Men’s Briefs: The Essential Guide to Buying Amazing Underwear

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While men’s briefs may not be mainstream yet – boxer briefs and trunks still comprise most of the market – there has recently been an explosion of styles and designs. A brief renaissance, if you will. For long-time briefs wearers, take advantage of your moment in the sun and explore the abundant options you now have to revamp your underwear collection. For the majority wearing boxer briefs and trunks, add a pair of briefs to your next underwear order to try briefs out, like I recently did

This guide will teach you all about obtaining that perfect pair of briefs for you


Table of Contents


Styles of Men’s Briefs

Although it is easy to think of men’s briefs as all having the same design, there are several style variations of briefs regarding how much skin you want to show. Specifically, how much of your leg and hip you want to be displayed:

  • Classic briefs: These are the “standard” briefs, also known as full-cut briefs. The fabric covering the leg comes down from half-way to three-quarters between your waistband and crotch. In the world of briefs, these provide the most coverage. If they are white, sometimes they are derisively called “tighty-whiteys.”
  • Hip briefs: Fabric is cut higher on the leg, much closer to the waistband. Most of your hip is showing, hence the name.
  • Bikini briefs: Also known as tanga briefs. The only fabric connecting bikini briefs’ front and back portions is either the waistband or a thin piece of fabric. These briefs are the most revealing, and you can learn more about bikini/tanga briefs by reading my guide here.

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Notice almost all of the hips are covered by these Full-cut briefs from Hanes


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Hip cut briefs, however, show a lot more of the hips and legs.


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Bikini – or tanga – briefs have no hip coverage, leaving only the waistband connecting the front and back of the briefs.


Quick tip: Most men’s briefs today will be of the hip brief variety, even if just labeled “briefs.” Higher cuts appear more modern and are an excellent way to shake off the “tight-whitey” style without revealing so much as with bikini briefs. 

Learn more about tanga/bikini briefs in this video I made

Pricing Men’s Briefs

Many specialty and luxury men’s underwear companies arrived in the past few years to give men many more options in buying underwear. However, unlike the days of buying Hanes or Fruit of the Loom multipacks from Target or Walmart, specialty underwear companies can often charge the same price for one pair as a Hanes three or six-pack. In other words, buying a week’s worth of underwear can easily top $100!

Although men’s briefs are a lot less fabric than trunks, especially boxer briefs, they aren’t necessarily less expensive. Some brands charge the same; others may give a slight discount. I have noticed that savings for buying briefs often appear when comparing boxer briefs to multipacks of briefs. If you are making the switch, this is where you can lower your cost big time (although first, read the Multipacks section of this guide before you start buying multipacks).

That is why it pays to do some homework and one of the reasons MensUnderwearGuide.com exists. In general, here is how we evaluate prices:

  • $ = each pair costs less than $5. Underwear in this range is functional- not luxurious – and tends to attract mainstream companies such as Hanes and Fruit of the Loom (FTL), plus Amazon Essentials. Expect a limited selection of fabrics – primarily cotton – and simple patterns and colors. Don’t expect pairs to last long; to get the cost down, fabric and manufacturing processes are on the cheaper end. We’ll call this range the “underwear minimalists.”

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Last update on 2024-04-10 at 18:54 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


  • $$ = each pair costs between $5 and $15. This range is the “middle class” of underwear, and you’ll find both high-end products from cheaper manufacturers, an assortment of products from mid-range brands, and lower-end products from high-end manufacturers. If you are wearing Hanes or FTL and want something more sophisticated, this is the price range to start your new journey and experiment before getting pricier pairs. Brands like Wirarpa, David Archy, and others will charge you in this price range. You’ll find the most selection in the $10-15/pair range, and I consider this the sweet spot of men’s briefs.

