Welcome, friends and loved ones, to what is going to be the most detailed discussion I have ever produced. And that’s saying something.
I’ve written about men’s underwear before, specifically regarding how incredibly difficult it is finding something that works. So many designs out there are total garbage that most guys don’t bother sifting through the selection to find something good, and end up just living with whatever’s cheap, because the fancy ones don’t work either. Add to this the fact that underwear is incredibly polarizing, with some people liking a loose boxer fit, while others prefer a boxer brief, along with all kinds of other preferences that are more divisive than a heated political debate. And I think I finally know why.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen––but mostly gentlemen––I think I’ve actually figured out why some people like one design instead of another, and I also think I can articulate this problem without resorting to obscene diagrams. It’s all going to start making perfect sense, and by the end of all this, I think you’ll be able to find something that’ll work for you, without having to spend $30 on something that fits horribly and gets thrown in the garbage by the end of the day.
So go ahead and get comfortable, because this is going to be as thorough as a nuclear submarine technical manual.
How men’s underwear discussions tend to miss the point
I will begin by saying that everything you’ve been told about men’s underwear is wrong.
Everyone talks about “support,” claiming that one pair of underwear has good “support,” while another does not. But this doesn’t make any sense. “Support” is what happens when you’re lifted up from underneath. But what good is that?
The constant readjustment problem that plagues every guy all day long has nothing to do with a lack of “support.” It has to do with a lack of containment. Walking around for a while will dislodge whatever you intend to hold in place up front, and it’ll start migrating into various positions and start chafing against the leg and ruin your whole day. This is why underwear with good “support” isn’t going to do you any good.
If leg contact is the primary cause of discomfort, the goal should be to eliminate leg contact at all costs. This requires keeping any forward protrusions blocked from coming into contact with the leg, which eliminates this discomfort completely. Thus:
You don’t want to be “supported.” You want to be surrounded.
This is why the only reasonable solution is the boxer brief, properly shaped, and closely fitted. Boxer shorts will never work, and you’ll be stuck readjusting all day long. Briefs work fine, but if you don’t want to look like a dork, the boxer brief is the only way out.
But it’s still important to get the fit just right, and there are oh-so-many ways to get it wrong.
Common men’s underwear problems
1) Flat front panel: Are you flat in front? No? Well then why get underwear with a flat front panel? Seems like a recipe for disaster. Sure, the front panel can stretch somewhat to accommodate a forward protrusion, but it’s still going to be mostly flat, which just means you’ll get squished backward. There’s also nothing to stop you from drifting sideways and escaping the front pouch altogether, in which case you’ll migrate into the leg chamber and start chafing with every step.
A properly-shaped 3D front panel won’t do this at all. Instead of forming a front wall that’ll squish you back, it’ll form two side walls, containing you within the front pouch no matter how much side-to-side shifting may occur.
Notice the difference here, between a 3D front panel (left) and a flat front panel (right):
Notice how the 3D panel on the left actually forms a “valley” between the front pouch and the leg chamber? This is mostly visible only on one side, just because of how the model is standing, but this valley will form along both sides of a properly-shaped 3D front panel, thus surrounding you entirely and eliminating any chafing that could occur from leg contact. You can do all the backflips and cartwheels you want, and you’ll stay right where you’re supposed to be, and you won’t have to spend all day readjusting every five stupid minutes.
Compare that to the flat front panel on the right, and you’ll see how there’s no possibility of containment whatsoever. Move around for any amount of time and sooner or later you’ll drift right out of the front panel and into the leg chamber, and you’ll start chafing immediately. No good.
2) Low inseam height (AKA a long rise): So the “rise” is the distance from the top of the waistband to the top of the inseam, and if it’s way too high, it’s just not going to work. It’ll interfere with the formation of the dual side walls discussed above, while also eliminating the formation of a “floor” for the front pouch.
