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Mar 6, 2011

Boxers and Y-Fronts and Thongs, Oh My!

Good morning, readers,  and welcome to Day 1 of our First Annual MPB Guy Week.  

Please do not confuse Guy Week with Man Month.  Brilliantly talented Shelley is offering four weeks of substance; I am offering one week of fluff.  There's a huge difference but I hope you will support us both.

And now, speaking of support...

WAIT -- I haven't told you: GUESS who I saw at the Chelsea flea market yesterday morning.  If you guessed Catherine Deneuve, you'd be CORRECT!!!  OMG, you guys, I couldn't believe it -- there she was perusing a pile of vintage linens not two feet in front of me.  It was all I could do not to break into a chorus of "Watch What Happens."  Obviously I'm not the type who would ever intrude on a celebrity's privacy or snap a photo or anything -- I hate when people do that to me -- but it did give me a thrill and I just had to tell you about it.  She looked great considering Belle de jour has seen a lot of jours, let's face it, but I should talk, right?

And now back to Guy Week.

Friends, men have lost a lot over the last few decades: steady union jobs, wages that could support an entire family, the respect of their children, sock garters, and so much more,  BUT what we've gained is the widest selection of mens underwear ever before offered in the history of mankind!

Check out the underwear section of even your local Army Navy and you'll be confronted by a gazillion varieties of mens scanties all featuring soft-porn-inspired photos of the kind of men none of us are likely ever to see wearing them.

The history books want to lay responsibility for all this at the feet of Calvin Klein, who raised a lot of eyebrows -- among other things -- in the early Eighties with this advertising campaign for what now look like rather staid white briefs but back then seemed scandalous.

In those days the only photos most of us had seen of men in their underwear were in the Sears catalog, all air-brushed to a Ken doll smoothness.  Unless you read something like After Dark magazine, of course, in which case you'd seen a lot more of everything -- this was not porn, btw.

Most long-time MPB readers have already seen me in my underwear, but with increased public attention has come greater modesty, so moving forward I'm unlikely to pose in anything less than a Singer 66 treadle (plus I don't want to violate BurdaStyle's morals clause).   But then, this isn't about me in my tighty-whiteys.  It's about you, you men out there, and you women who love them and buy underwear for them.  You need guidance and support -- or rather, he needs support and you need guidance.

So let's get down to business.

Friends, there are two kinds of men.  The ones that need a lot of support and the ones that need a little.  I won't tell you which kind I am but given my quick wit and big personality you can probably guess.  Believe me when I say I see this as a blessing -- I can wear anything...or nothing at all.  Think Jane Birkin.

Like most little boys, I grew up wearing white Y-front briefs, and it wasn't until I was in my late Twenties that I ever considered anything else.  The preppy boom in the early Eighties brought back the popularity of the cotton boxer but I really didn't wear boxers until considerably later than that.  It just seemed like a lot of fabric to have to stuff into your Levi's.  By this time briefs had gotten as brief as they could go; it made sense that the pendulum would swing the other way (as it were).

Y-front briefs (or just briefs without the Y-front) were still something special for my late baby boomer generation; boxers were what one's father wore.

When briefs were introduced, they were initially all about support and fitness, not sex appeal.

Obviously, knit fabric is going to hold things in more snugly than woven fabric.  The question is: how much "support" does one truly need in a pair of underwear?  This is not a brassiere; most men don't want to lift and separate -- just the opposite.  Needless to say, underwear will neither make you fit nor keep you fit.  But it should fit, on you and into your pants.

I wear both briefs and boxers (not at the same time of course) but my sense is that today most younger guys (under 30) wear boxers only, based on what I see in the locker room and glimpse on the neighborhood sagger guys -- which is ironic, because the only time you really look good in briefs is when you're young. 

Now I'm sure many of you younger readers are wanting to ask, Peter, how about sperm count?  Don't briefs make you less fertile?  I truly believe this sperm count/tight underwear myth was perpetrated by some desperate advertising copy writer on the Brooks Brothers account.  I simply refuse to believe that underwear affects sperm count.  Anyway it's not like there aren't enough people in the world.

As a home sewer, one of my very first projects was a pair of boxers and I initially had high hopes of making Y-front briefs with McCall's 3438 but I never did. 

If you'd like to see what's possible, however, check out Brian of BrianSews' pubic, I mean public underwear gallery.  NSFW and please don't loiter inappropriately.  Creative, no?

I did make these vintage boxers, however.


