Is it Fabric & Features, or is it Marketing?

Is it Fabric & Features, or is it Marketing?

So you’ve decided to wade into the world of Boxer Briefs. Unless you’re buying basic 3packs or the like in discount stores, it’s a virtual wild west online. From mild to wild, basic to bodacious, boxers can say as much, or as little, as you want them to. “It’s better to look god than feel good,” but is it?

At last count, there are something like 50+ Men’s Boxer Brief brands available online. Some are really well known, but most are just fighting for their place in your pants. And that’s really the point, isn’t it? Your Boxers are usually the first thing you put on after you shower, and being comfortable in them can either make, or break, your day! Come on, you know what I mean, squirming in your seat, having to readjust the boys. Like the three bears, your boxers can either be too loose, too tight, or just right. But since you can’t really test drive underwear (They get kind of testy in store when you ask where the dressing room is holding only a pair of underwear), how do you decide which pair is right for you. I thought I’d give you some basics!


Growing up, most of us had those Cotton Tighty Whities. Come on, it’s ok to admit it. It’s not a bad thing, you can admit it. A few wore Cotton boxers, but those rebels were the exception, not the rule! Around 1992, John Varvatos introduced the boxer brief while at Calvin Klein. Imagine being credited with an entire category . . . pretty cool John, but I digress. For a long time the only fabrics used for boxer briefs were Cotton and Polyester infused with Spandex, though most use the word Elastane, it sounds somehow sexier, while Spandex evokes images on 90’s Hair band singers, hello Vince Neal?

As usual, progress brought new fabrics, Nylon, Polyamide, Bamboo, Modal & several others. Each fabric had its own pluses and minuses, but the one constant was the addition of Spandex. If you’re a consumer though, how do you choose which style/fabric? Each brand touts its own version, many brands produce different lines using different fabrics, Poly & Nylon are by far the most often used, because they are the least expensive. Other than Cotton, all of these fabrics do many of the same things, they wick, dry quickly, etc. For performance boxers, cotton is a no go, because it simply absorbs . . . who wants to sit around in damp boxers all day? We gave up diapers long ago. Currently the best fabric being used, in my opinion, is Modal. Soft, made from Beech trees, it wicks, takes to color well, and when combined with elastane, makes for a great high value Boxer with hold. It also washes well, and needs no special attention, so you can wash with your regular loads.

So you, the consumer, get to choose from myriad fabrics. Marketing tells you so many different things. Softest, rated best, five star rating. They come up with names for fabrics that don’t exist, make claims that have no basis for reality. So how do you choose? It really depends on what you want to pay! Remember, Polyester and Spandex are inexpensive materials, and are also not great for the environment. Then there is the % of Elastane/Spandex in the fabric. There are no magical fabrics that will cure your every problem, so remember, buyer beware, and it’s all in the marketing.


Ah, compression, the thing that holds you in place. Now to be honest, if you’re only wearing your boxer briefs to work out and changing out of them, more compression is OK. For everyday wear though, if you’re like me, you want enough compression to hold you, but not to the point of being uncomfortable. Add to that the reality that heavily compressing your boys can lead to their not being able to perform at their optimum level. Low sperm counts, potential pinched nerves, not to mention Jock itch. The compression around the waist can lead to problems as well, including heartburn by pushing up on the abs. Now some people want more compression to hold them in, and that’s OK also, but ultimately will get uncomfortable if worn too long. Personally, after trying on 50+ brands, I found that 5% Elastane felt best for all day wear. Fits well, firm but not tight, holds the team in place without having to fumble, keeps you from chafing, and doesn’t make you want to tear them off the minute you get home. Just picture your significant other pulling her bra out the arm of her shirt at the end of a long day.


This is where the marketing boys & girls really show their abilities. If you were to believe every brand, they have the most technologically advanced, unique boxer briefs around. Let’s start from the top down.

Waistbands are usually between 1.25” & 1.75”. Claim that they never roll are pretty comical unless you wear the really high, or really low. If you’re an every guy, you probably have a little around your middle, so if you’re wearing your boxers only, odds are they’ll fold if you bend down. But for most people, you’re wearing your boxers under pants, sweats, shorts, and have either an elastic waistband, you’re wearing a belt, or whatever you’re wearing fits well enough to hold the pants up. If you’re sagging, well let’s not go there. So the no roll band really doesn’t matter. But the softness of the fabric is. Many brands use a “satin” band, but guess what, the satin finish means it’s a two piece band, and will be stiff. It may look cool, but these ARE underwear, right? Plus many are 1.75” wide  . . . nobody wants ring around the belly, right? Your old classic underwear usually had a 1.5” band, and in my opinion they got it right, 1.5” soft elastic waistbands will fit well, not really fold, a shouldn’t leave a mark around your waist.

The Magic Pouch, called by many names by different brands, supposed to fix all that ails you down there. Patents or no patents, again, its preference, not performance. But here’s the rub so to speak, how much work do you want to do to put your boxers on? Reach in here, pull that there. Stick that in one place, those in another. If you’re wearing the right size Boxer Briefs, chafing between your thighs shouldn’t be an issue. The Elastane in the brief should hold the fabric against your legs, no matter if your equipment is massive or miniscule. But marketers will tell you that you need to separate the boys from their partner, for the good of the team. Pouching in the front of the boxer is necessary to accommodate your equipment (refer to compression), but if the pouch is made correctly, there’s no need for help holding the boys in place. There’s even a brand that “lifts,” like a pushup bra, to help enhance the package, but like Tom Jones’ sock trick, once the boxers come off, the truth can be seen.

Mesh inserts and compression panels are features many brands tout. Let’s talk compression panels first. For sports/workout, yes; for everyday wear, unless you’re concerned with people checking you out from behind, avoid them, as there are far more negatives, as noted previously, then positives. Mesh inserts are interesting. Some brands use Mesh material for the entire boxer, which seems like a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t really work. Others use placements, like at the base of the spine, on the sides, and between the legs. For the most part these are really marketing tools. I am particularly fond of using Modal-mesh on the bottom cross panel. This area in particular, can benefit from added aeration, helping to cut down on the dreaded SWAS.

I will say that if you’re going to spend over $20 for a pair of Boxer Briefs, they should at least have more to them than being a polyester bag with a cool design on them. In this case, function over form are where your value will come from.