You can see the problem in the photo above, where the boxer brief on the right has such a deep rise that it can’t possibly contain the guy if there’s any leg movement whatsoever. And while you might be thinking that making the top of the inseam too high (AKA making the rise too low) will make the front pouch feel too restrictive (which is true, eventually), that’s why you need a 3D front panel, which reduces that pressure. If the front panel is flat, the only way they can create extra space is by deepening the rise, which not only interferes with dual sidewall formation, but just so happens to be the cause of the next stupid problem as well:
3) Penguin leg syndrome: Once again, take a look at that photo above. The one on the right has a rise that’s waaaaay too deep, and every step is going to force one leg to pull against the other, thus moving everything out of place with literally every step.
This is not only going to pull them from side to side, eliminating front panel containment entirely, but on wider steps, each leg will pull vertically against the other, which is one of many reasons that will lead to the next stupid problem.
4) Legs climbing up: This is perhaps the most well-known of all boxer brief problems, and caused by various factors, often because the leg is too loose, and the vertical stretch capacity of the fabric is too low. Every time you lift your knee, the vertical tension will pull the leg upward, rather than merely stretching it, thus requiring a manual readjustment. It can also happen due to the friction of the fabric against the pant leg, which is part of the reason I prefer synthetic fabrics, which glide more easily.
This problem usually requires a dedicated solution, and I’ve seen several perfectly workable methods. You can make the legs too long, going past the widest point of the thigh, so they get smaller as they approach the knee, and thus can’t stretch out widely in order to climb upward. You can also make the legs way too short (usually called the “trunk” style), but you must also make the leg bands thicker, stiffer, and thus unable to bunch up on themselves, so they won’t go anywhere or do anything. You can also just make the legs really tight, especially the end of each leg, perhaps by adding an elastic band right into the leg hem. You can also add a grippy texture to the inside of the leg hem, though I haven’t tried this method yet. Tightly-fitting, super-stretchy, synthetic fabrics will less likely have this problem, and thus can work fairly well even without one of these extra features, but I think they should all do something to address this problem.
And for the final nuisance:
5) Gigantic inseam gusset: This is something I don’t often hear people talking about, because it seems like a minor detail (and is usually invisible in most product photos), but I have become convinced that it’s actually a make-or-break design flaw that should be abolished immediately.
The inseam gusset is a long, usually rectangular strip of fabric that goes from the inside of one thigh to the inside of the other thigh. See the diagram below, which shows two pairs of boxer briefs, viewed from above, as though you’re about to step into them. The white circles are the leg openings. For the boxer brief on the left, you’ll see there’s a single black line (representing a seam) going horizontally from one leg to the other. For the boxer brief on the right, you’ll notice two black lines, because that rectangular strip of fabric means there’s a front seam, and a back seam:
I am 100% convinced that this is one of the most significant reasons why underwear is so horribly polarizing. Some guys will think a certain design is the greatest thing in the universe, while others will think it’s total garbage and will throw them out by the end of the day. All because of the inseam gusset.
The problem is that it requires one seam up front, and one in back. The wider the inseam gusset, the further forward the front seam is, which also means it’s higher, since it starts curving upward in front. That means the width of the inseam gusset directly impacts the height of the front pouch. The wider the gusset, the shorter the front pouch. And if you’re longer than the front pouch…well, then you’re not in the front pouch anymore, and no amount of 3D contouring is going to help if you’re simply longer than the 3D front panel, and you escape its grasp altogether. You’re going to hang further down, get squished backward by that flat seam, and there’ll be no sidewall containment to stop you from drifting from side to side, and you’ll chafe against the legs.
It’s bad news in back, too. With a wider gusset, the back seam will also have to be placed higher, which means it’ll start riding up and into the crevasse in back. All boxer briefs will creep into this gap to some degree, but if it’s just fabric, it’s not so bad. But if it’s a seam, then it’s several layers of fabric that’ll start invading the gap, and it’ll be several times as noticeable as just a single fabric layer.
