Thursday Tidbits 6-24-2021: Are Jockstraps and Briefs Moving Mainstream?

Written By: Eric @, Founder and Head Writer of

Disclaimer: Product links contain affiliate marketing links where I get a small commission when you purchase from that site. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my Affiliate Marketing Policy here. Also, please verify all product and pricing information directly with the linked brands. is not responsible for errors or product discrepancies.

Analyzing Jockstraps as a Gay Cultural Phenomenon

I read Louis Staples’ article From Sport to Sex: How the Jockstrap became Part of Gay Culture in AnOther Magazine (June 23, 2021) and I highly recommend this short read for guys into jockstraps or gay culture or just interested in underwear. Mr. Staples doesn’t write about the linear history of the jockstrap. Instead, he examines the psychology and societal pressures that led to the gay community transforming the jockstrap from a utilitarian athletic supporter into a sex symbol. However, I found this paragraph at the end of his article quite interesting:

The jockstrap seems to be having a moment right now because it’s existing at the point where several norms are being questioned. Cordner tells me that the history of underwear is littered with both subversion and conformity, particularly when it comes to gender roles. This makes underwear “ripe ground” for subversion, particularly because “our expectations about who wears what styles and categories of underwear are so set, that they have also always been there to rebel from, whether in public or privately.”

“From Sport to Sex: How the Jockstrap became Part of Gay Culture.” Author: Louis Staples. AnOther Magazine. June 23, 2021.

I never thought about the subversion vs. conformity of underwear, yet it is pretty accurate. As a millennial growing up in middle school, high school, and even college, guys had to wear boxer shorts. Anything else invited ridicule. Teenage life is all about conformity to be popular, and underwear was no exception. Pondering about this now, I find the pressures to conform to wearing boxer shorts even more striking as it runs counter to the teenage male attitude at the time (this was in the early 2000s!) that being gay was unpopular.

In the context of conformity vs. subversion, I opine that men’s underwear is cyclical. First, as the mainstream man adopts a particular style, a minority of guys will seek subversion and adopt contrarian styles. Then, as that minority slowly rises, societal pressures to conform take over, and mainstream guys will quickly switch to the previously shunned style, completing conformity again. And then another minority of guys will seek out a new style, and the cycle keeps repeating.

Care about Men’s Underwear? Subscribe to my newsletter to receive my tips and reviews!

Favorite Underwear Style

The Fourty-Year Cycle of Men’s Underwear

My evidence for this is the history of men’s underwear over the past 40 years. Briefs had been the dominant style of men’s underwear in the 1970s and 1980s. Then boxer shorts took over starting in the late 1980s because of a Levi’s ad featuring Nick Kamen. A select number of guys wanted to be seen as trendy and adopt boxer shorts instead of the prevailing briefs – a form of subversion. The first adopters trigger a snowball effect where the rest of male society assumes the new form of underwear – boxer shorts – due to the pressure to conform. The outcast style suddenly is the de facto men’s underwear style.

We repeat this story with boxer briefs. Mark Wahlberg’s famous appearance in Calvin Klein white boxer briefs in 1992 sparked the downfall of boxer shorts. At first, Calvin Klein’s boxer briefs were novel and relegated to the most adventurous of men. Yet, by the early 2000s, boxer briefs were slowly on the rise. And by the early 2010s, boxer briefs became the dominant men’s underwear style. I find this so fascinating that in less than 20 years, hundreds of millions of guys adopted a brand new kind of underwear. The power of conformity!

Now in 2021, we see the same process happening yet again. Except instead of a brand new underwear style, men are just moving back into the 1970s. Yes, I am speaking of the rise of the trunk and, more recently, the swing back into briefs. But, of course, there have always been men wearing briefs during the past 40 years. Again, however, I am speaking of “mainstream” male culture.

Instead of polls asking men for their preferences, I follow Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” to see where men’s underwear is heading. In other words, watching how popular men’s fashion brands adapt their underwear styles to the current market. The first sign of the rise of briefs was American Eagle – a staple of teenage fashion – starting to sell briefs a few years ago. 

I remember when I first saw that on their website. It was only two styles and relegated to the bottom of their underwear page. Yet, the briefs were there on American Eagle’s website. A clear signal that American Eagle saw some portion of guys craving briefs. Today, briefs sit at the top of American Eagle’s underwear page, along with boxer briefs, trunks, and even boxer shorts. I never would have thought that only 10 years ago!

