Much like socks and other wardrobe basics, the best men’s underwear should be comfortable, durable, and flattering. But those words mean different things to different people. Some men feel best in underwear that lifts and supports, while others prefer more room for their bits to breathe. In my experience, both as a former style writer for GQ and from years of conversations with friends, brothers, and significant others, most men feel just as strongly about the way their underwear fits as they do about how it looks. And over the last decade, a host of direct-to-consumer brands have attempted to reimagine men’s underwear, creating a wealth of choice.
While all that newness is exciting, you’ll need to know a bit about your own preferences before you stock up. Since you often can’t return underwear once you’ve tried it on, it’s helpful to decide where you fall on the briefs-to-boxers continuum before you buy. To assist with that little bit of self-reflection, and to find a bunch of underwear worthy of your top drawer, we talked to stylists, fitness professionals, and other discerning folks about the underwear they love most. Below you’ll find their recommendations for the best options in every category based on fit, comfort, and style.
The three most common styles of men’s underwear — boxers, briefs, and boxer briefs — are defined by the way they fit. Briefs are cut like a Speedo bathing suit, fitting snug around the groin and butt with zero leg length. Boxers look more like a pair of shorts and offer a generous silhouette, with an average inseam of four to six inches. Boxer briefs, first created in the 1990s by designer John Varvatos, are a hybrid style that combine the snugger fit of briefs and the longer length of boxers. They have since become the most popular style of men’s underwear.
Most men’s underwear is made of cotton or a cotton blend. That’s because cotton is sturdy, breathable, and soft enough to wear day in and day out. Spandex or other synthetic fibers are often woven into the cotton to provide a bit of stretch or to help the fabric keep its shape, regulate body temperature, wick away moisture, and dry quickly after exercise.
The traditional style for a fly is vertical, with an opening created by overlapping swaths of fabric to allow easy access in the restroom. But some men’s underwear brands are moving away from the traditional vertical fly in favor of a horizontal one with an opening at the top of the groin, beneath the waistband. Or, some brands even skip the fly altogether for an especially secure fit. (To pee you simply pull the front of the underwear down.) This too comes down to preference, but many men find that a horizontal fly provides a happy medium between convenience and feeling secure.
Ideally the waistband of your underwear won’t pinch, roll, slide down, or ride up on your body. According to our group of experts, every waistband on this list passes muster for comfort. But waistbands come in a variety of widths and materials, with some covered in fabric for added softness and others bare. The one that works best for you will come down to individual preference.
Among the three main styles of men’s underwear, briefs provide the most support, but they can sometimes feel restrictive. Boxers are the loosest, which lots of men find comfortable but makes them more likely to bunch up under your pants. Within any category, however, there will be variations on cut, seam placement, and level of compression. Boxer briefs designed for working out will fit tighter than those meant for daily wear. And some brands are known for baggier or slimmer cuts. Where possible, we’ve included these details to help you find your perfect fit. We’ve also listed the full range of sizes for each pair below.
There’s also rise and inseam to consider. In this case your preference may depend more on the type of pants you wear and less on your body. As with pants, underwear comes in regular and low rise. Underwear with a regular rise will likely feel more supportive and work better with mid- or higher-rise jeans or chinos. The inseam length is measured from crotch to hem down the inside of the leg. Briefs have no inseam at all, boxers usually have the longest inseams, and boxer brief inseams tend to fall between three and five inches, depending on the brand.