And you know what the worst part is? Non-gusseted designs are totally fine. There’s just a single seam going from left to right, placed dead-center, where it’s completely out of the way of everything. There is simply no downside, and that’s why I’ve become so adamant about banishing the inseam gusset for all time.
Thin gussets, by the way, are fine, but I think they might as well just get rid of them altogether, at least on underwear. They also work fine on pants, because you don’t come into contact with those seams.
So, why do so many guys seem fine with them? Because of differences in personal anatomy.
Without getting too graphic, a “shower” is someone who’s always large, all the time, even when not in use. A “grower” is someone who’s usually small, but expands greatly under proper conditions. If you prefer weaponry innuendo, just think of this as longsword vs lightsaber.
I think this dichotomy is why inseam gussets are such a common design feature; it would seem that most guys are fairly small when not in use (AKA growers), and thus are too short to reach the base seam of the front pouch. If you’re one of those guys, inseam gussets are mostly fine, and you’ll have more options available to you. But if you’re a shower, you should avoid the inseam gusset at all costs.
Here’s how to tell if you’re a shower or a grower:
- Option 1: Go to a gym and get naked with a bunch of random dudes. If your ego grows three sizes that day, you’re a shower.
- Option 2: Buy a $5 boxer brief from Uniqlo (pictured below) and see how you like it. It has an inseam gusset, and if you’re longer than the front pouch and frequently find yourself making contact with its lower seam, even while standing up straight and flying at “half mast,” you’re probably a shower, and will most likely prefer a non-gusseted design.
- Option 3: Just get something non-gusseted, regardless of which type of guy you are. There’s simply no downside.
So, how should the best men’s underwear fit?
I am convinced there actually is an objectively perfect set of design features that’ll work for all guys, under all conditions. It is essentially the exact opposite of the list above, with a few extra details:
- 3D front panel, for forward protrusion, and proper formation of dual side walls, rather than a single front wall that’ll squish you back. This way you’re properly surrounded on all sides, and can’t escape the chamber.
- High inseam (AKA low rise), to further contain everything in the front pouch, and to prevent penguin leg syndrome.
- Good leg separation, to further prevent penguin leg syndrome.
- Leg-climb prevention strategy, so they don’t ride up. Various methods can work.
- No inseam gusset, because non-gusseted designs fit showers better, with no downside for growers.
- Body-hugging, semi-compression fit, because everything’ll stay in place better than way. You actually want it to be too tight to fit, except for the fact that it’s stretchy, which helps keep it in place.
- Silky-smooth (probably synthetic) fabric, so there’s no friction against the pant legs, which also helps keep everything in place. Not everybody likes synthetic fabrics, though, but they’ll stay in place better and last longer, which is why I tend to prefer them, even for casual use.
So, now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s finally begin with actual recommendations.
This list will prioritize proper fit above all else, because if it doesn’t fit correctly, it’ll just end up in the trash. This list will not, for example, emphasize long-term durability, because if you throw it out by the end of the day, it’s not really that durable anyway. It also won’t emphasize fabric type, because as long as it fits correctly, I consider it worthy of inclusion here, though I’ll discuss different fabric choices if they’re available (and you can check out a dedicated list of travel-friendly options here). I’m also including some honorable (and dishonorable) mentions here too, listed just after the ones they most closely resemble.
Okay, let’s begin!
Best men’s underwear (for growers)
Again, these are gusseted designs, and should only be worn by “growers,” AKA guys who are small up front when not in use. If you’re a “shower,” skip down to the next section.
This is by far the best budget option I’ve found out there. If you have no interest in spending $30 on a pair of underwear, look no further than Uniqlo. At $5 each, their Supima cotton boxer briefs are so affordable that you could buy several dozen of them without any real trouble, and they are quite good.
