Written By: Eric @ MensUnderwearGuide.com, Founder and Head Writer of MensUnderwearGuide.com
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Table of Contents
- Briefs and Bikini/Tanga Briefs
- Boxer Shorts
- Boxer Briefs and Trunks
- Other Men’s Underwear Styles (Thongs, G-strings)
If you think men’s underwear is either boxers or briefs, think again. There are so many men’s underwear styles today that sometimes it is hard to keep track! But it is time to take advantage of this “golden age” of men’s underwear. It is time to experiment with different styles, fabrics, colors, patterns, fly types, and pouch types – even foreign countries.
If you want a new pair of underwear, spice up your collection by trying a fresh style! This article covers the four common men’s underwear styles: briefs, boxer shorts, boxer briefs and trunks, and jockstraps. I give reasons to wear each type of underwear, along with things to note so that you can Find Your Ideal Pair of Underwear.
Briefs and Bikini Briefs
Older generations like Gen X and Baby Boomers grew up wearing briefs – possibly boxer shorts – and naturally continued that trend through adulthood. Yet as briefs fell out of fashion starting in the 1990s, younger generations like Millennials and Zoomers grew up wearing boxer shorts in the 1990s and 2000s, then boxer briefs in the later 2000s and through the 2010s. This shift coincided with a general change in men’s fashion towards larger and baggier styles, where more is more.
Yet starting in the late 2010s and especially in the early 2020s, men’s fashion moved back towards slimmer and shorter styles. As a Millennial, I see the short shorts younger men wear today, and I think that when I was growing up, those shorts would never fly at school and with my friends. I’d die of embarrassment if I wore shorter shorts to school, yet it seems normal today.
With the shift towards slimmer clothing, briefs have become popular over the past few years. American legacy underwear brands like Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and Jockey never stopped making briefs, which is unsurprising. Yet I was surprised when I saw American Eagle sold men’s briefs a couple of years ago. Nowadays, new brands like Saxx and Shinesty are aboard the briefs train, which is terrific!
Hordes of guys love briefs for their simplicity; others love them for their sex appeal. Yet, plenty of men wouldn’t dare be caught wearing a pair of briefs, perhaps even using the derogatory term “tighty-whiteys” to describe a pair of white briefs. I see this changing as briefs become “cool” again. I own a few pairs of briefs now, and I love them, although trunks are still my favorite style.
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Different styles of briefs
The hallmark of briefs is no leg coverage; the underwear does not extend below the groin. This is also known as a 0” inseam length (inseam length is the length of the legs). Yet, within the world of briefs, there are different cuts and styles.
The three most common styles are full-cut briefs, hip-cut briefs, and bikini/tanga briefs. Each style differs in how much the briefs cover your hips. Hip briefs show much more skin than full-cut briefs, yet they are trendy and the most “modern” looking. Most brands – including most new companies – sell some variation of the hip brief design. On the other hand, you’ll most likely look at the big three legacy American companies for full-cut briefs: Hanes, Jockey, and Fruit of the Loom.
Notice almost all of the hips are covered by these Full-cut briefs from Hanes
Hip cut briefs, however, show a lot more of the hips and legs.
Bikini – or tanga – briefs have no hip coverage, leaving only the waistband connecting the front and back of the briefs.
Men have many options for bikini briefs for guys wanting to show even more skin – and ooze more sex appeal than hip briefs. Although I find bikini briefs to be the most revealing – and the most liberal – of styles of briefs, I am pleasantly surprised that both legacy and newer brands sell bikini briefs. You’ll have more selection of bikini briefs than even the “full-cut” brief. Since the trend with briefs is towards more revealing styles and a shift away from full-cut briefs, bikini briefs are finding their way into men’s underwear collections.
What are tanga briefs?
