The best boxer briefs
Update, October 2020: After testing 7 additional pairs of boxer briefs, bringing the total to 17, we remain confident in our picks.
Over the past nine months I’ve been on a personal crusade to find the best pair of mens boxer briefs. The reason? I’m investing the time and money now, upfront, so I never have to think about what underwear I buy ever again. During this quest I’ve researched over 30 pairs of underwear, and wore and washed 17 pairs over nine months (and I will continue to test and update this guide accordingly). CDLP’s Boxer Brief came out on top. They’re light and comfortable, look great and can be had for a reasonable price when bought in multiples.
CDLP Boxer Brief
An incredibly comfortable pair of underwear thanks to their light and airy lyocell material and lack of a fabric label. Not quite so hard on the wallet in multipacks and subscriptions. Made in Portugal.
CDLP’s Boxer Brief came out top in our testing. They were the most comfortable fit, perfectly hugging the wearer in a reassuring and supportive way. The unusual lyocell material was light, soft and has significant stretch. The material did have a slightly unusual sheen but this lessened on the body of the garment after a few washes (but remained on the waistband). The printed label on the inside is an excellent touch, avoiding the irritation of fabric labels. The waistband seam is moved off centre, preventing irritation in the small of the wearer’s back. The Portuguese manufacture oozes quality and means you’ll be supporting well paid workers. They are also durable. After six months of weekly wears and washes they show no issues.
£29 is expensive for a pair of underwear but its on par with others also made in developed countries. The price per pair can be brought down significantly by multipacks and CDLP’s “Automatique” subscription service. A three pack costs £75, reducing the price per pair to £25. A nine pack reduces the price per pair to £21.60 but costs an eye watering £195. Combining the three pack with a three month subscription reduces the price to £59 every three months. This reduces the price per pair to a relatively reasonable £19.
We were also impressed by CDLP’s presentation. The garments themselves exude a premium but understated feeling which is preferable to the brash loudness found in a lot of mens underwear. The bright yellow box the underwear arrives in was not only visually arresting, but made the unboxing feel special. It was reminiscent of a Mr Porter or Apple box opening experience.
What we’d like to see improved
As CDLP’s founders themselves say, they “are not perfect”. We’d like more transparency around their factory in Portugal, more transparency about their lyocell material, its environmental impact, and manufacturing process. We’d also like to see some sort of recycling/disposal programme where old or worn out pairs can be sent back to the company for recycling alá Patagonia and others.
Sunspel Stretch Cotton Trunk
A well crafted pair of underwear that is comfortable and will last a long time. The material is more substantial than our top pick, but was less breathable and light feeling. Made in Portugal.
The Sunspel Stretch Cotton Trunk is just as comfortable as our top pick, the CDLP Boxer Brief. They have an excellent, supportive and flattering fit, and conform well to the wearer’s body. Unfortunately, it does have a fabric label, which we found annoying. Where this pair differs from our top pick is the material, which is a more traditional cotton/elastane mix. It is thicker and more substantial feeling than CDLP’s lyocell offering but we prefer CDLP’s lighter feeling material. The quality and durability on display from Sunspel is outstanding, and we expect this pair to last a very long time. Do not confuse these Stretch Cotton Trunks with Sunspel’s Superfine Cotton Trunks, which are 100% cotton and we did not favour in our testing (they are also more expensive).
Sunspel do not offer multipacks or any kind of subscription service meaning what you see is what you get in terms of pricing, barring sales. All in all Sunspel has a nearly as compelling offering as our top pick for the same price (or more expensive if you take multipacks and subscription discounts into account) as our top pick. But purchasers will not be disappointed with the quality and fit on display from this heritage British brand.
UNIQLO Mens Supima Cotton Boxer Brief
Nearly as comfortable as our top picks, but there are significant sacrifices made in durability, quality and — arguably — origin to hit this price point. Made in Sri Lanka.
For the more fiscally minded there is the UNIQLO Mens Supima Cotton Boxer Brief. They have an excellent, close fit and were almost (but not quite) as comfortable as our more expensive top picks. We were honestly surprised at how close they came though. The construction and quality doesn’t feel as robust as our top picks and don’t expect them to last nearly as long as the pairs made in Portugal. We wish they didn’t have a fabric label, although it is at least a small one.