Not perfect. But good. They have a 3D front panel and a body-hugging fit, just-long-enough legs, and high-quality construction, especially considering the price. If you don’t need a Ferrari, you’ll be perfectly happy with them, and you’ll probably never bother looking at anything else.
They’re not quite right, though; I think the 3D front panel should be even more 3D, so that it protrudes forward a bit more, and the top of the inseam could be a little higher, which would more effectively contain everything in the front panel and prevent escape into the leg chambers. It seems mostly designed for people who don’t need much room in front, so if you’re a bit on the larger side, you’ll find yourself squished back just a bit, as the front panel will still sort of form a front wall, rather than two properly-shaped side walls. This allows for more side-to-side migration than I would like, which requires a bit of readjustment every so often. The legs are also a bit too close together, and when combined with the somewhat low top-of-the-inseam, they can pull each other out of place on wide steps. The legs also don’t have any special strategy to keep them from climbing up, so they’ll do that, and require readjustment for this reason as well.
The low-rise version, by the way, solves a few of these problems, and does a much more effective job of containing everything within the front pouch that’s supposed to be there. It’s much worse in the legs-riding-up department, though. I would also like to see the elimination of the inseam gusset on both versions, and something to keep the legs from climbing up.
Still, though––they’re the best budget option I’ve found out there, for sure. I literally threw out all my other underwear when I first discovered these. You could also just stock up on a dozen of them for casual use, and spend a bit more on just a few of the fancier options listed below, for acrobatic activities that require better immobilization, and rotate through cheaper Uniqlos on regular days, and save yourself a lot of cash.
Check out a super-detailed review of their Airism boxer brief, which is a synthetic version of the same thing (which lasts longer and stays in place better, due to reduced friction), then visit their store and take a look at the options here.
- Everlane: This direct-to-consumer brand offers some pretty decent prices and a practical design (with a 3D front panel) in no-nonsense colors. I haven’t given them a try, but the design looks solid.
2) Tommy John
These have been a mainstay in the “best underwear ever” competition for a while now, and it’s easy to see why. Switching from my previous favorite of Uniqlo to Tommy John dropped my daily readjustment count from several times per hour to several times per day. Even while rock climbing, with my legs flailing all over the place. That is how convenient your life can be.
The differences are subtle, but effective; it has what I consider to be a more carefully constructed 3D front panel, for a better surround-yourself-on-all-sides fit, both in terms of greater forward protrusion, and closer side-to-side containment, especially up at the top. Uniqlo’s front pouch is more V-shaped, whereas Tommy John’s is U-shaped, and I think this is part of the reason that it more effectively forms dual side walls, rather than a single front wall. It also seems to have better leg separation, thus more effectively preventing penguin-leg syndrome. The extra-long-leg version (pictured) also prevents the legs from riding up, by going all the way down past the widest point of the thigh and tightening just below.
The only change I would make would be to eliminate the inseam gusset (which appears to be the case on their “360 Sport” version, though I haven’t tried this one yet). There’s also the occasional waistband roll, but it seems to snap back up on its own. The waist band also seems just a bit loose on me, though this can be solved by sizing down.
They have several different fabric types, such as their Second Skin, which is made of modal; it’s a luxuriously soft, highly absorbent fabric that feels amazing, but tends to lose its shape over the course of a day or two. If you’re on the fence, I would say that sizing down is better than sizing up. It might be a little too tight at first, but it won’t get overly loose by the end of the day (whereas this is less of a problem with cotton or synthetic fabrics).
The Air version is a super light, highly breathable mesh, ideal for hot weather, athletic activities, and lightweight travel. It’s not quite as smooth as other synthetic fabrics, so there’s a bit more friction against a pair of pants than you might expect, and it also picks up more lint. But it’s also a bit softer, so there’s a bit of a tradeoff for comfort. It has a couple fit changes compared to the Second Skin, such as a higher inseam, and a thinner gusset, both of which I consider objectively better anyway (although it also provides a tighter fit, so sizing down isn’t so important). They’re quite pricey––more so than anything listed here––but they’re otherwise wonderful. Here’s my super detailed review of a test sample they sent me.