Men’s Tanga briefs are jockstraps but with full butt coverage. Tanga briefs have no fabric on the sides of the hips, providing more exposed skin than other types of briefs. Note that some brands call men’s Tanga briefs bikini briefs. Unlike women’s bikinis, many men’s string bikinis or tangas have a full-size waistband, so they are not truly “string” bikinis per se. Contrast this to regular bikini briefs that look much like hip briefs, but the waistband is far narrower and sits lower than hip briefs.
Here are some benefits of wearing briefs
- No riding up: Unlike boxer shorts, boxer briefs, and trunks, briefs don’t have a “riding up” problem as there is no leg fabric.
- No boxer brief lines: As I explain below for boxer briefs, it is not uncommon for the leg seams of guys’ boxer briefs to show through their shorts and pants. This phenomenon is more common if you wear thinner slacks or shorts with boxer briefs with thick leg bands. As briefs don’t have legs, there is no leg seam to show through your pants.
- Increased air circulation: I like the feeling of briefs as no fabric covers my legs. Without that fabric, air circulates better around your legs, providing a more airy feel – especially during the summer!
- Less room needed for packing: Try packing two weeks’ worth of boxer shorts in your suitcase; then try packing two weeks’ worth of briefs. You’ll note how much less room briefs need, especially for longer trips.
- Sexier than boxer briefs?: Some sexual partners prefer the more streamlined look of briefs over boxer briefs and baggy boxer shorts. I recommend wearing dark-colored modern hip-cut briefs to achieve a higher probability of sexual desire from your partner. Of course, the easiest way to tell is to ask your partner what they like – there is something for everyone!
Potential Obstacles to Wearing Briefs
- Thigh irritation: Some guys experience skin irritation on their thighs – or chafing – from their thighs rubbing against the interior of their shorts or trousers. Boxer briefs and boxer shorts help prevent this by providing a fabric barrier between your skin and your pants. Briefs don’t offer this protection. If your skin gets irritated on your thighs, you’ll want boxer briefs or long-leg briefs.
- Fertility issues: Some studies have stated that wearing tight underwear causes a decrease in sperm production. The underlying cause is believed to be that tight underwear traps heat, thus heating up your balls, which causes sperm production to drop. Other studies note that there are many reasons for decreases in male fertility, of which tight underwear may only be one factor. I strongly recommend you talk to your doctor if you are concerned about fertility or sperm production – don’t take my random blog as advice in this area!
- Crotch seams: As briefs don’t have legs, briefs have a thicker seam that ends between your crotch and the top of your leg. This seam can be irritating or uncomfortable if your briefs are too tight or the stitching is rough. Trunks and boxer briefs don’t have this seam, as they have leg bands instead.
- “Tighty-whiteys”: Some guys love the look of classic white briefs on a man. However, society generally has shunned briefs on guys, especially the “tighty-whitey.” Nonetheless, I encourage guys to wear what they want and what is comfortable. Yet it always pays to invest in good quality underwear – and it doesn’t have to be expensive!
If you are into briefs or looking for some new pairs, make sure check out my post on the Best Briefs for Men.
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On the end of the spectrum of men’s underwear styles lies boxer shorts. If briefs represent form-fitting minimalism, boxer shorts – or “boxers” to geriatric Millennials like myself – represent the opposite: baggy excess. Boxer shorts look like shorts, are designed like shorts, and feel like shorts. Boxers are shorts in every sense of the word.
As I mentioned, boxer shorts were the only underwear type growing up as a Millennial. All the guys in school wore boxers, and if you didn’t…ouch. While boxer briefs overtook boxers as the go-to underwear style for adult Millennials and Gen X, some guys still wear boxers as their everyday underwear. Read my Ultimate Guide to Boxer Shorts for the complete guide to buying new boxers.
Benefits of wearing boxer shorts:
- Allows heat to escape: As mentioned above, some studies tell men to wear boxer shorts when wanting to create a baby, as cooler testicles may produce better sperm. Yet tight underwear such as briefs and boxer briefs compress your testicles against your body, heating them up. Boxer shorts allow the testicles to hang freely, allowing heat to escape and keeping your testicles cooler. However, other studies say little data exists showing that underwear affects sperm production, so you must talk to your doctor if this matters – I am not qualified to give advice in this area!