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Last update on 2024-04-10 at 18:54 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


  • $$$ = each pair costs between $15 to $25. Above $15, brands aren’t selling you underwear; they are selling you a lifestyle. If you haven’t shopped in this price range, read this guide and study your options. Features like horizontal flies, pouches, and exotic fabric blends proliferate at this price level. Men will find brands like Calvin Klein and Jockey’s more luxurious models in this price bracket. However, note that this price range has the least selection – brands either price for the consumer between $10-15/pair or they go all out and price above $25/pair.

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  • $$$$ = each pair costs more than $25. Above $25, you have bought into the upper class of men’s underwear. Engineering and design – much like high-end cars – are what you are purchasing, not something to keep your balls in place. However, this price range is also tricky. Many companies price pairs above $25 because of branding rather than because their underwear is anything special. Unless you truly are into brands, you’ll want to focus on truly special underwear rather than just the name on the waistband. Tommy John, Saxx, and Mack Weldon are common brands in this price range.

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Quick tip: Don’t skimp. For briefs, while tempting to purchase a 5-pack for under $20, I find that $10-$15 per pair is generally the sweet spot between comfort, design, and not paying a fortune for pairs. A bonus tip is to buy some test pairs from higher-end companies at full price, and then once you know what you are looking for, you can wait for sales from those companies, such as during November and December. When the sales hit, buy, buy, buy! You’ll stock up with higher-end pairs at great prices.




Colors and Patterns

Please remove any thoughts of “tighty-whities” from your mind when thinking about wearing briefs – unless you love a pair of awesome white briefs. Today’s men’s briefs couldn’t be farther from that vision, with a plethora of colors and patterns from which to choose. There are so many designs available that you’ll be able to find briefs that are modern-looking and sexy.

If you prefer solid colors, manufacturers sell men’s briefs across the color spectrum, not just the default white, gray, and black varieties. Some brands also offer two-tone color schemes, with offsetting colors on different parts or offsetting colors on the stitching. Two-tone color patterns are a wonderful way to add spice to your underwear design without straying from the time-tested colors you prefer. 


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As with trunks and boxer briefs, patterns are also quite popular as well, and you can find designs that are as bold or as subdued as you like. However, use caution when buying briefs with patterns. First, patterned briefs are not as widespread as trunks and boxer briefs. Second, because there is simply less surface area with briefs, some patterns may look odd on the front. This is especially true if there is a different pattern or color for the fly. Patterns show better on the butt because there is a larger area to display. If you are looking for patterned men’s briefs with images, Shinesty and Saxx are good places to start.

Quick tip: If you are moving from boxer briefs or trunks, start by purchasing briefs in darker colors. Darker colors are the best way to initially avoid the “tighty-whitey” mindset (although higher-end white briefs can be pretty sexy). Briefs with offsetting colored stitching add sophistication to your briefs lineup and, dare I say, coolness? However, if you prefer patterned underwear, pay attention to how the pattern appears on briefs. I find that subtle motifs show better than bold patterns because when looking at the front, there isn’t much fabric to show off the design.


Calvin Klein Athletic Active Hip Brief 2-Pack
  • Modernized cut pouch with functional stitching
  • Turn back hem with functional stitch

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Material and Fabric of Men’s Briefs

Cotton is most likely what comes to mind when people think of briefs. And countless pairs still use cotton as the base or sole fabric. Yet today, cotton is just one of many fabric choices available to men. And as briefs are the tightest main style for men, it pays to select the material for comfort.

Since buying my first Calvin Klein modal boxer briefs, I have been addicted to lightweight materials. Wearing briefs, it is so easy to tell the difference between my Intimissimi pairs (cotton) and my Mack Weldon briefs (microfiber mesh) or my Separatec bamboo briefs.

Generally, I recommend modal or bamboo underwear for everyday wear, including lounging and office work/work from home. For gym sessions, hiking, and other high-sweat activities, a moisture-wicking synthetic blend – polyester, polyamide, or nylon – is best.