- MeUndies: Unfortunately, I wasn’t such a fan of these. Firstly, they’re very snug, which I would ordinarily prefer, but they’ve also got an inseam gusset…and since they also have a very low rise, the base seam of the front panel is really high up there…even some of the smaller guys will extend right past the front pouch, and make contact with that base seam, in which case all the 3D contouring of the front panel becomes irrelevant. It seems like they were designed to lift you up just a bit, but I’ve never found that to be very effective, as the front pouch contents will simply escape sooner or later anyway. The legs also climbed up more so than anything else listed here. Getting a larger size might help with the front panel height issue, but then it’ll fit more loosely, which comes with its own problems, so I didn’t feel like giving that a try.
- Comfortable Club “Bliss” Boxer Briefs: These appear to be identical to Tommy John, and it took a while to figure out what was going on here…but I think what’s happening is that the leg separation isn’t quite as sufficient, so the legs can pull each other out of place more easily. The waistband also rolls down quite a bit. The legs did a good job staying in place, but I’d like to see the other problems solved, along with the banishing of the inseam gusset.
- Calvin Klein: They make quite a few different options, and I haven’t tried them all, but the one I tried (the modal one) had an extremely short front pouch whose base seam was way too high, meaning all the 3D contouring of the front panel was completely pointless. Into the garbage they went.
3) Mack Weldon
There seems to be a bit of a love/hate relationship with these among the internet commentators that I’ve seen, but I’m going to come down on the side of being mostly positive. There’s a lot to like here; the 3D front panel is the most obvious design feature to appreciate (noticeably better than Uniqlo, I would say), and their waistband does a great job of not rolling down.
What really sets them apart, however, is how they’ve sewn an elastic band right into the leg hem. This does an amazingly good job of holding the legs in place, just as effectively as any other method I’ve seen, and I actually like the mid-thigh leg length a little better, just aesthetically, than the super-long-leg version of certain other brands. The legs don’t move up, no matter how much I stand up or sit down throughout the day. It’s wonderful.
I did run into a couple problems, however; firstly, there’s more ride-up in back than most of their competitors, and I felt the need to readjust for this reason, more so than with other brands. This problem mostly went away after washing and drying them, however, so I’m willing to give it a pass, and sizing down might be even more helpful. The leg bands also do such a nice job of staying in place that if you pull them down and rotate them inward in front, they’ll do a better job preventing this problem than regular legs would.
The second problem is simply that they have an inseam gusset, which I would like to see eliminated. They build the gusset out of a meshy fabric for extra breathability, but I think gussets create more problems than they solve, so I’d get rid of it altogether.
I also only liked their “18 Hour Jersey” fabric; this is a half & half blend of modal and cotton, which gives you a somewhat luxurious feel, but without the expansion problems you’d run into with pure modal, which tends to lose its shape over the course of the day. It also shrank in the wash enough to mostly-eliminate the ride-up-in-back problem. Their “Silver” fabric, which is mostly cotton with some synthetic fibers mixed in, didn’t shrink quite as much in the wash, so it had more significant ride-up problems in back, and the inseam height felt too low, and thus couldn’t keep everything in the front pouch the way it should. Sizing down is probably a good idea if you want to give that one a try. I also didn’t like the short-leg design of the “Airknit.” This is partly just aesthetic, but the shorter leg means those elasticized leg bands go over a slightly more sensitive part of the thigh than the exact mid-point, so it feels a little more restrictive as a result.
Still, they’re mostly good. The leg bands are the greatest strength here, and the ride-up problem in back is mostly reduced after a wash and dry cycle, and might work even better if you size down. With those caveats in mind, they work pretty well.
Check them out here.
