Best Boxer Briefs of 2020
The Smartwool Merino 150 has nearly everything we want in a pair of underwear. The merino wool is soft against the skin, even under the waistband. The legs aren't too long, and they don't ride up whether we were sitting in an office chair or going for a run. The wool is burlier than cotton and fares well over the long haul. Wool also has a natural odor-fighting coating called lanolin, which helped keep the stink down while testing and working in triple-digit heat. This model is exceptional for travel, either urban or backcountry. If, for whatever reason, you need to wear them multiple times between washes, their excellent odor control will allow you to do so. One of our testers has owned a single pair of these undergarments for over two years, and they have yet to wear out — still no holes, pilling, or rumpled waistband.
One of the few things to nitpick on these boxer briefs is that they're almost too burly. At an inch and a half wide, the waistband is huge, and it's quite thick as well. It didn't ride up, but under other layers, it could get a touch bulky. We also think the fly could be improved by a slightly larger opening. Although this pair will cost you more than most in this review, we believe that they are the best skivvies for any situation you might run into.
The Tommy John Second Skin No-Ride-Up boxer brief is the silkiest dang underwear we've ever worn. The modal fabric is buttery smooth against our tester's skin, and the weave keeps things breathable. The No-Ride-Up claim is true to form, and despite the longer legs, they didn't bunch up under their pants. The waistband, hems, and seams also are all very low profile, which helped things from rubbing or shifting during wear.
Our tester is 5'8" with a medium waist, and the legs of the Tommy John's seemed way too long, almost coming down to his knees. For taller people, the version we tested might work fine, but our tester would prefer to go with the mid-length cut or the trunk. The odor control capabilities weren't the greatest, as we noticed some odor lingering after high output activities. In our experience, modal or synthetic fabrics do not perform as well for odor control as natural fibers. Still, we thought these were a seriously luxurious pair of underwear, and we'd recommend for anyone that wants something really soft next to their skin.
The Columbia Men's Performance Cotton Stretch surprised us. Initially, they seemed like a standard cotton-poly blend pair of underwear, and they are, but in that package, Columbia combines the best of both cotton and synthetic fabrics for a very reasonable price. The cotton majority of the fabric keeps these drawers both comfy and reduces potential lingering odors, while the polyester fibers wick enough moisture away to prevent a cottony, swampy feeling.
We do wish that the seams were more smartly placed, as two seams run from the top of the seat to the back of the crotch, which could be potential chafe points. These might not be the best choice for fellas who like to wear pants with a tighter fit because these undergarments will leave undesirable lines showing through. We also wished that the leg hems were lower profile so they wouldn't ride up while running or other activities. Regardless, we still think this is an excellent pair of underwear for any situation at a great price.
The Fruit of the Loom CoolZone Fly is a standard cotton pair of underwear with a slight twist. The inside of the fly has a panel of cotton-poly blend to wick moisture away, keeping things cooler and drier than the average cotton undies. We did notice that these were a little cooler than the all-cotton pairs we tried out, and the inside of the waistband was pleasantly soft. These briefs are usually sold in a multi-pack at a very reasonable price, and they perform better than the products we tested in the same price range.
We must say that for a pair of underwear that seems to be designed for activity, we weren't impressed by how the legs tended to ride up. Also, while the CoolZone fly kept things drier in front, the seat felt swampier than some of the other pairs we tried, especially in the heat. They're really inexpensive and perform pretty well for a pair of mostly cotton underwear. If you are tight on cash and need some drawers, we think they're worth your purchase.
The ExOfficio Given-N-Go is our favorite model in the whole review for getting out and being active. We loved them for how breathable and wicking the fabric is, even when we wore them in 106°F temps. We were quite surprised by how durable the ExOfficio boxer briefs are, even when being smooshed by a bike seat or indiscriminately thrown in the wash with chore clothes. These skivvies will take a beating and keep on wicking.
Though we do love their performance, we were not impressed by the fit. The legs are appropriately snug for stretch fabric, but the crotch is somewhat baggy, offering less support than some of the others in the review. We also didn't find them to be the most attractive pair of briefs we tested. While we do love them for high output, single day activities, they wouldn't be our first suggestion for multi-day activities. They suffer the same odor pitfall most synthetic garments do — they build up stench faster than wool products. Still, we like this pair of underwear a lot for when we are moving or when it's really hot out, and for high-performance underwear, they're priced pretty reasonably.
