'I'm at the age and size when regular briefs -- or, as I call them, 'tighty whiteys' -- just aren't working for me anymore," my husband Patrick griped as he stood in front of his open underwear drawer. "The elastic leg bands cut into me and cause irritation right in this region...." "Over-share!" I yelled, but he continued his monologue. "I thought I'd be a lifelong tighty whitey man, just like my dad, but I think I'm going to graduate to boxer briefs. My favorite pair of underwear these days are the boxer briefs I borrowed from my brother Peter when we were at his house a few months ago. Do you think you could buy me a few pairs of them, but make sure they're comfortable?"
He went off on a dissertation about comfortable dress socks before I could ask what he meant by "make sure they're comfortable." I wasn't going to try on men's underwear at Macy's for him. Instead, I went to a few stores and picked a variety of boxer briefs. Then I surprised him with a little Saturday-evening underwear modeling session. Something of an exhibitionist, Patrick didn't mind at all.
We started with Calvin Klein Button Fly Boxer Brief ( $20 a pair at Macy's). "I like these," Patrick said, "but I'm worried about these buttons." He flopped down on his stomach to see if he could feel the buttons while lying down. "Nope, can't feel the buttons, but I wonder if they would add too much thickness underneath a zipper." The 100 percent cotton boxers had a firm but not stiff waistband. "A lot of undies have a band that feels like sandpaper -- not these," he added.
"I posed for this photo, by the way," said Patrick, pointing to the ripped male chest and abs on the box of Calvin Klein Body Boxer Brief ( $20 at Macy's). "In your last life," I retorted. The all-cotton briefs had no fly and no vent, and the cut seemed designed with, uh, male enhancement in mind. "Look at the shape these are giving me," Patrick said. "They are pulling me up and out. Maybe for a lesser man it would be okay. For me, these would just be bragging."
The Jockey 3D-Seamless Waistband Eight-Way Stretch Brief ( $16 for a pair at Macy's) was 90 percent cotton, 10 percent spandex. "I love the way these move," Patrick noted. "They're snug but not at all binding, and the legs don't show any tendency to ride up. But this stitched waistband is very coarse. It's already bothering me."
The Jockey Classic Boxer Briefs ( $25 for three pair at Macy's) faired better. "These are vented, which I am a fan of for health reasons," commented Patrick. "The waistband is soft, no raised stitching, and they move well."
We moved on to the Alfani undies. Alfani Basic Trunks ( $14.98 for two pair at Macy's) were too short for my favorite underwear model. "These trunks are worse than basic briefs," Pat complained. "The short legs ride up when I walk and I end up with a whole bunch of fabric up in my crotch. Avoiding that was the whole point of not wearing briefs."
The Alfani Basic Boxer Briefs ( $14.98 for two pair at Macy's) cinched at the bottom of the leg. "These really feel like they are cinching. Maybe if I was a skinny-legged guy these would work," he said.
Patrick thought Wal-Mart's Puritan Boxer Briefs ( $8.83 for four pair) were very comfortable when he first put them on. "But this cotton is thin. I'm not sure how it will hold up to a few washes." They showed their cheapness before they ever made it to the washer. After sleeping one night in them, Patrick said, "I'm having some escapage issues here. There is no structure left. The vent is hanging wide open, and the legs are loose and floppy. They've gone from boxer briefs to boxers in one wear."
Fruit of the Loom Short Leg Trunk Briefs ( $8.42 for four pair at Wal-Mart) came about two inches too short for Patrick. "I like the underwear to reach the curve of my thigh so that they stay there and don't ride up. When they ride up it drives me nuts...I mean crazy. Am I too picky?"
I left that question floating and popped open the next package.
Hanes Boxer Briefs Original Fit ( $8.47 for four pair at Wal-Mart) were also set in the return pile. "The cotton has a coarseness to it that you can hear," noticed Patrick, rubbing his thigh. "And they have a tendency to ride up."
The last group of boxers came from JCPenney. The Seamless Waistband Jockey Boxer Briefs ( $19.50 for two pair) were as short as the trunk briefs. "As soon as I put them on, I can feel the legs pulling up as I just stand here."
The Jockey Pouch Boxer Brief ( $14 for one pair) was 97 percent cotton, 3 percent Lycra spandex. "The butt seam in the back is scratchy, and the pouch puts a weird seam right across my John Thomas," griped Patrick. "I hate these."
We finally got a keeper with the Jockey Go Stretch Classic Boxer Brief ( $19.50 for two pair). "Call me a sissy, but I like the spandex," he said. "The waistband does not have a heavy, scratchy stitch. They are vented, and they are snug but move with my legs."
The BVD Boxer Briefs ( $16 for three pair) had the same uncomfortably thick butt seams. "These would give me visible panty lines," Patrick offered.
Stafford 100 percent Cotton Fashion Boxer Briefs ( $12 for two pair) touted a whole lot on their package. "No odor. No shrinking. No binding. No tags." What's up with the no odor, I wondered. "Doesn't the odor come later?" asked Patrick. Though the briefs had noticeable side butt seams, they weren't bothersome enough for Patrick to toss them.
Stafford Boxer Briefs ( $15 for two pair) were ventless but still winners in Patrick's eyes. "The cotton-wrapped waistband is a plus, as is the seamless butt, and the legs don't cinch or ride up, thanks to the 5 percent spandex. Before tonight, I would have said that I preferred 100 percent cotton underwear, but I am now sold on the spandex."