Update: Mack Weldon has introduced a new product known as the Airknitx (yes, with that extra X on the end), which is a synthetic microfiber version of their standard boxer brief, and it is absolutely spectacular. It’s easily one of the softest, most pleasant synthetic fabrics I’ve tried, and it’s super stretchy, so it never moves out of place. It also solves the problem of riding up in back, perhaps due to the thinner, stretchier fabric. If you don’t mind a gusset, it’s probably my absolute favorite right now.
4) Wool & Prince
Full disclosure: I helped design these. And they turned out so well that I put them on in the morning and didn’t rearrange them again by the time I went to bed. They are that good.
Merino wool is in a class of its own when it comes to comfort; it warms in winter, cools in summer, wicks away moisture, and feels dry even when it’s wet. It has its limits, but there is simply nothing like when it comes to versatility over a wide range of temperature conditions, which is why it has become the go-to fabric for travelers, hikers, and many more.
But nothing out there was good enough…and given the high price of merino, I got tired of trying things out, and started bugging Wool & Prince to just make it for me. We spent two years on the design, adding a 3D front panel and legs that stay in place all day (using a technique that no one’s ever thought of before), and came up with something we’re truly proud of.
I’d encourage you to read the full review, to follow some of the design decisions that went into the final product, and check them out here. We’ve been really excited about it, and feedback has been really great.
Best men’s underwear (for showers)
These are non-gusseted designs, which, as described above, work better for “showers,” AKA guys who are at full size all the time, but these options should work for anyone, really. Some of them are more spacious in front than others, though, so keep that in mind when selecting one or another.
1) Flint & Tinder
So these are kind of a showpiece for how you really don’t need to do anything special to make men’s underwear fit correctly. Just build a 3D front panel, skip the inseam gusset, add a waistband that won’t roll down, keep the legs fairly separated, and figure out a way to keep the legs from climbing up. In Flint & Tinder’s case, they folded the leg hem twice, instead of just once, thereby creating a triple layer of fabric instead of a double layer, thus increasing resistance by 50%. And it works, keeping the legs in place quite nicely.
They’re actually so downright ordinary that you might not expect anything special from them, but that’s kind of my point here. This is how easy it is to do it right, with no complex trigonometry or crazy panel layouts required.
A couple minor issues; first of all, the front pouch is big. Really big. If that sounds like a bonus, then great. But if you’re a little on the smaller side, sizing down will do a better job in terms of surround-yourself-on-all-sides immobilization (and I prefer the snugger overall fit provided by a smaller size anyway, as they’re a bit on the larger side). The waistband is also really plush on the inside, and will pick up more lint than most others. But that’s about it.
They’re currently only available in cotton, so it might be nice to see a luxury version made of modal, or something like that. A synthetic version would be useful as well, not only for athletic activities, but also to provide a smoother surface, so pant legs don’t shift them around like they do against high-friction cotton. But the brand is committed entirely to Made-in-USA production, and I don’t know the details of fabric sourcing and so on, so I don’t know if this’ll happen anytime soon.
They’re available exclusively through Huckberry.
2) Ex Officio Sport Mesh Boxer Brief
This is Ex Officio’s redemptive saving grace, much like Season 2 of Parks & Rec. It solves every single one of the silly problems of their flagship Give-N-Go Boxer Brief, which I consider literal garbage for how wrong it is. I’ve bad-mouthed Ex Officio plenty over the years, and I’m glad to see them finally offering an alternative that fully deserves the lofty reputation which the original simply does not.
The front panel is finally 3D, and closely fitted on either side, thus more effectively creating dual side walls, instead of a flat front wall. In fact, it has some of the closest containment of any option I’ve found, so if you want close-fitting immobilization first and foremost, these should be up at the top of your list. The top of the inseam is also much higher, further containing everything in the front pouch, while also preventing penguin-leg nonsense which would shift everything out of place. The fully synthetic fabric is also super stretchy, light, thin, soft, breathable, and comfortable. It doesn’t seem quite as durable, however, so keep it away from velcro.