- Freeballing: Some guys love the feeling of freeballing. Yet they may still want to wear underwear for other reasons. Boxers allow your testicles to hang more freely than other types of men’s underwear and will be more comfortable if you like your testicles hanging outside. Note that new versions of boxer briefs with special-designed pouches can mimic the feeling of wearing boxers for your penis and testicles. See my entire post on Pouch Underwear to find out more.
- Modesty when hanging out in underwear: As boxers are not form-fitting, it can be much easier to wear them around the house or outside – especially if you have kids – as boxers look like shorts. Briefs show off a lot of leg, and both briefs and boxer briefs contour your penis, balls, and butt, which may not be appropriate in all situations. You won’t have this issue with boxer shorts.
Drawbacks of wearing boxer shorts:
- Fabric bunching: Most boxers have excessive fabric due to their design. You will have to deal with uncomfortable fabric bunching if you wear tighter pants, such as skinny pants. I recommend briefs or trunks with skinny jeans and tight pants.
- Freeballing Part II: Above, I wrote about freeballing as a benefit of wearing boxers. If you like the feeling, you may still be in situations where you need testicular support, such as playing sports. Boxers aren’t suitable for these situations. And if you are a guy that prefers feeling supported, boxers aren’t going to provide that comfort.
- Sex appeal: Some people find sexy a guy wearing boxer shorts; others, like myself, don’t. I prefer the form-fitting outline of a guy’s body in briefs, trunks, and boxer briefs, or the raw sex appeal of a man’s exposed butt in a pair of jockstraps. Unless your partner likes boxer shorts, stick to briefs or trunks – or even a jockstrap! – for sexy date nights.
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Boxer Briefs and Trunks Men’s Underwear Styles
Boxer briefs and trunks are the form-fitting versions of boxer shorts. Popularized in the 1990s, boxer briefs took over the men’s underwear market and have been the go-to men’s underwear style for American guys for years. My underwear journey mimics the men’s underwear market: after wearing boxer shorts while growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, I ditched boxers after graduating college – and becoming an adult. I switched everything to boxer briefs and never looked back at baggy boxers.
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My favorite feature of boxer briefs and trunks is the lack of baggy fabric like boxer shorts. Boxer briefs and trunks are easy to wear under tighter jeans and pants. You don’t have a bunch of material between your legs and pants, cutting off airflow and making you uncomfortable. Plus, if you are wearing tighter pants, it can be easy to spot a guy wearing bunched-up boxer shorts through tight pants.
Because boxer briefs are so popular, they come in various inseam lengths. Most American-style boxer briefs will have a 4-6 inch (10-15cm) inseam length, with some brands offering 6.5″ (16.5 cm) as their standard boxer brief inseam. American-style trunks – also called “boxers” in other countries – generally are 2-3.5” (5-9cm), while “square-cut trunks” typically come with a 1” inseam (2.5cm).
Long-leg boxer briefs pair well with sports and gym sessions. This version of boxer briefs – also known as “midway” boxer briefs – features a 7-9” inseam, although some brands sell up to 13″ inseams. However, don’t confuse long-leg boxer briefs with compression shorts. While they may look similar and have comparable lengths, compression shorts hug your body tightly for muscle recovery. Long-leg boxer briefs, however, are regular boxer briefs, just longer.
Which is better: Boxer Briefs or Trunks or Long-leg Boxer Briefs
In most activities and situations, 5-6″ inseam boxer briefs will be versatile and comfortable. Boxer briefs will also have the most comprehensive selection to choose from by far. Yet, I prefer trunks for their sexier, shorter length and less fabric on the leg, especially during summer. Trunks are ideal for guys wanting more freedom but not ready for briefs. On the other hand, long-leg boxer briefs are a must for guys who get irritated skin on their thighs or experience ride up due to having thicker thighs. The longer length will protect more skin from rubbing against your pants and decrease irritation. Additionally, long-leg boxer briefs can be an alternative to long underwear in cooler – but not cold – climates.