Here are some popular materials that are worth experimenting with:



Cotton Men’s Briefs

I am placing cotton first because, chances are, you are wearing 100% cotton underwear right now. Cotton is one of the heavier fabrics in the underwear world, so while many praise cotton for its “breathability,” you will generally be able to “feel” 95-100% cotton blends when wearing them. Additionally, cotton underwear ranges in price from the cheapest to the most expensive brands. While much of the variation is due to branding, fair trade or organic cotton varieties explain some higher-priced cotton models.

What is stretch cotton fabric?

Many brands label their underwear “cotton stretch” or “stretch cotton.” This means the cotton has a small percentage of elastane or Spandex weaved into it, usually no more than 5-10%. Elastane, Spandex, and similar fabrics provide stretch to the fabric compared to 100% cotton, so when shopping for cotton underwear, check to ensure it has at least a small percentage of stretchy material.


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Last update on 2024-04-10 at 18:54 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Modal Men’s Briefs

According to Masterclass, modal is a “semi-synthetic fabric made from beech tree pulp.” Masterclass also notes that modal is “luxurious” due to its “soft feel and high cost.” I completely agree. Modal, for years, has been one of my favorite materials because of how lightweight and thin it is, yet still feeling softer than cotton. Modal underwear is going to be in the $$$ or $$$$ categories. If it is cheaper, than it might be cotton-modal fabric. You’ll want to stick with at least 85-90% modal.

What is cotton-modal fabric?

Sometimes cotton and modal are blended together into cotton-modal fabric. Generally, cotton-modal fabric is 40-50% cotton, 40-50% modal, and 5-10% of elastane or Spandex to provide stretch. It is a way to soften cotton underwear while still maintaining a cheaper price point than full modal underwear. However, my recommendation is to stick with full modal or bamboo underwear, unless you really like cotton.


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Last update on 2024-04-10 at 18:54 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Bamboo Men’s Briefs

Bamboo often is more eco-friendly than cotton (Boody Wear has an excellent page describing the ecological benefits of bamboo). Like with modal, some companies sell underwear using bamboo as a substitute for cotton, such as David Archy or Separatec. I recently purchased my first set of bamboo briefs from Separatec and I loved them: read my full review here. The same rules apply here for cotton, especially when seeing the mix of elastane or Spandex in the fabric blend.

Synthetic Materials for Men’s Briefs

On the other end of the spectrum from the cotton/modal/bamboo world are the synthetic blends, which feel “slippery” compared to cotton or modal. The most common synthetic underwear materials are polyester, polyamide, and nylon. As with the other fabrics, these synthetic materials are blended with elastane or Spandex to provide a stretchier material.

Synthetic styles usually include 10-20% of elastane/Spandex. A higher percentage of elastane means a stretchier (and more comfortable) pair, so don’t buy synthetic underwear without at least 10% Spandex/elastane. For example, one of my favorite pairs of briefs – Mack Weldon’s AIRKNITx briefs – has 17% elastane content! AIRKNITx is super stretchy, which makes it one of my most comfortable pairs of underwear!

Why I Love Mack Weldon AIRKNITx Underwear

Why wear synthetic underwear?

Athletes wear synthetic blends because they are lightweight like modal, yet run cooler and dry a lot quicker than modal or cotton. Often they are “moisture wicking,” meaning they help sweat evaporate away from your body to cool you quicker. Therefore, a perfect match when athletes sweat a lot is beneficial for guys working in hot climates, hiking, or traveling. Although athletic styles are more associated with boxer briefs or compression shorts, brands now use these same materials in briefs, such as Calvin Klein’s micro stretch briefs.


Sale!
Calvin Klein Micro Stretch Briefs 3-Pack
  • MICRO STRETCH: Calvin Klein’s mens briefs are made in a silky microfiber blend with quick dry technology that keeps you cool and comfortable.
  • SUPPORT plus COMFORT: Featuring a supportive pouch with contoured seams for a sleek fit, Calvin Klein’s men’s underwear has a soft, flexible logo waistband that stays put and retains its shape, wear after wear.