I really haven't made any underwear since.  Frankly, underwear is one of those things I'm not very fussy about.  I don't like the really cheap Dollar Store stuff and I don't find brands like Hanes and Fruit of the Loom very soft.  To be honest, all my best underwear comes from the thrift store and before you say Ewww, a lot of guys will buy the wrong size and then give it all away unworn -- or practically.  I may be a scavenger but do I have my standards; I don't think I've bought new underwear in a store for four or five years.

My, how time flies!  It's time to wrap things up.

But wait -- how about thongs?

Friends, the less said about thongs the better.  They are tacky, tacky, tacky, and I hope that doesn't sound judgmental.  Please memorize either (or both) of these simple rhymes: A thong is always wrong, and/or the somewhat more pointed, No thongs for shlongs.

You won't make the thong mistake ever again.

Last and least: the dance belt.

This is a photo of a dance belt seen from the back.  Do not put this on backwards as it will lift and separate. 

Obviously, a dance belt is a thong for a male dancer.   It keeps everything in place and avoids VPL.  These generally come in S, M, L, etc. and go by waist size.  They have Spandex in them so they stretch but can sometimes run skimpy and should not be put in the dryer.  If you're buying one for yourself or someone else, call the store and ask about sizing.   They come in padded and non-padded.  The padded ones are more for ballet, where you might only wear a leotard over it, or for those who like to live large.

In closing, I ask you: men, do you agree with what I have written?  If not, please share your underwear preferences and explain them to us (keep it clean).  Do you find it difficult to find the comfort and/or support you need throughout your daily activities? What kind of activities are we talking about (he he)?

Women with men in their lives: what kind of underwear do they wear?  Do they let you buy it for them?  Have they ever criticized your choices or styles, colors, or prints?  Have you ever dropped off a pile of practically new, unworn rejects at your local Salvation Army and can you alert me next time you do?

Any more underwear-related comments/questions?  Please phrase requests for advice, Dear Peter....

Have a great day everybody and don't forget to change your --- you know!


  1. Dear Peter,

    In my part of the world, it is well known that too tight underwear and pants will affect sperm count - if your package is too close to your body the temperature gets too high (just two degrees celcius is a lot), and a lot of the swimmers may just die.

  2. You didn't mention boxer briefs!! My hubby is partial to the kind of boxer briefs that come on a hanger and are thicker with more stretch - very supportive. He has some of the boxer briefs that come in a package of three that seem to have more cotton and are a bit more t-shirt material-like, and those languish for in his closet for laundry days. Also, I gave him an overview of your post (perfect Sunday morning reading!) and he was disappointed you didn't mention jocks! As an avid runner, he wears 'em and they are HARD to find!

    I'd never consider making undies - for him or me. I'm not a huge fan of functional sewing OR knits/stretch fabrics!

  3. Patty, jocks will get a whole posting to themselves, rest assured.

  4. My husband purports to be a fan of boxer briefs, but he actually wears them until they are more like regular boxers (ew). I have made boxer brief short- and long-johns for my son using an Ottobre pattern (Jalie makes a similar one for men and boy, I believe, with great results. You just need to make sure the seams are on the outside.

  5. Peter: I love this blog. Erudite AND hilarious. My husband wears briefs and I buy them. In his defense (?!) I buy him all of his clothing, so this is just part of the service. I don't love boxers. Unless they're on George Clooney, for example.

  6. Alright, I will confess to have - scandalously! - crossed gender lines in my underwear selection, and knit boxer briefs are the most comfortable underwear humanity has yet invented, at least to this girl. They have a flat seat, so they never ride up, the legs are low enough that you never have lines in the back, even the cheap Target ones have a nice wide waistband that doesn't cut in, etc. Seriously. Best underwear ever.

  7. Yes, what about boxer briefs, good sir?
    From what I understand, there is preference to boxers because briefs are just too warm and snug. The only other thing I have to say on the matter, is that this post reminds me of a line in Seinfeld where he talks about how men wear their underwear until they disintegrate off their body and blow away!

  8. My hubby's a boxer brief guy, too, but insanely picky. There has to be some Lycra in the knit, the leg has to be long enough, etc. Currently he's fond of some very high-tech and expensive sweat-wicking ones... It's a bit impressive when ones undies approach the cost of ones jeans.

    The mention of male thongs always brings me back to my early Uni painting class, and a particular male model who had, ah, very distinct tan-lines of that nature. I don't remember anything else about him but I sure remember those tan lines...

  9. My husband wears briefs exclusively. He tried the boxer briefs and found they didn't give him enough support. He likes things tucked in and immobilized, I guess...