There was some slight confusion between different models with identical names on UNIQLO’s website. Likely they are similar models from different factories that changed season to season. Perhaps this is a hazard of fast fashion. Speaking of which, there is some debate around the ethics used in UNIQLO’s factories, despite the company’s claims. Bear in mind that this is a rock-bottom priced piece of clothing made in Sri Lanka, so ethically minded shoppers should probably steer clear.
Why you should trust us
We are the team behind the (now defunct) menswear website Epochs. Epochs examined the cultural and social history of menswear and produced some well received articles in the menswear community (e.g. Epochs Field Guide to Nautical Clothing, Epochs Field Guide to Camoflauge). We pride ourselves on our in-depth approach to research and focus on good design.
Luke McDonald is a fashion writer and stylist at London-based Thread. He has written many articles about menswear and styled a wide array of fashion shoots at Thread. Patrick McDonald is a designer based in Vancouver and has been a Muji underwear enthusiast for many years.
I (Andrew Emerson) am a designer in London. Finding the best pair of underwear became a mission of mine when I ended up with a drawer full of identical boxer briefs from a clothing subscription service in 2019. The consistency was nice but the quality was poor, so I decided I would replace my dozens of pairs of this brand’s boxer brief with another model.
How we tested
Researching began online. We looked at a number of Reddit threads on r/malefashionadvice (thread 1, thread 2) and r/buyitforlife (thread 1, thread 2). We also looked at The Wirecutter’s “Best Boxer brief for Men” and “Best Travel Underwear 2020” articles as well. The Strategist had three relevant articles: ”The Best Men’s Underwear on Amazon, According to Hyperenthusiastic Reviewers”, ”What’s the Best Men’s Underwear?”, and ”What Are the Best Boxer Briefs for Men?”.
We also looked at brands that we had previous experience with, and that had permanent basics collections such as Everlane, Sunspel, ARKET and UNIQLO.
We looked to get a spread on different materials (cotton, cotton/elastane, wool, synthetics), different origins (Europe, Middle East, and Asia), and price points. Finally we purchased a shortlist of these using our own money.
We created a set of criteria that all pairs were judged against (see “What to look for” below). All purchased pairs were put in rotation for several months and notes taken on first and subsequent wears. We tracked the different pairs, stored notes, and ranked them using a Notion database. Finally we compiled our findings into this article. We intend to update this page periodically as we try new pairs (keep and eye on our changelog for updates) as there are other pairs we would still like to try. Have a suggestion? Email us.
What to look for in a pair of boxer briefs
We looked for a pair of underwear that was suitable for every day wear and most of life’s occasions; work, sleeping in, date night, running to catch a bus, dropping kids off, lounging around your apartment (but not for going to the gym or exercising in, you will need specialty underwear for that).
Boxer briefs only: We looked specifically at boxer briefs so that discounts more loose fitting boxers, and legless varieties like briefs. Boxer briefs were chosen because they are more supportive and comfortable than their cousins, and are flattering without being overly revealing. They are a modern, balanced undergarment for men.
Availability: Garments should be widely available and be almost always in stock. We discounted most high street labels because they have many different models that change frequently. We preferred those that were underwear specialists, or had a permanent collection of underwear.
Colours: We tested everything in black. This was to have a fair comparison, but also we prefer an understated look. It’s also more practical and won’t discolour.
Length and rise: Is the pair long or short in the leg? High or low rise? A balance is important here, but generally we want a regular rise combined with a slightly shorter leg length. Longer leg length can look antiquated, but a very short leg length can be uncomfortable and veer into hot pants territory (that’s bad). A slightly shorter leg can be flattering.
Fit: How tight or loose the pair is. Being boxer briefs, we are looking for a closer fitting garment, without being tight. The fit or cut is also a key factor when considering aesthetics. The fit should be flattering to the shape of the wearer, but bear in mind that it won’t make you look fit if you’re not.
