Any chap who has manned-up and bought underwear for his girlfriend understands all too well the myriad of pitfalls that lay in wait. For example, when asked “what cup size sir?” the reply “roughly a handful” won’t get you far.
Underwear stands testament to the unquantifiable differences between the two sexes. The boxer short, by comparison, is reassuringly straightforward and simple, just like us men. That is until you delve a little deeper.
Historically boxer shorts were part and parcel of a shirt maker’s art. The reason is simple. Having made his shirts he might find himself with left over pieces of cloth, ideally sized to be made into boxers. For this reason all proper boxer shorts are made from shirting cotton, which also makes them more robust than standard high street offerings. This is also the reason why a single pair from a shirt maker will cost substantially more than a Marks & Spencer’s multi-pack.
Material aside, there are differences in construction. Key is the panel seat, an extra piece of cloth sewn into the seat from waist band to crotch (see above picture). This stops the shorts riding up; allows for extra material cross the seat without providing baggy leg holes, which in turn provides greater support. The other consideration is a tunnel waistband. Here the elastic is enclosed by cotton, which is all that touches the skin.
A woman who knows all about this is Lucy O’Brien of Boxtree Boxers. A former Managing Editor at the Economist she recently decided a career change was in order. Men’s underwear may seem an unlikely avenue of exploration for a married woman with a young son, but Lucy is a woman with a plan.
For 20 years her husband has been a customer of my shirt maker Stephan Haroutunian. Aside from shirts he, like me, buys their boxers. Made in the proper way from the company’s shirting cotton, Lucy’s aim is to provide Haroutunian’s boxers to the world at a one stop website. As she told me this week when I interviewed her: “I want to elevate the boxer” –an unfortunate use of language in connection to men’s underwear. But I can certainly attest to the fact that once you’ve splashed some cash on the real deal you won’t tolerate substitutes.
I never once imagined that writing for Mensflair might entail discussion of my underwear…