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Quick tip: Skip cotton. If you are looking for eco-friendly underwear, go with either modal or bamboo briefs, as they are both far more environmentally friendly than cotton. Modal and bamboo work well as everyday briefs and lounging around on the weekends, and an easy replacement for your old cotton briefs. For workout sessions, summer hikes, long trips, or time by the beach, synthetic underwear is the way to go. Polyester and microfiber blends are quick-drying and moisture-wicking, so they are optimal when sweating.  

Regardless of the base material, pay attention to the amount of elastane (or Lycra or spandex) in the fabric blend, as a higher amount of elastane will provide more stretch, better fit, and overall more comfort. Aim for at least 5% with modal and bamboo pairs, or at least 10% with synthetic pairs, while premium models will have around 15% or greater. Compared to boxer briefs and trunks, stretchiness is a must-have in briefs.


Flys: Functional or Nonfunctional

As a kid, your briefs almost certainly had a fly. As an adult, your briefs may or may not have a fly. If you are used to having a fly, don’t sweat if the briefs you want don’t have a fly. I started wearing no-fly underwear almost a decade ago, and while it was awkward at first, it is now second nature. And it turns out that many other guys pee by pulling down their waistband a bit and lifting their penis over it!

Nonetheless, you have options for your fly:

  • No-fly: Underwear without a fly is as simple as it sounds: you must bring your penis out of its home to pee.
  • Vertical fly: This is the “standard” fly that most guys recognize when seeing a fly. You shuffle your underwear to the left, shuffle your penis to the right, and there you pee.
  • Horizontal fly: Same as the vertical fly, only rotated 90 degrees. You pull the horizontal fly down while bringing your penis up to pee.

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Note that there is no seam or opening on the pouch for access.


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See the thick vertical seam on the left side of the pouch? That is the vertical fly.


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Do you see the U-shaped curve on the pouch? That is a horizontal fly.


Quick tip: If you must have a fly, you will limit your underwear options as so many models nowadays do not have flys (flies?), especially on the higher end. Having said that, while it was strange at first not having a fly, I got used to it, and now it has become second nature to pee without using a fly. And for a task that takes maybe a couple of minutes total of your entire day (depends on how often you pee), I encourage you to not miss out on a fantastic pair of briefs only for the lack of a fly.


Ball Pouch

As long as we are on the subject of penises, your penis and balls need a home. But not a home that they share with the rest of your groin area, their own separate space. That is what pouches provide – a guest house or converted basement for your penis separate from the main house.

For me, ball pouches make a big difference in comfort. Most of my underwear has some sort of pouch, yet I feel it right away when I wear pouchless pairs. Everything seems more squished, and overall it all feels tighter. And honestly, I am not even that big!

Fortunately, except for the lowest-tier of underwear, most pairs and companies offer some sort of pouch option, sometimes even multiple options. If you aren’t sure while shopping online, a quick way to determine if there is a pouch is to check for a seam that either runs vertically over where your penis would sit down to the crotch or at least halfway up from the crotch to your penis “midpoint” per se. This seam is needed to provide stability to the “roof of the guest house.” 

A video I made showing common men’s ball pouch shapes.

On the other hand, not all pouches are the same. A simple pouch just adds more airspace in the area of your penis to give yourself more room. However, today’s underwear engineers have developed all sorts of pouch construction (the guest house metaphor really does work!) to provide additional comfort. For example, Separatec offers the Dual Pouch on their briefs (which I reviewed here); Obviously created the AnatoMAX pouch; and Saxx sells their competing Ballpark Pouch construction on their briefs. I wrote an entire Cheat Sheet to Penis Pouches to assist you in keeping track of pouch designs.