  10. You may like this post:

  11. Hi Peter! I've been following for a long time but never posted so I figured today was the day. I work in the costume institute at the metropolitan museum of art and we have a few items in our collection which you may find interesting in relation to today's post. We have a 1940s jockstrap, a teens jockstrap and a jockstrap once owned by Davie Bowie (the denim one). You can check them out on the Met's website if you just do a "jockstrap" search in the collections database.

    Thanks for the daily entertainment through your witty commentary and wonderful projects!

  12. David Bowie's jockstrap in a museum... I might have to see that in person.

    Lisette - do you realize you won Thursday's giveaway? Read yesterday's post.

  13. Three guys living here (or in the case of the Marine, residenced here). Three preferences.

    Hubby - briefs. Not picky on brand or color, but likes them to fit snug. He has fathered 3 sons, so I don't think his "boys" were killed off. If they're dead now, it's fine with me. ;)

    Marine - prefers boxer briefs but now will wear USMC issued tightie whities which, after the first laundry at boot, left their white status and became pee yellow colored because all recruits' underwear were always washed with their brown towels. Ugliest underwear ever since it looks dirty before it's ever put on. He'll also wear boxers if he likes the print. And if none is clean, commando is just fine.

    Younger son - boxers. But only silk or silky.

    My sons' undies double as PJs, meaning that's all they sleep in. So I'm glad in the mornings that they have some coverage and I don't have to see the parts of their thighs that have never seen the sun.

    All of them will wear their undies until they fall apart. None of them have ever bought their own.

  14. DH is a boxer brief guy too. He used to wear tighty whities a long time ago. He wears them until they fall apart and I usually get them for him. Boxers are something his grandfather wore. Sound familiar?

  15. Well Peter over here in "sandland" I am not sure if you are aware but most men don't wear underwear. They wear a sarong under their dishdashas or thobes and that is it. Maybe that is why the families are so big, no killing of the sperm in tight underwear here! LOL.

    Love your blog.

    No vinyls in underwear, I am disappointed! Were they feeling shy?

  16. I've been doing research lately because Little Bit desperately wants a Superman cape. And, well, I stumbled across a picture of all the previous live-action Supermen. Looking at this, (I don't remember where I found it anymore, but it was probably off Kryptonsite) you can practically guess the decade just from the red briefs. ;) Just to round out the men's underwear discussion with the only undies you'd ever see on the outside of somebody's pants.

  17. I found a super soft no opening brief my husband loves. He is a big believe in support, boxers let things move. I always thought of it like bras, yeah if you are a B cup you can run around bra less sometime. DD? woah, not comfortable!

  18. Hubby wore boxers when I met him 11 years ago until about 4 years ago; then he switched it to boxers and boxer briefs; then when he was laid off for 22 months he went commando until after our 2nd child was born and he had a vasectomy now wears briefs or very snug boxer briefs. I purchased them all at his direction.
    All his old boxers are refashioned into clothes for my toddlers or my pajamas :)

  19. Peter,

    My findings are that the boxer's barn door opens, there's an escape, followed by the sawing action of said doors resulting in the escapee becoming conspicuous.

    Thongs have a strap which yearns to give an exam.

    Boxer briefs are for men who like to accentuate their beefy thighs, though they'll never admit as much.

    Briefs, in white, colors, or patterns offer me comfort, confidence, and contour (without bulk).

    To each their own, but this is where one man weighs in.

    Sign me,

  20. Back in the day, mommy always bought me the tighties, but I found that the the elastic digs in around the legs, and occasionally there is "that dreaded pinch" that I don't care to speak in detail about - ouch! So I'm definitely a boxer-briefs guy. Preferably 100% cotton.

  21. My hubby used to wear boxers but I prefer boxer briefs (I think they look good on a man), so now that's what he wears. I almost always buy them for him and he never complains, after all, he's trying to look good for me ;)

  22. Mine doesn't wear underwear at all - ever.

  23. I buy all my husbands underwear and what I buy depends on my mood, but what he wears is a different thing. The tighty whiteys are his favorites, but he will resort to boxer briefs and finally cotton boxers. He says cotton boxers are too much work and if in a hurry will just do without.

    Your comments about thongs brought back memories. Back in the 70's I was an art student and there was a particular male model who wouldn't pose in the nude but insisted on wearing this black velvet thong. He could hold a pose longer than anyone else, but really! I don't think the packaging was so great that it needed to be swaddled in velvet.

