What's the safest underwear for men?

Monday, May 28, 2007
According to legend, a true Scotsman goes commando under his kilt and Sydney's Northern Suburbs Pipe Band is keeping up tradition. Most men prefer not to do the Highland fling — it feels more hygienic and more comfortable to wear pants. But what kind of underwear is the healthiest? Boxers, briefs, trunks or shorts?

VIEW GALLERY: 2009 Healthy Food Award winners!

During his cricketing days our reporter Michael Slater always wanted to feel comfortable on the field: "I have to say there was nothing more uncomfortable than feeling a little bit of chafing."

So it's Michael's job to investigate the mysterious world of men's underwear.

The test

We took five pairs of pants to the CSIRO textile lab in Geelong to see which ones are the least likely to become sweat-soaked and soggy.

Up for grabs are:

  • Polyester boxers
  • Poly/cotton boxers
  • Cotton briefs
  • Cotton/spandex briefs
  • Sports briefs which are made of a special synthetic fabric designed to keep you cool during exercise.

Each pair of undies will be tested for how easily air flows through them and how quickly they shed moisture.

While the lab boys work their way through our pile of pants, Michael has decided to do a little consumer test of his own.

"I think sport has to be the ultimate undies test," says Michael. "So I'm going to do a trunks trial with the help of five footy players."

He's giving the footballers five pairs of pants identical to the ones being tested for us at the CSIRO.

  • Rob's trying out the blue cotton briefs.
  • James gets the silky boxers.
  • Frank has the black cotton/spandex briefs.
  • Brendon gets to pose in the sports performance trunks.
  • Adam tries on some checked poly/cotton boxers for size.

It's time for the men to get their kit back on and head out to the pitch for some fast and furious ball play.

So, after a serious sports session which pants stayed cool and comfy under pressure?

James had the silky boxers, how did he go?

James: Good airflow but just no support.
Michael: What about in terms of sweat absorption?
James: Bad. No breathing — so pretty bad.

What about the other boxers? "Not too bad, bit of breathing but not much room for it to go," says Adam.

Okay, let's turn to our briefs. How did Frank go?

Frank: Pretty breathable with a bit of support round the lower sections of the genital region.
Michael: Would you wear them again? Frank: Yeah, definitely.

Finally, our special sports pants: "Oh mate these are great. Lots of absorption, lots of comfort. I reckon they're keeping everything intact — very comfortable and good for sport," says Brendon.

So a big thumbs up for the sports pants and the cotton briefs.

But how does our consumer test match up to the scientific study?


Time to go back to the CSIRO where scientist Dale Carroll's been testing the undies for how easily air flows through them and how quickly they shed moisture.

So what's his verdict?

"Purely [in testing] the fabric against the skin, the worst was the 100 percent polyester shorts," says Dale.

So the satin boxers are out, and the winners? Joint honours went to the cotton briefs and the sports jocks — the same undies our consumers chose. The only key difference is the price. The sport shorts sell for just under $30 while five pairs of cotton briefs will only cost $10. It's a no-brainer really!

Fast facts

  • While we're talking about blokes and their bits, there's an old myth that cycling can ruin your sex life. Is it true? Well Norwegian scientists discovered the way you sit when cycling can damage the nerves at the base of the penis. This can cause sexual dysfunction including erectile problems. So, wear padded pants and make sure you have a well designed seat.

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