The only real problem I have with this one is how the front panel extends past the exact midpoint, continuing just a few inches upward in back, where the seam can ride up and into the crevasse back there. It’s also a T-shaped intersection, rather than a simple horizontal seam, because it’s where the vertical center seam of the front panel terminates, thus creating a single point, several layers of fabric thick. This really should have been placed exactly halfway between front and back, where it would have been completely out of the way.
I’ve spoken to them about this issue after trying out the test sample they sent me, so I hope they move it down at some point…but in the meantime, you’ll be adjusting the legs a bit more often as a result (which don’t have anything special to keep them in place, unless you get the 9″ inseam version). But that’s the only design issue I have with these. They’re so vastly superior to the original that you’ll be embarrassed you ever enjoyed them. Like being a Lord of the Rings fan after watching Game of Thrones.
They come in 3″, 6″, and 9″ inseam lengths, but I would stay away from the 3″ version. Legs that short just snap upwards to form briefs immediately. Also, stick with whichever size you were getting in Ex Officio before (which should be a size down from most other brands). It’ll provide a much closer fit, but not uncomfortably so.
Get ’em here.
- Under Armour Boxer Jock: I actually tried this one at some point, and haaaaated it…but it’s been so long that it’s hard for me to describe the problems in detail, but it would involve the phrase “horribly uncomfortable chafing” at every stage of the game. I think this was a fabric problem in addition to a fit problem, and I don’t know if they’ve updated them since then, but I’m not inclined to give them another try.
- Arcteryx Phase SL Boxer: The fit on this one is excellent…except for the fact that the front pouch is very small, and the fabric isn’t particularly stretchy. This means it works only for guys who don’t need much room up front, especially since they pointlessly moved the bottom seam of the front pouch upward in front, shrinking the height of the front panel and making them completely unusable for larger guys. As the fabric isn’t particularly stretchy either, you’ll feel some restriction here and there throughout the day. It’s also not particularly soft, feeling more plasticky than anything else listed here. I hope they fix these issues, as they’d have a real winner here otherwise.
Despite what you may be thinking, this is in fact not the most innuendo-heavy men’s underwear title out there. But it sure comes close.
Saxx’s claim to fame is the “Ballpark” pouch, which adds a pair of mesh panels to the inside of the front pouch, guaranteeing that nothing can escape into the leg panels at all (see the diagram below)…but despite its popularity, I actually don’t think this is the strongest design feature. Considering how well some of the above options manage the immobilization challenge without those extra panels, it’s pretty clear that they’re not really necessary. They still need a 3D front panel, good leg separation, a high inseam, and no inseam gusset. And that’s exactly what they’ve got.
A couple things to notice; firstly, it appears as though they have a flat seam going right down the middle of the front panel, which wouldn’t be comfortable…but the front panel is a double-layer of fabric, and the inner layer has a non-flat seam, with the seam facing outward, so it can’t be felt at all. Secondly, it appears they have an inseam gusset, but they’ve actually built the front panel to extend all the way to the back seam of the inseam gusset, thus eliminating what would have been the front seam of the inseam gusset entirely, giving you an extra few inches of clearance before you’d hit that back seam, which is basically impossible. You’re going to stay in that front pouch no matter what happens, with no seam contact whatsoever.
I would, however, recommend going a size down, as they seem to be quite oversized. I much prefer a snug, body-hugging fit, and because that front pouch is more spacious than just about anything else listed here (with the exception of Flint & Tinder), I think you’ll be fine going a size down, even if you need extra room in front (except maybe with cotton, which is more likely to shrink in the wash than over-expand from being worn). Going a size down will also help the legs stay in place, which don’t have anything special to keep them from moving around…but somehow they worked out mostly fine for me, partly because I was also using one of their synthetic fabric versions.