Material: The main body will be some combination of cotton, wool, lyocell, elastane (spandex for our American compatriots). We found about 5 – 10% elastane is necessary for a comfortable, slightly stretchy fit. Without elastane, the garments had no give, weren’t fitted enough, and were generally less comfortable (they also tended to ride up the leg more). The waistband is generally a synthetic material with a percentage of elastane. The material of the waistband wasn’t as important as how it fit and felt (see below for more on waistbands).
Waistband: Two things to consider — softness and width. It should have a soft handle and be wide enough to spread the load. It also shouldn’t be too tight, or turn over easily.
Keyhole: Pretty much the only “feature” that mens boxer briefs can have; does the garment have a keyhole or not? We do not have a strong preference; slightly preferring without for simplicity. However it was not a factor that was taken into account when making our picks.
Durability: How does the garment hold up in day to day wear? How does it cope with being washed again and again? Despite what Tom Ford says, we don’t believe in throwing out our underwear after six months. We believe underwear should be able to stand up to being worn and washed at least once per week for around twelve months. We will update this guide as we continue to wash and wear our top picks.
Label/tag: Underwear should not have tags, which are annoying and itchy. Labels/tags printed directly on the garment are strongly preferred.
Price: Price can vary significantly, but we found there are generally a low and high price bracket, mostly depending on where the garment is made (see “origin” below).
Origin: Where the garment is manufactured. Today’s shoppers are much more conscientious about the ethics of their clothing. We gave preference to garments manufactured in developed countries and made in ethical, transparent ways.
Multipacks and subscription: Often a good way to reduce the price per unit. Subscription services are a great way to build up your underwear collection and of injecting fresh pairs into your rotation.
The ARKET Pima Cotton Trunks had too narrow a waistband which caused pressure on the wearer's hips. The tag is very long and caused irritation. They were also more expensive than our budget pick, which took them out of the running for us.
Although similar in many ways to our top pick (particularly the excellent lyocell material), the CDLP Boxer Trunk offers a more aggressive cut and a lower rise than their Boxer Brief cousins. However we found the leg length overly short and the cuffs of the legs more loose fitting than our top pick, leading to a overall less secure feeling fit. Some people may prefer the more sporty look, and the pair could be described as more flattering than any of our picks, but for everyday wear we prefer the CDLP Boxer Brief.
The Everlane Boxer Brief is a comfortable and all round good pair of underwear. They fit well, are the right length, and look good. The printed tag is a great touch as well. They fit was good, but were ever so slightly on the loose side in medium and weren't as flattering as the rest of our picks. The issue with Everlane's entry was the price. At £14 they are nearly three times more expensive than our budget pick for about the same experience. And although our top pick is priced at £29, they can be had for as low as £19 (and they're made in Portugal, not Sri Lanka). Shipping to the UK was also very expensive at £12. Overall they are a very good pair of boxer briefs but they're too expensive to be a budget pick and don't quite reach the excellence of our top picks.
Fruit of the Loom's Classic Boxer was one of the cheaper pairs we tried at £12 for 2 pairs (you can't buy individual pairs). The materials used felt surprisingly high in quality for the price. The fit was good, hugging the wearer without being tight. There was a seam that runs down the centre of the butt cheek area which was slightly irritating at first, but wasn't noticeable after a few minutes of wear. The cheap price is evident in the waistband seam, which looks untidy as it doesn't line up properly at the seam. Ultimately however, our budget pick from Uniqlo is superior in terms of quality and finish for a slightly cheaper price to boot.
Lulemon Athletica's 5" Always In Motion Boxer came highly recommended after we published the first version of this guide. The modal material is lightweight feeling. However the garment was too long, with an inseam longer than we'd like in a boxer brief, and a rise than came up too high on the wearer as well.
The Organic Basics Organic Cotton Boxer Briefs were more lightweight than other cotton boxer briefs we tested. They are cheaper per pair than many of the other premium boxer briefs we tried, although annoyingly have to be bough in packs of at least two. The printed label was a nice detail, and the styling and branding was understated, as we've come to expect from Organic Basics. The fit however was too loose and didn't hug the wearer like we would have liked.