Obviously PrimeMan Briefs with AnatoMAX Pouch
  • The Brief provides engineered freedom of movement for guys who are active and lead a dynamic lifestyle. A deep seat and wide leg openings make it perfect for guys with larger or more muscular legs, and is designed to work with the natural movement of your body.
  • Highly engineered using unbelievably light and soft custom MicroModal/Lycra fabric with an elegantly designed, silky smooth waistband – the PrimeMan Brief uses intelligent design to deliver our most premium underwear experience.
  • Featuring our AnatoMAX anatomical pouch technology, providing natural positioning with no readjustment required, the PrimeMan Brief is the perfect product for the active man and will provide the perfect fit that you deserve.
  • 90% Micro Modal / 10% Lycra Spandex - the softest, most luxurious-feeling underwear with a touch of spandex to maintain shape over time
  • Small Waist: 30-32", Medium Waist: 34-36", Large Waist: 38-40", Extra Large Waist: 42-44"

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Quick tip: For me, having a pouch is non-negotiable. I must have a pouch in any new pair I buy. I strongly encourage you to pay a little bit extra and get a pouch. On the other hand, is it worth paying top dollar for a mathematically-designed pouch? If you sweat profusely, are well-endowed, work in hotter climates, or work out vigorously, then you definitely want to try an upgraded pouch. Upgraded pouches – especially those with fabric separation between your balls and legs – will provide greater protection against sweat creating sticky skin and control heat flow better. Sweat protection and preventing skin chafing is especially needed when wearing briefs as there is no fabric on the leg, unlike trunks and boxer briefs. Read my Cheat Sheet to Ball Pouches to see what kind of pouch is right for you.


Branded Waistband

When I was growing up, it was popular in school to sag your pants (fellow millennials know what I am talking about!), so your underwear waistband (and usually more) always showed to the public. Nowadays, guys are into tighter clothing, so often, your pants entirely cover your underwear.

Nonetheless, personal preference may dictate whether you want your underwear to be a sales ad for a particular brand. Some brands are well known for their waistbands, such as Calvin Klein and American Eagle. Other well-known brands don’t even put their name on their waistband, such as Mack Weldon. For the most part, this is purely an aesthetic choice rather than a choice of comfort.


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Waistbands can impact comfort; however, it may be hard to determine this when shopping online. Primarily it is due to the fabric on the interior of the waistband, although most companies won’t show this material online. Brands may also advertise their waistband’s unique features, such as no-roll (the waistband won’t fold over) or luxurious fabric (it feels soft). These added features may help provide additional comfort, especially if you have skin sensitivity or are at the upper end of your size bracket (for example, if you have a 34” waist and are buying medium size).

Quick tip: Branded waistbands are purely a personal design choice, and unless you are showing your waistband off a lot, no need to waste time studying waistbands when deciding which pairs to purchase. On the other hand, mid-range and high-end brands will provide more comfortable waistbands than lower-end pairs, and if you are sensitive to waistband comfort, you may want to focus more on higher-end brands. I do not pay much attention to waistbands as I believe more essential factors contribute to choosing a great pair of men’s briefs.


Multipacks of Men’s Briefs

Multipacks – two or more pairs bundled together for purchase together – can provide significant value to you if purchased correctly. First, I am not talking about the three or six-packs in Target and Walmart (seven-packs if you include that extra pair included for free!). I am talking about mid-range and higher-end brands providing two or three-packs for a slightly lower price per pair than buying each pair individually. Thus, multipacks are a fantastic way to save on buying brands and styles you already love. However, you must do a tad bit of homework to ensure you are saving.

That first piece of homework is ensuring you are indeed saving money. For example, Tommy John sells their Second Skin Brief for $32/pair or a three-pack for $96. Simple math shows that each pair in the three-pack is still $32. Thus, you are not saving money by purchasing the multipack, but in exchange, you are giving up some freedom by not picking out the colors and patterns you genuinely want. In this case, just purchasing the single briefs for $32/each and getting the colors and patterns you love is the winning play.



Assuming you are saving money by purchasing the multipack, however, compare the money you save to the limited design choices multipacks provide. If you aren’t happy with the colors the multipacks come in, is it worth saving the money compared to purchasing the single pairs in the designs you want? On the other hand, if you like the choices for multipacks, it is a great way to stock up for a lower price.