Style: Boxer briefs | Fabric: Supima cotton | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Exposed elastic | Fit: Regular rise, sizes S–3XL
Boxer briefs were by far the most popular style of underwear mentioned by the experts we spoke to. Derek Guy, Twitter’s “menswear guy” and editor of men’s style website Put This On, insists that the style is infinitely better than boxers because of the added support and the fact that they don’t bunch up in your pants. And Uniqlo’s Supima cotton boxer briefs were a clear standout among our panel, receiving repeated praise for the simplicity of their design and incredible value. Supima cotton is usually more expensive thanks to its relative rarity and longer staple fiber (the average length of fibers pulled from the plant) as compared to other types of cotton. This makes the fabric extra soft, strong, and good at taking dye. These boxer briefs have a regular rise and a vertical fold-over fly. “They’re soft, breathable, and keep their shape well even after many washes,” says photographer Sam Schmieg, who wore Calvin Klein for a minute but, at this price and comfort level, couldn’t pass up Uniqlo. Elliott Foos, formerly the director of coffee at Daymoves in Williamsburg, says, “Uniqlo’s basics are unrivaled, and these carry the torch.” Foos added that that he’s been into these for three-plus years (don’t worry he’s been re-upping), and still loves them.
[Editor’s note: These are currently sold out, but you can sign up to be notified when they are back in stock. In the meantime, they are also available in regular cotton.]
Style: Boxers | Fabric: 100% cotton | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Cotton-covered elastic | Fit: Regular rise, sizes XS–2XL
Sunspel is known for its luxurious cotton and unrivaled attention to detail. It’s part of the reason we featured the respected British brand in our roundup of the best men’s T-shirts. Daniel Brøndt, creator of the menswear brand Another Aspect, says Sunspel has made just a few tweaks to its cotton boxer shorts since the original design came out in the 1940s. He recommends them to boxer diehards and describes them as lightweight and breathable with smooth double-turned seams. In addition, they have a back panel instead of a central back seam, which some men find more comfortable. Thomas Fortune, the creative director for footwear brand Stubbs & Wootton, says, “The only time I would venture away from Calvin is for Sunspel’s cotton boxer shorts.” Menswear consultant Nick Wooster is also a fan, particularly in this Oxford-blue color.
Style: Boxers | Fabric: 100% cotton | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Cotton-covered elastic | Fit: Regular rise, 4-inch inseam, sizes XS–2XL
For a more affordable pair of boxers, celebrity stylist Neil Cohen suggests this pair from J.Crew. “I just wear them for sleep, but some guys still wear them as underwear,” Cohen says of the brand’s cotton boxers, which come in a variety of fun prints. “They’re really well priced,” he says, adding that the 100 percent cotton fabric has a nice hand feel. These boxers have a cotton-covered elastic waistband, and are available in a wide range of colors and patterns.
Style: Briefs | Fabric: 100% cotton | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Exposed elastic | Fit: Low rise, sizes S–2XL
“I’ve been told by my male clients that these underwear are incredibly soft and comfortable and offer an exceptional amount of support,” says Wardrobe stylist Jessica Cadmus. In her opinion, the best use for briefs is wearing them like a “second skin” under tight pants since they’ll be less visible. When I asked what makes this pair worth the high price tag, she said they are very sturdy and wash well, and that she considers them in the “luxury class.”
Style: Briefs | Fabric: 100% cotton | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Logo exposed elastic | Fit: Regular rise, sizes S–2XL
Many of the stylists and fashion experts we spoke to preferred briefs for the way they easily disappear under trousers. Cohen likes the style because it doesn’t ride up on the leg or add any extra bulk when wearing slim pants. Calvin Klein’s cotton briefs, widely considered iconic, were a clear standout among our panel. Fashion and branding consultant Ronny Oppong, barber Mark Miguez, and stylist Brandon Garr all praised them. We also heard from several folks that the waistband is nice and stretchy and the leg openings aren’t too restrictive.
Style: Boxer briefs | Fabric: Polyester, spandex, and nylon blend | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Exposed elastic | Fit: Available in regular or low rise, sizes S–3XL
Uniqlo’s Airism line is all about performance and centers on moisture-wicking technology that’s intended to keep you cool, dry, and feeling fresh. Nicolás Lazaro, a community specialist at menswear resale platform Grailed, says he used to wear cotton boxer briefs but hasn’t looked back since switching to these. “You’ll forget you even have them on,” he says, describing them as ultra lightweight and breathable, with enough stretch for comfort while still providing the necessary support. When former Strategist writer Jordan Bowman tested them, he found they held up well after multiple washes and didn’t shrink in the dryer. Lazaro also notes that they dry so quickly he can just hand-wash them and hang them up for a bit if he’s ever in a pinch.