On paper the Organic Basics TENCEL Lite Boxers have everything our top pick has for £4 less per pair. And in practice it does tick many of the boxes: they have a silky and light lyocell material, are ethically made, have understated styling, a printed label, and are presented via a seductive Scandinavian brand. Organic Basics are even superior to CDLP in the area of eco-consciousness. But they fall down in one key area: fit. The fit on their TENCEL Lite Boxers is too loose, especially when compared to our perfectly fitting top pick, which conform more closely to the wearer's body. It is also slightly annoying that they come in two packs only, making that first investment a little hard to stomach at £48. If Organic Basics can dial in their fit, they are on to a sure fire winner though.
Patagonia's Men's Essential Boxer Brief had an incredibly soft, lightweight and breathable lyocell material. The lyocell here was notably softer than other similar materials we tested, and felt almost brushed. The Patagonia branding on the waistband manages to successfully thread the line in terms of understated-ness, and shows off the brand without overdoing it. Where the Patagonias fell down was in having a too loose fit and having an excessively long rise that went too far up on the wearer.
The Rozenbroek Organic Bamboo Jersey Trunk is the only pair we wore that was manufactured in the UK, and is well priced for such a claim. Unfortunately we found the waistband very uncomfortable. It was too stiff, tight and thick. The edges were also slightly sharp and dug into the wearer’s hips. The bamboo material was comfortable, stretchy and light but Rozenbroek don't show the exact material breakdown on their website or on the garment itself.
Saxx is a brand well known and liked on the internet, featuring on many favourites lists. We tried the Saxx Undercover Trunk and found the cotton/modal/elastane material light, airy and supportive. One of Saxx's primary selling points is their "ballpark" technology, which is designed to cup the wearer’s genitals. We found this to be somewhat uncomfortable in practice though, with the fabric edge of the "pouch" rubbing annoyingly against the skin. The Vancouver, Canada based brand also isn't transparent about where it makes its product, which appear to be Chinese in origin. This lack of transparency made us somewhat uncomfortable, and £21 is on the steep side for China made underwear. The branding and marketing is also slightly over the top and in your face, especially compared to the understated approach of our picks. Finally Saxx is quite difficult to get outside of Canada and the US, and we had to resort to specialty outdoor shops to purchase ours in the UK.
The baggiest fit we tested belongs to the Smartwool Men's Merino Sport 150 Boxer Brief, which took them out of the running for us. This was a shame, because the merino wool construction was soft and light. £35 is also too much to be charging for a pair of underwear made in Vietnam.
The Stance Staple 4" Boxer Briefs had a reassuringly comfortable fit, and their "butter blend" material was soft and light feeling. The leg length and rise on this four inch model were just the right length too. They come with a SAXX style pouch, which Stance call a "Wholester". Similar to Saxx's offering, we found this gimmicky in theory and awkward in practice. Wearers would be better served by buying a pair of underwear that fit them properly. The Stance Staple are also expensive, coming in more expensive than any of our top picks. Finally Stance's manufacturing process is totally opaque, and they are rated "we avoid" by Good On You.
The leg length was a little too long on the Stór Bamboo Boxer Brief and as a result they don't flatter the wearer. The bamboo material mix is soft and breathable and conforms well to the body and feels comparable to the lyocell used in our top pick. The origin (Turkey) is a little suspicious as it isn't listed anywhere on the website or the product. I had to reach out to the company to find out where they were made.
Tom Ford's Cotton Boxer Briefs were the most expensive pair we tested at a wallet-busting £50. What you get for that price is: a decadent unboxing experience, the Tom Ford branding, and a fine but ultimately unexceptional pair of boxer briefs. The packaging was extensive to the point it felt not just wasteful but in poor taste. The waistband on the garment was a highlight, being stretchy and incredibly soft. However the fabric tag affixed to that waistband was annoying and poorly finished, with lots of hanging threads. The main body material was substantial and does feel premium, but not as much so as our top picks. They had a tendency to ride up the legs over the course of the day, which was a major downside. In the end the garment itself does not justify its price, but if you're buying Tom Ford then value for money probably isn't top of your mind.