Additionally, if you are trying out a new brand or style, especially at higher-end pricing, it may be best to purchase one or two pairs first to ensure you like it before committing to multipacks. While the multipack may offer a lower price per pair, you still have to pay more money to purchase three pairs at once instead of just one pair. If you end up not liking it, that is money – and underwear – wasted.


David Archy 7-Pack of Bamboo Briefs
  • VERSATILE PERFORMANCE: Made from Bamboo Rayon - a kind of cellulose fiber extracted from bamboo. It is featured with good air permeability, instant moisture wicking, lightweight and stable dyeing property.
  • PREIUM FARBIC: Super soft fabric, more breathable and lightweight than cotton underwear.
  • 3D U-POUCH FOR ULTRA ROOMY: Ultra U-pouch design added onto the under pants to provide more space for men's private parts without extrusion or constraint. It helps make you confident and sexy wearing our big pouch briefs.

Last update on 2024-04-10 at 18:54 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Quick tip: Only consider multipacks once you know you like (preferably love!) the brand and style. Assuming yes, calculate the price per pair when purchasing a multipack compared to buying single pairs and weigh this with the multipack’s design options. Sometimes this trade-off is a fantastic deal; other times, there is no deal at all. Lastly, if your favorite brand is having a sale and giving a good deal on multipacks, consider going on a multipack shopping spree to stock up for excellent prices. Great men’s briefs do not have an expiration date, so it is ok to have new pairs on reserve in your closet for future use.


Design Country

Men’s briefs are globally well-known, even if labeled differently (more on that in a moment). And with online shopping at an all-time high, there is no shortage of international brands and styles for experimenting. With the global marketplace at your fingertips, don’t limit yourself to just pairs from your home country.

When shopping internationally, the biggest hurdle is going to be high shipping costs. If they offer free shipping, you may have to pay $100, $150, or even more to qualify for free shipping. High free shipping minimums require significant investment if you are not familiar with the brand, so it is ok to be wary. However, if you are intrigued by a brand, sign up for their marketing emails and wait for a sale. I scored a great deal from Intimissimi (an Italian brand) by waiting for their holiday sale, including free shipping to the United States. It lowered my barrier to entry and allowed me to experiment with their offerings. 

Terminology is another difference between American and global brands. European and Brazilian brands may call briefs slips. Especially in Brazil, don’t confuse slips with sungas (SOON-guhs). Sungas are bathing suits, not underwear. However, many other brands and countries call briefs briefs, even if not in English.

Materials will generally be the same as in the United States, as fabrics tend to be international commodities. However, sizes will be different based on the country of origin. Ensure you read each company’s size chart before purchasing (you may need to convert centimeters into inches as well). You may also read the reviews the company posts to see if anyone mentions sizing issues. If the site is not in English, Google Translate will help translate the entire site for you.

Quick tip: Exploring international brands is a fantastic way to add diversity, spice, and even more comfort to your underwear collection. Shipping fees and different sizes will be the biggest hurdles to purchasing abroad. However, patience for sales will help with shipping fees, and performing a little bit of research into sizing before purchasing will alleviate these worries.


Conclusion

This guide is not about buying a six-pack of tighty-whities at Walmart or Target. It is all about purchasing sophisticated briefs for today’s guys. Especially if you wear boxer briefs or trunks, you may be quite wary of buying briefs for the first time in decades. Yet men’s briefs designed today are just as fashionable and comfortable as your favorite trunks or boxer briefs, or dare I say it, even sexier? By breaking down the essential factors in comfort and style of briefs in this guide, I hope you will feel more confident searching online (or in-store) for pairs that are right for you. To recap, here are the criteria I covered in this guide:

I would love to hear from you! Are you a long-time brief defender? Have you been wearing boxer briefs for years and considering purchasing your first pair of men’s briefs? Let me know!


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Eric at MensUnderwearGuide.com

Eric is the creator and writer of MensUnderwearGuide.com. He loves boxer briefs and trunks, exploring the new world of briefs, the soft feeling of modal and the lightness of mesh microfiber, and of course writing and researching the world of men's underwear.

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