Why wearing men’s pants has become a fashion trend for women

The trendiest fashion accessory of the year has been plucked from men’s underwear drawers and thrown onto the runway. Briefs, tighty whities, trunks – whatever you call them, women are wearing them. Boxers are officially having a moment.

Young women are swapping their usual knickers for breezy cotton boxers, styling them underneath low-waisted jeans, over a pair of tights or wearing them alone as shorts. And they’re not just stealing them from a partner’s drawer, but stepping into shops to find their own perfect pair. In its annual “How We Shop, Live and Look” trend report, John Lewis recorded that sales of boxer shorts bought and worn by women have soared by 20 per cent in the past year, listing them as a “defining product of the year” for 2023. In among the shiny air fryers, coveted pizza ovens and ever-reliable Birkenstocks that made the retailer’s popularity list for this year, boxer shorts for women seem like a glitch. So how did we get here? 

On TikTok, where Gen Z fashion trends are best documented, the androgynous “exposed underwear trend” is being chronicled in outfit inspiration videos, with boxer shorts taking a starring role.

It’s the versatility of these roomy briefs that make them a perfect addition to any trend, be it “coastal cowgirl core” (think boho LA girl fashion) or “normcore” (unpretentious everyday clothing). Some trend-setters style high-waisted boxers poking out of low-waisted jorts (denim shorts), paired with cowboy boots and a cropped baby tee. Others go for a more understated look and wear the briefs alone on the bottom half, with a matching pinstriped oversized shirt and a pair of New Balance trainers. Look no further than A-Listers to see the designer underpants in all their glory. In June, Hailey Bieber posed wearing a pair of Justin’s briefs, styled with a t-shirt and tan jacket with round black shades. Kylie Jenner was also papped wearing boyshorts over tights, while Bella Hadid was spotted wearing a white pair with an oversized leather jacket and Ugg boots.

We can look to the runways to see where it all began. Fashion houses Miu Miu, Bottega Veneta, Marc Jacobs and Loewe have all sent their models down the runways wearing boxers in the past year. Miu Miu showcased satin briefs with its logo sewn on the waistband, styled underneath a miniskirt. Marc Jacobs paired a white pair of balloon-style briefs over tights with a white blouse. And Bottega models strutted in boxers with a pinstriped white shirt, chunky red knitted knee-high socks and no shoes. 

At present, brands from Tom Ford and Alexander Wang to Celine and Diesel are selling boxers for women. While some of these designs cost more than £700, shoppers can simply pop into the menswear departments at an M&S or a Uniqlo to grab a usual pair for a fraction of the price. Influencers and fashion enthusiasts have adopted the trend with this approach: many savvy Gen Z content creators share videos on TikTok telling their followers where they can find an affordable, catwalk-ready pair for under £20.

John Lewis has dubbed the rising popularity of boxer shorts in women’s fashion as the “boyfriend boxer”, playing on the idea of the boyfriend jeans, a slouchy pair of slacks with a loose, relaxed fit. “An oversized cotton boxer has become a wardrobe staple over the summer months,” says John Lewis’s accessories buying lead, Edyta Knapinska. “We’ve seen this become the summer version of the boyfriend jean, comfortable and stylish enough to wear out of the house.”

While it’s true that women wearing men’s underwear isn’t exactly revolutionary (many women have opted for briefs over traditionally femme underwear for years), the rise of the “boyfriend boxer” marks the first time the pants have been adopted en masse as an accessory across both couture and fast fashion. Want to try the look yourself? Find a nice pair and shimmy them a few inches above your jeans. And as for the men reading this: keep one eye on your underwear drawer.

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