  24. I'm sensing a lot of healing go on. Keep it coming!

  25. I like Brian's brown and red briefs. My husband wears boxer briefs, in my experience (ahem...) boxer briefs are popular among 20-somethings.

    Anyway, I buy them, in all shades of black, and he wears them until they're holey. He's pretty good about throwing them out, too.

  26. My hubs is the boxer brief story, and my little man, he's potty training, and we've tried boxers (which I have made I refuse to pay $5 for 2 pair of underpants) and training tighty whities, but yeah, he does fantastically in the boxers, but the tighty whities, he always wets in, so with him I'm all about the boxers.

  27. My partner wears briefs only. When I first met him he had piles and piles of white, boring Fruit of the Loom or equivalent briefs; I've been trying to get him to at least buy briefs in more interesting colors, with some good success.

    I don't quite understand how all the fabric in boxers can fit under a pair of pants - weird!

  28. A friend of mine says these are the most comfortable underwear he's ever worn:

  29. Boxer briefs for the hubs in my house....and my my how Nick Nolte has changed!

  30. my mom has that McCall's 3438 pattern! she adapted it to make me some boxers. they didn't look as cool as the ones with the piping... but they fit better/trimmer than the baggy-butt boxers you can buy now.

    I love your blog. my seamstress friend & I are going to try to make a men's shirt for me (after the fact, I know). and I'm looking forward to jeans-sewing month... yeah!!!!

  31. I would very much like to get hold of a pattern for boxer shorts that use no elastic, have some sort of buttoned yoke in front with some sort of buttoning, adjustable closure in back. I had a couple pairs from Vermont Country Store 10 years or so ago and they're great to wear sometimes, but they no longer carry them.

  32. I prefer to wear light-weight briefs made with a smooth cotton/poly blend. They keep things in place and don't get in a bunch. Great blog!

  33. Oh! Life would have been too bad without those coloured 'Y' front briefs. They have what I have always wanted: snug fitting and very brief. Then the opening too was really funny.

  34. Hey Peter,
    I love jockstraps. Wear them all the time. They're more airy, comfortable, and have male sex appeal power to them... well when you workout enough to pull it off. And I workout like crazy. ;) Like any other self respecting fag, I look tough on the outside and I have a sewing machine hidden away in the closet for when everyone leaves. haha. I found your site because I was looking for patterns or tutorials for a minimal sewing type like me to learn how to make my own jockstrap though. I just got couple new pairs, and after only a few wears, they're falling apart!! Which is really not good given this economy or lack thereof. So in the interest of trying to remain better looking than my straight college roommate, I'm hoping you can consider following up with such a tutorial (and where to find stuff like 3" waist bands?!?) I live in LA, in theory I should be able to find it somewhere downtown, however in practice I know my way around a gym better than the garment district. haha figures.
    Anyways, thanks for your article btw, it was a very charming and entertaining read.

  35. Mike, you are a braver man than I. I couldn't imagine sewing one's own jockstrap! Don't you have to knit the pouch?

  36. Peter - I have just discovered your blog, and think it'll be a to-do for a long time to come - thank you.
    But, I am astonished you are so harsh on thongs. I'll admit I bought my first pair 17 years ago because I somehow thought I would either feel sexy or look sexy. But that idea evaporated in about a day and a half. I have not worn anything since - they are simply the most comfortable underwear there is. Once on, everything is in its place and nothing ever moves, shifts, slides, rides or anything else. You simply don't know they're on.
    I wear regular underwear to visit the doctor's office and all day I feel as if I have a woollen overcoat in my trousers. Thongs are simply liberating.

  37. I wear spandex boxerbriefs, frankly because I can't physically fit within off the shelf briefs. Let's just say that I'm a statistical outlier.

    Because of this size problem, I've been experimenting with various brands, and I've found that the CockSox pouch, while still a bit small for me, actually manages to contain and support me.

    The problem is that they're designer underwear, and the most available version is tiny bikini briefs, so they're not a good choice either.

    Does anyone make a sewing pattern for something like this, but sized more like briefs? I don't know how to draft a pattern, or I'd do it myself.

  38. I wear the very Old Fashioned white Trunks you know the type your Grandad wore, high waisted and long leg and made of heavy white Cotton, they are really comfy and wash well and look great on the washing line. you can also put them on a whites wash so they always look prestine unlike coloured boxers which fade and look old after a dozen washes. call me old fashioned i dont mind i even walk around in changing rooms i dont care what people think. I LOVE THEM

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