm in cold weather and is a conversation starter when revealed indoors.
Men’s long underwear is available seasonally at clothing stores and year-round from online retailers.