It’s the debate that has raged on for as long as men have worn underwear: boxers vs. briefs. Then, when boxer briefs became popular in the past few decades, the debate got even stronger with a new entrant. While other types of men’s underwear exist, the boxers vs. briefs vs. boxer briefs question contains the most-often worn styles of men’s underwear.
In this blog, we’ll break down each of these 3 styles of men’s underwear by several different factors, including comfort, appearance, activity, and material. We’ll then break down what the data and science has to say on the matter, before ultimately giving an expert opinion.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Underwear
When trying to choose between boxers vs. briefs vs. boxer briefs, there are a number of factors we can use to evaluate each of the men’s underwear options. Different styles offer their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to take a deep dive into each factor in order to form a holistic opinion on the best style of underwear.
Arguably the most important thing to consider when selecting a style of underwear is comfort. This will come as a function of some other factors we’ll discuss later, but it mainly comes from the form/shape of the underwear. A recent survey reveals 91% of men saying the fit and comfort of their underwear is more important than the style.
Boxers - with their form of not clinging to the body, they offer the loosest fit of any underwear. They are free flowing, promote air flow, and are typically made of a thin, light material. However, their loose fit means they are prone to bunch up around the thigh, leading to the need to constantly readjust your boxers throughout the day. Some people may also find themselves too vulnerable around their genitals with no support, leading to personal discomfort.
Briefs - designed to cling to the pelvis without extending down the thigh, briefs offer the most support and will not ride or bunch up at all during the day. However, their tight support can feel restrictive to some, and others may not like the feel of their pants directly on the skin of their thighs.
Boxer Briefs - boxer briefs offer the best comfort features of both boxers and briefs: a supportive frame and plenty of fabric to protect the thigh. However, just like regular briefs, those who are more used to boxers may find boxer briefs to be too restrictive, and they can run warm and trap moisture on a hot day if they are not made with moisture-wicking materials.
Some people like their underwear to have some style and use underwear as a way to show off a piece of their identity (at least for the people who are privileged to see other’s underwear). Others want a more basic or subtle appearance that doesn’t show or blends in with their outfit.
Boxers - by having a looser and baggier fit, boxers hang beside the leg and will not accentuate curves or muscles in the leg. Boxers will cover your thighs with plenty of fabric, so if you don’t want to show off your legs, boxers may be for you. Boxers offer plenty of fabric space for patterns and designs, if you want some personality with your underwear. However, be careful not to wear boxers with tight pants, as this combination can lead to bunching that looks sloppy.
Briefs - with their tight frame around the pelvis, briefs leave little to the imagination. Since they don’t cover the thighs, briefs can look a little better on guys who are more fit or have more athletic frames, but they are appropriate for anyone with confidence in how their legs look. Briefs can be paired with any pants and will look appropriate, though their minimal design means there is less space for designs and patterns.
Boxer Briefs - combining appearance aspects of both boxers and briefs, boxer briefs have the body-clinging form factor of briefs, with the leg coverage of boxers. Their tightness can still leave little to the imagination, so again they may look better on those with more fit legs. You can also still get patterns or designs on the fabric due to the coverage.
Depending on what you do throughout the day, some forms of underwear may be better suited for some activities, while others are better for everyday wear. A recent survey resulted in 65% of men stating they use a different type of underwear for athletic activities, sports, and working out than for everyday wear. The more active the occasion, the greater the need for support, moisture control, and breathability.
Boxers - offering no support, boxers are more appropriate for everyday wear and low-impact exercise, such as walking. If you use them for higher-level activities, such as running or hiking, you leave yourself vulnerable to painful chafing and/or uncomfortable bunching.
Briefs - much more supportive, so it’s better for moderate activity. However, the lack of coverage in between the legs means you’re just as prone to chafing. Its tightness can also trap moisture leading to discomfort on hotter days
Boxer Briefs - it’s the best of both worlds, offering the support of briefs with the coverage of boxers. Boxer Briefs offer the most versatility of any underwear choice when it comes to activity, from everyday wear to high-impact athletics. If they are made with moisture-wicking fabrics, they can stand up to just about any athletic activity.
While we’ve previously discussed underwear materials on this blog before, it’s worth referencing as a general guide. Not all styles of men’s underwear are available in all fabrics; when in doubt, blends will give you the best of all its components. From the survey referenced earlier, 75% of men have said they experience at least one issue with their underwear, with sweating being the worst offender at 45%. Thus, you’ll want to look for features such as moisture control and stretchability.
Boxers - usually made of the lightest materials, you will find boxers in a variety of materials, such as cotton and polyester blends. A pure cotton boxer will maximize breathability.
Briefs - briefs are usually made of cotton, which will inevitably hold on to moisture on hot days. These should be blended with other fabrics to maximize performance.
Boxer Briefs - made from a wide variety of materials, though usually cotton or polyester blends, boxer briefs usually feature the most comfortable blend of fabrics. Boxer briefs usually feature some sort of elastic fabric, such as nylon or spandex, to provide additional support and flexibility.
The Most Popular Men’s Underwear Styles
We can use the wisdom of the crowds to give us more insight as to what type of underwear we should choose. Specifically, we can take from a new survey on underwear preferences, which has boxers as a slight favorite of men over briefs (40.5% vs. 35.1%). Surprisingly only 24% of respondents quoted boxer briefs as the underwear they wear majority of the time. However, this number has been growing over the last several years as boxer briefs have continued to increase in popularity.
Boxers vs. Briefs vs. Boxer Briefs: A Scientific Argument
There is some scientific merit to the argument of what kind of underwear you should pick for everyday wear. A recent Harvard study illustrates the benefits of wearing looser styles of underwear on the sperm count in men. More specifically, the science points towards boxers as the best everyday underwear to wear if you are looking for your partner to become pregnant. Repeated wearing of tighter underwear, such as briefs, can decrease your sperm count, though wearing a tighter pair for occasional athletics will not have such a drastic impact.
Our Expert Opinion: Get Yourself a Pair of Boxer Briefs
At the end of the day, you should pick the style of underwear in which you are the most comfortable. But don’t be afraid to try something new every now and then! After consulting with our underwear experts here at Tall Order, the choice for the best style of underwear is clear. Boxer briefs offer the best advantages of both boxers and briefs, making them the most versatile style of men’s underwear available today.
If you’re looking for a new set of high-quality boxer briefs, look no further than Tall Order’s Big and Tall Boxer Briefs 3-pack.
Tall Order Boxer Briefs are built from ultra-flexible and ultra-breathable moisture-wicking fabrics, so you’ll feel comfortable and cool all day long. They stay in place, and don’t sag down or bunch up on the thigh. In addition, the comfort waistband won't dig into your waist, providing the perfect fit. And with big and tall sizing available, men of all sizes can be their best selves without worrying about their underwear. Tall Order Boxer Briefs come in convenient 3-packs, so you’ll have a full set to get your boxer brief collection started!