Style: Boxer briefs | Fabric: Micro-modal rayon and spandex blend | Fly: Horizontal | Waistband: Wide exposed elastic | Fit: Regular rise, sizes XS–2XL
Barron Cuadro, founding editor of Effortless Gent, likes these Tommy John boxer briefs that are made from a blend of micro-modal and spandex for stretch. “The modal blend is supersoft, comfortable, and relatively quick drying,” he says, adding that he likes the feel of the wide waistband. Cadmus also recommends Tommy John boxer briefs but prefers the brand’s Cool Cotton boxer briefs with a slightly longer inseam.
Style: Boxer briefs | Fabric: 95% Cotton, 5% Spandex | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Logo elastic | Fit: Regular rise, sizes S–XL
Phillip Wong, co-founder and creative director of Hawthorne, says Calvin Klein underwear is still some of the best out there. “I’ve worn the classic Calvin Klein boxer briefs for as long as I can remember,” Wong says. “The shape is exceptional, not too tight, and it’s very low maintenance.” Ian Taylor, the former editor-in-chief of men’s style site FashionBeans, is another fan. But he suggests avoiding the white Calvins and sticking to black or gray: “In photo shoots, you often see people wearing white, which looks great when it’s well-lit and photographed on a model with a six-pack. But if you’ve been wearing them for six months, they won’t look quite as pristine,” he says. The boxer briefs are available in packs of three or five pairs and in a variety of colors.
Style: Boxer briefs | Fabric: 75% Cotton, 25% Polyester | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Logo exposed elastic | Fit: Regular rise, sizes S–2XL
Queer Eye stylist Tan France is a devotee of the entire Hanes underwear line, and wears these lightweight cotton boxer briefs on a daily basis. According to France they play nice with slim-fit pants, never bunching or creating a visible seam lines. Tim Melideo, who runs Stay Classic, a men’s fashion website focused on affordable style, says he’s long sworn by them: “They’re simple and inexpensive, and they last.”
Style: Boxer briefs | Fabric: 92% nylon, 8% Lycra spandex | Fly: Traditional | Waistband: Exposed elastic | Fit: Low rise, sizes S–2XL
Cuadro calls the Exofficio a longtime favorite for rigorous activity. “They are designed for outdoorsmen, so they’re anti-microbial and they dry super fast,” he tells us, adding that he’s had pairs last for six years. He likes that they’re made of breathable fabric, and says that even with the lower rise, they’re comfortable. “If you’re a hard-core wilderness guy, you can wash these in a river and they’ll be dry within an hour, so they can definitely handle a sweaty workout.”
Additional reporting by Jordan Bowman and David Notis
• Jessica Cadmus, wardrobe stylist
• Daniel Brøndt, creator of the menswear brand Another Aspect
• Neil Cohen, celebrity stylist
• Barron Cuadro, founding editor of Effortless Gent
• Elliott Foos, former director of coffee at Daymoves
• Thomas Fortune, creative director for footwear brand Stubbs & Wootton
• Tan France, Queer Eye stylist
• Brandon Garr, stylist
• Derek Guy, editor at Put This On and blogger at Die, Workwear
• Nicolás Lazaro, community specialist at the resale platform Grailed
• Tim Melideo, editor of Stay Classic
• Mark Miguez, barber
• Ronny Oppong, fashion and branding consultant
• Sam Schmieg, photographer
• Ian Taylor, the former editor-in-chief of men’s style site FashionBeans
• Phillip Wong, co-founder and creative director of Hawthorne
• Nick Wooster, menswear consultant
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