Here are some other benefits of boxer briefs and trunks:
- No bunching up: As mentioned above, boxer briefs and trunks are form-fitting, so there is no excess fabric to bunch up in your pants.
- Contoured design: Boxer briefs and trunks hug your body, showing off your curves for sex appeal. However, if you buy cheaper underwear and don’t take care of them, it is easy for boxer briefs and trunks to lose shape and turn into boxer shorts. If this happens, it is time for new underwear (and for you to take care of your underwear).
- Infinite designs, fabrics, and styles: Since boxer briefs are popular, almost all men’s underwear brands feature boxer briefs as part of their lineup. Thus, guys have infinite choices in terms of design, fabrics, and styles to choose. But if I had to say what is the “ideal” boxer brief for any guy at random, I would choose a 5” inseam black boxer brief, made from modal or bamboo fabric, without a fly, with a pouch, and a 1.5” waistband. Trunks aren’t as popular, so styles are more limited yet plentiful.
- Helps prevent chaffing: Some guys’ skin on their legs gets irritated or rashed from rubbing the interior of their pants or shorts. It is called chaffing. While I haven’t had this issue, many guys do have this issue, especially with baggier shorts or pants. Boxer briefs – especially long-leg boxer briefs – help prevent chafing as parts of the leg are covered, reducing skin irritation. If chafing is an issue for you, I recommend sticking with 6-9” inseam boxer briefs.
- No seam between crotch and legs: One difference between briefs and boxer briefs/trunks is the seam that runs between the legs and crotch on briefs. This seam is required on briefs to keep the briefs secure against your body. However, this seam can be uncomfortable, especially with tight-fitting briefs. Boxer briefs and trunks do not have this seam because they use leg bands to keep everything secure.
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Drawbacks of boxer briefs and trunks:
- Possibly no pouch: It is becoming rare nowadays for most men’s underwear styles not to have some kind of pouch, except for boxer shorts. As readers know, I strongly encourage guys to buy pouch underwear. Pouches provide additional room for your penis and balls, which is much appreciated. After all, why do you want your underwear to squeeze your penis and balls against your crotch? However, some cheap men’s underwear won’t even have a basic pouch, squishing your balls into your underwear. Don’t do this!
- Middle pouch seam: Pouches are good! However, in most pouch designs, a seam runs in the middle of the pouch. This seam can irritate the penis for some guys. While seamless pouch underwear is starting to come onto the market, the selection is minimal for the moment. One reader noted Uniqlo’s AIRism Seamless Boxer Briefs as a good choice for guys who get irritated from the middle seam pouch; however, I have not tried them yet.
- Riding up: Riding up refers to the legs on boxer briefs and trunks slowing “riding up” your legs until the underwear bunches up around your groin. This phenomenon is pronounced with older or thinner underwear, as the leg bands wear down. If you have thicker thighs and suffer from riding up, try wearing long-leg boxer briefs or switching to square-cut trunks – or briefs!
- Boxer brief lines: If you wear thinner pants or slacks, and the leg band of your boxer briefs or trunks is thicker, your boxer briefs may show through your pants. Most commonly, what happens is that as you walk, your pants will get tight around your back leg, compressing against your boxer briefs or trunks. With thin pants, a thick underwear leg band will be visible; hence, “boxer brief lines.” If you are wearing slim pants without any rear pockets, it may also be possible to see the seam that runs around your butt on your boxer briefs or trunks. Visible butt seams are less common but possible.
Jockstraps are full of masculine and gay culture. Yet, even as a gay man, I only acquired my first jockstrap in 2021 because I never quite understood the concept of jockstraps as underwear, as half of it is entirely missing!