And this week, I saw another clear sign that the rise of briefs is upon us…

Saxx Underwear: “Normalize Briefs”

Saxx’s Instagram is a clear signal to its followers that briefs are cool to purchase. I put this right up there with American Eagle selling briefs. However, looking at Saxx’s website, Saxx only sells four styles of briefs. Contrast this to the plethora – and I mean plethora – of boxer briefs Saxx has available and this shows that Saxx’s sentiment is a forward-looking statement. Boxer briefs are still the dominant underwear style, but the gate is open for briefs to take over.

[product_table columns=”image:Preview,name,categories:Style,att:pa_price,tags:Features,buy” tag=”saxx+briefs” filters=”false” search_box=”false” reset_button=”false” rows_per_page=”2″]

[product_table columns=”image:Preview,name,categories:Style,att:pa_price,tags:Features,buy” tag=”saxx+trunks” filters=”false” search_box=”false” reset_button=”false” rows_per_page=”2″]

Furthermore, Saxx’s social media person comments further down in this same post that “2021 is the year of the brief.” Quite possibly, the dawn of a new era in men’s underwear is upon us, and it is a #throwbackthursday to the 1970s. Hence, completing the 40-year cyclical nature of men’s underwear, and starting a new 40-year cycle. Does this mean that boxer shorts will rise back to the top in the 2030s?

Blog post continues after these brief announcements…

Watch my most popular YouTube shorts!

Haut Underwear banner
Claim your 15% discount at Haut Underwear by using coupon code MUG15

The Struggles and Success of Startup Underwear Companies

Finally, I found a short and sweet interview with the founder and CEO of Undergents, Bill Barba, in Small Business Trends magazine (author is Annie Pilon). Undergents is a newer underwear company, with their primary claim-to-fame being modal fabric (shout-out to modal!) and their “Vitruvian Man Underwear Design.” Reading the interview with their Mr. Barba reminded me that starting a new underwear line is just like any other small business. Lots of risk, lots of frustration, lots of mistakes. Yet, you learn and revise, and when you succeed, it feels amazing. 

Overall, the interview doesn’t have any life-shattering tidbits. The story of how the business got started is the same as every other startup underwear company, namely that men’s underwear is uncomfortable and we’re here to change it (I’m guilty of this too!). Yet, one aspect of starting a business that I feel is underappreciated by most people is the initial capital cost, as shown in this quote:

Biggest Risk: Ordering the first batch of products.

Barba adds, “It required a significant outlay of cash to manufacture and ship products that had never been sold before, and understanding that if they were desired by men we would have several lifetimes of underwear sitting around.”

“Spotlight: How UnderGents Plans to Reinvent the Men’s Undergarment Industry.” Author: Annie Pilon. Small Business Trends. June 23, 2021.

I believe in the quote he meant to say, “…if they weren’t desired by men…”. Meaning that if he misjudged how uncomfortable guys’ underwear was, he’d be stuck with a ton of underwear and no one to purchase it. And by a ton of underwear, I mean tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of briefs and boxer briefs. The initial bulk order is always the riskiest part of starting up a small business that sells goods. And not just that you have to purchase product in bulk before you even have sales. Because you are small, you can’t buy in bulk as much as the big guys can, meaning your cost per good is far higher. High marginal cost means marginal profit is lower, further hurting the ability of a small business to become profitable.

So many small businesses fail each year, so when small businesses succeed, we all win. I have a deep interest in finance and business so I will be starting soon a Startup Underwear interview series with the founders of small business underwear companies. I have two interviews already completed that will be coming soon. Make sure to be on the lookout!

And with that, I’ll leave this blog post with this quote from Mr. Barba:

Barba says, “Contrary to some of my friends’ wives’ thoughts, we are not having male underwear models in photoshoots every day that they can help “intern” for.”

“Spotlight: How UnderGents Plans to Reinvent the Men’s Undergarment Industry.” Author: Annie Pilon. Small Business Trends. June 23, 2021.

Mr. Barba, good to know. But when is the next photoshoot I can help “intern” for?

Haut Underwear banner
Claim your 15% discount at Haut Underwear by using coupon code MUG15

Care about Men’s Underwear? Subscribe to my newsletter to receive my tips and reviews!

Favorite Underwear Style

My Latest Blog Posts

Eric at

Eric is the creator and writer of 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.

Add Comment