Their catalog has way too many options, though. They have so many different fabric, fit, and color choices that it’s hard to know where to begin…but it’s easy enough narrowing things down once you know what’s going on.
If you visit their Everyday page, you’ll see all the casual/natural fabric options, such as cotton, viscose, and modal, along with a description for each, as well as a cotton/viscose blend (called the Ultra Tri-Blend), which should give you some of the comfort of viscose, but without loosening up quite as much over the course of a day as pure viscose would. The one option that’s out of place is the Fuse, which is made of polyester, and I don’t know why it’s on this page.
If you head over to their Performance page, you’ll see all the synthetic options (with the exception of the Fuse), along with a description for each, and also a merino wool option called the Black Sheep, which is good, but loosens up too quickly for me to love. I also tried the Quest 2.0, which was the most normal-looking of the synthetic options they have available, and is super light, meshy, breathable, quick drying, and great for anything athletic or travel-related (though it’s not a compression fit, so look elsewhere if that’s what you need).
Saxx competes directly with two other brands that offer an incredibly similar immobilization strategy; MyPakage, and 2undr. But Saxx’s immobilization panels are dual vertical walls, while the others form a single, U-shaped panel in front:
They all accomplish the same thing…but I think Saxx does it better. The base of those U-shaped panels can dig upward into very sensitive parts of your body, with one reviewer describing it as an upside-down guillotine…whereas Saxx’s strategy of having two entirely separate panels eliminates this problem completely. The difference is especially noticeable when sitting down, when the guillotine is most likely to cut upward.
If you look closely, you’ll also notice that both MyPakage and 2undr have an inseam gusset, and they connect the base of the U-shaped panel directly into the front seam, which is part of the reason the upside-down guillotine effect is so invasive. If they can’t copy Saxx’s dual sidewall strategy for copyright reasons or something, I think they should switch the U-shaped panel to anchor into the back seam of the inseam gusset (and eliminate the front seam altogether), which would relocate the upside-down guillotine a couple inches further out of the way, which I expect would eliminate the problem entirely. Or they could get rid of the inseam gusset altogether, and place a single seam across the middle, and anchor the U-panel right there.
I did give MyPakage a try, and also ran into some ride-up problems with them (about the same as Mack Weldon, but more so than Tommy John, despite the similar fabric). The modal version is also susceptible to expansion over the course of the day, which would usually lead me to recommend sizing down (especially since the front pouch is quite spacious, and the fit is just a bit large overall), but I would imagine this would make the U-shaped front panel even more restrictive, so I wasn’t too excited about trying this out (their synthetic “Action” series wouldn’t over-expand though, so they might work). I haven’t given 2undr a try, but I’m a little reluctant, considering the design similarities they share with MyPakage.
So which is the best men’s underwear?
I would hesitate to pick a single favorite, and part of my goal with this article is to help readers understand why something might work, especially if they run into something new, which they’ve never seen before…but if I had to pick just one, I think I’d go with Saxx. The non-gusseted construction will fit any guy, large or small, and the 3D front panel and high inseam keep everything nicely contained where it’s supposed to be. The wide range of fabric options and color choices means you’ll be able to find whatever you want, whether it’s casual or athletic. You should probably go a whole size down, but I think it’ll work out quite nicely if you do. And again, it’s not those extra panel inserts that do the job…it’s the rest of it being designed correctly that does most of the work. The only thing to think about is how the legs don’t have anything special to keep them from moving up, unless you look at one of their long-leg options. They should probably steal Mack Weldon’s elastic leg band idea. But they seem to work well enough for me, especially if you size down, and go with a synthetic fabric.
Well, that should just about do it. I’ve been at this for a decade or so, and I hope this’ll help you find something that works, with far fewer $30 mistakes than I had to endure over the years.
So go forth and be comfy, and do whatever it is you’d rather spend your time on than readjusting every two minutes. The world needs your talents. And for that, you deserve comfort.