Yet after getting my first jockstrap – and especially after my second jockstrap! – I changed my mind somewhat. I enjoy wearing my jockstrap while sleeping and wearing it as foreplay for sex. On the other hand, I don’t wear it as everyday underwear, as jockstraps don’t cover your butt, which is one reason to wear underwear. Bikini or tanga briefs are better in this aspect as they fully expose your hips like jockstraps, but also provide full butt coverage.
Nonetheless, jockstraps are popular amongst a subset of guys and are great underwear for specific occasions. But why?
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Perks of wearing jockstraps:
- Sex appeal: I love jockstraps as a prelude to sex because of the sexual tension created. A guy’s bare butt is a core feature of jockstraps, and who wouldn’t get excited staring at a man’s naked butt? Likewise, as the jockstrap wearer, I am sexually excited, knowing my butt is uncovered.
- Freedom: Given the choice between wearing more or fewer clothes, I’d opt for wearing less clothing (assuming it isn’t freezing!). I love walking around with my shirt off, wearing underwear, or even being naked. Therefore, walking around without underwear covering up my butt cheeks feels amazing. Jockstraps are nice under soft-fabric shorts and trousers, such as athletic shorts or sweatpants. I absolutely can’t wear a jockstrap with jeans!
- Visual style: Some guys love the look of jockstraps. With such little fabric, jockstraps push the visual focus onto a guy’s package from the front far more than boxers or boxer briefs. And from the back, the view is like a ray of sunshine. 🙂 Also, jockstraps either come with a standard men’s waistband size (around 1.5″ or 3.8cm) or a thick waistband as a nod to vintage athletic supporters. Note which waistband type you prefer to ensure you get a jockstrap that matches your style.
Yet, jockstraps aren’t for everyone. Here are some points to consider:
- No backside: As your butt isn’t covered, your shorts or pants will rub against your butt cheeks. If your butt is dirty, this will transfer onto your shorts or pants, meaning you’ll need to throw them into the laundry afterward. Your butt cheeks may also get irritated or uncomfortable, rubbing against the rougher material of your shorts and pants. I find this especially true with jeans and rougher polyester/nylon shorts.
- Butt straps: As there is no backside, the jockstrap supports itself by having two leg bands right under your butt cheeks. I find this somewhat uncomfortable while wearing my jockstrap. Some guys don’t mind or feel this way about the straps, so it could very well be the jockstrap I am wearing. Yet, if you are a first-time jockstrap wearer, please keep these straps in mind.
- Lack of modesty: Jockstraps show off the male pelvis from both the front and the back. If you are conservative or modest with your underwear choices, you’ll find jockstraps to be a design shock. I wasn’t entirely comfortable switching to briefs from boxer briefs until I wore briefs for a while and got used to being more exposed. The same happened when I started wearing my jockstrap.
Other Men’s Underwear Styles
As I mentioned in the beginning, men are experiencing a golden age of underwear, and there is something for every guy. The four types of men’s underwear styles I describe above are not the only underwear types out there for men. Here is a non-exhaustive list of lesser-known men’s underwear styles:
- Thongs: If you are familiar with women’s thongs, then you’ll find men’s thongs to be quite similar, except for the front pouch. If you aren’t familiar with thongs, they are comparable to jockstraps. The difference is that while jockstraps rely on two straps below the butt cheeks to stay on, thongs rely on a single piece of fabric that goes from the waistband down through your butt crack and then connects to the front under your balls. The same pros and cons apply to thongs as jockstraps, except whether you prefer the butt straps of jockstraps or softer fabric going in your butt crack to hold up the thong.
- G-strings: The terms G-strings and thongs I see are often interchangeable. This makes it hard to define what a thong is vs. what a G-string is. For me, a G-string is an even thinner thong with very thin fabric for the waistband and holding everything in place. Otherwise, the basic construction and style are the same.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite men’s underwear styles are and what new and innovative styles am I missing? And remember to read about my 5 Men’s Underwear You Should Avoid to stop making underwear mistakes.
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Last update on 2023-09-23 at 22:37 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API