With so many difficult choices in this world, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time thinking about underwear. So we decided to make that choice easier. For men, anyway, because god knows they need things easier than they already are.
We enlisted Dr. Philip Werthman, urologist and director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine & Vasectomy Reversal (!) in Los Angeles, and Dr. A. David Soleymani, a Chicago dermatologist and founder of DERMIO.com, to explain the ins and outs of boxers, briefs, and going commando.
Don’t tighty-whities lower sperm count?
“Not true,” Werthman says. “It’s an old wives’ tale.” He’s not sure how the myth -- that snug briefs keep balls too close to the body’s warmth, raising their temperature and cooking the 400 million sperm within like crabs at a seafood boil -- got its start, but it’s one Werthman has heard again and again over his 20 years as a urologist.
“I’ve heard urologists say all kind of wacky crap just because they’re ignorant. That’s why people get multiple opinions,” Werthman says. “Studies have been done to analyze temperatures of men who wear boxers versus briefs, and it makes absolutely no difference in fertility.”
So in Werthman’s opinion, is the best option boxers, briefs, or commando?
“It boils down to this: do whatever’s comfortable,” he says. “There’s no difference.”
Could it really be that simple? Skeptical, I decided to follow Werthman’s advice and get a second opinion, from Dr. Soleymani, who could put things in the context of your skin down there.
On the one hand, Soleymani told us that boxers protect a delicate area from zipper accidents. (Another pro, from my POV: boxers are sexy. They seem more grown-up than briefs, plus I can steal them and wear them as running shorts in a pinch.)
On the other hand, boxer briefs can be uncomfortable, according to consumer research conducted by OG underwear brand Fruit of the Loom, which, you know, seems like an objective source that we should definitely trust. “Leg ride-up is the number-one complaint among boxer brief wearers,” according to the underpants producer.
Soleymani offers another reason to steer clear of boxers, especially if you’re an active guy: “Boxers can be bad, especially for sports, because of friction leading to chafing. Testicular torsion is also a concern for athletes due to a lack of ball support.”
A quick Internet investigation revealed that testicular torsion is something you definitely don’t want. Note: Do not do an image search. As you might guess, it hurts... a lot.
So athletes, you have your answer: Bring on the briefs, right? Uh, not so fast. Turns out that while briefs offer ball support and reduce chafing, they do make things a little hot and humid, creating just the kind of groin sauna that fungus enjoys. “Increased moisture can lead to infectious skin issues like tinea cruris (jock itch),” Soleymani says.
If you do opt for briefs, choose moisture-wicking synthetic materials and be sure to shower and put on a fresh pair after working out. “Pro tip: put on socks before putting on underwear,” Soleymani says. That’s because athlete’s foot fungus can hitch a ride to your crotch when you step in your underpants.
Is all this fungus talk skeeving you out? Me, too. Fortunately, going commando greatly decreases your jock itch risk. With that, let’s go straight to the pro:
“Less tinea, less laundry, breathable, less moisture, less spending on underwear,” Soleymani acknowledges. “Cons: more laundry, necessary to keep pants and shorts clean, prone to injury from zipper accidents, skid marks, ‘flow’ stains, testicular torsion.” Just when you think you’re hearing good news, you get hit with the grossness.
Boxers, briefs, and commando ALL SUCK. Just kidding, there’s more to it than that, obviously. But Werthman’s advice of sticking with what’s comfortable to you seems more and more sound. The bottom line is that since you don’t have to worry about underwear affecting your fertility, you can go with whatever fits your lifestyle and comfort standards. So stop bugging Werthman with underpants questions.
“People waste their time talking about an old wives’ tale that has nothing to do with science, instead of things that actually matter,” Werthman says.
And whether you wear boxers or briefs, for the love of God, buy a new pair. Yours are probably disgusting.
“Last pro tip,” Soleymani says. “I see so many people -- even high-level professionals -- in my office for skin checks with dirty, skid-marked, blood-stained underwear. Be courteous and wear clean underwear daily and throw away underwear that is soiled.”
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Missy Wilkinson is glad she’ll never experience testicular torsion. Follow her on Twitter at @missy_wilkinson.