It's rare to see innovation in the men's underwear department in regards to shape, but the SAXX Vibe takes it head on to give us something new. The Ballpark Pouch is essentially two fins of soft mesh fabric to separate one's private anatomy from the legs. This prevents chafing, keeps things very much in place, and provides a sort of "cupping" sensation. For some, this can be uncomfortable and unusual and could take some getting used to. The soft viscose fabric also does an admirable job of wicking moisture away from the skin.
We wouldn't necessarily say that the Ballpark Pouch style is for everyone; if you're used to "riding side-saddle," it's a very unusual sensation. The Vibe also leaves something to be desired in the odor control department, as viscose acts more like a synthetic fabric than a natural fiber and tends to let odor stick around. We'd recommend the SAXX Vibe for those who want a supportive pair of underwear for sports or everyday wear, or anyone looking for an expressive pair — these come in a huge variety of colors and patterns.
The New Balance 6" Fly Front Boxer Brief is a surprisingly slick pair of skivvies. The polyester fabric is smooth against the skin and lets layers slide past without causing them to ride up. The three-dimensional pouch in the front is both supportive and comfortable, and the plain seam in the middle is a nice touch to reduce chafing. Our head tester especially liked the wide but flat waistband that kept everything in place without the bulk.
Like most of the polyester pairs of underwear, the New Balance boxer briefs aren't the greatest with odor control. The New Balance website claims that these are odor resistant, but did not claim any sort of details on how that would be achieved. We weren't particularly impressed with its odor control when we tested them, although, for a daily driver, these are a solid pair of boxer briefs for work or play.
Although just putting these on won't make you as ripped and skinny as the model on the packaging, the Calvin Klein Microfiber Stretch is a still stylish, comfortable pair of underwear. We like that they have minimal seams on them, reducing potential chafe points, and the smooth fabric slides past other layers to reduce ride-up. The thin polyester also wicks moisture and keeps things breathable.
The double-layered crotch on the Calvin Klein boxers seems unnecessary, as a single layer would likely give more breathing room, and it would eliminate a seam in the middle. We also wish there was some sort of odor control coating on the polyester, as synthetic fabrics get stinky quickly. This pair proved to be no exception, but we found them to be sleek and still great for everyday wear.
The Lucky Brand Cotton Boxer Briefs are a snazzy take on an otherwise straightforward pair of cotton skivvies. With low-rise jeans, boxer waistbands often rise above the pants. These boxer briefs have a textured waistband that allows you to show off a little extra style, while the inside of the waistband is soft on the skin.
The quality of these drawers is nice, but we wish there was a little bit more going on with them. The all-cotton construction helps with odor but tends to get soaked with sweat in the heat and doesn't wick very well. The large hems on the bottom of the legs tend to ride up as well. This pair of underwear seems to have put form over function.
The Adidas Sport Performance is a simple, sleek pair of synthetic underwear that wicks away moisture well and stays soft after repeated washings. The lack of a seam through the inside of the front was a nice touch to reduce chafing. The svelte fit and low profile legs also don't ride up while running or biking.
While this is a decent pair of underwear, it isn't as durable as similar pairs; we noticed fraying after a few wash cycles. We also weren't impressed by the odor control, as there appears to be no attempt to keep these from acquiring the dreaded polyester stink. Also, the crotch has just a flat panel instead of a supportive but unrestrictive pouch that some of the other sport pairs had. We used this pair for days when we were going to be working or playing outside, but it wasn't the first pair we reached for.
For those looking for an all-cotton boxer brief, the Amazon Essentials Boxer Brief is just that. It doesn't have any more bells and whistles than most of the other drawers we reviewed, besides more colorful options. It does have nice low profile legs for less ride-up than some of the other cotton skivvies, but the roomier cut tends to bunch up while working out or under tighter pants.
One nice thing about all-cotton underwear is that cotton tends to fare better than synthetics when it comes to odor. While we liked that the cotton helped control body odor, and they were comfy to lounge in during lazy weekends, we liked some of the other options more.
The Hanes Classic boxer brief is just that, a classic shape cut with all-cotton fabric to maintain the prototypical men's underwear feel. This is a durable pair of underwear that will last through repeated washings and wearing, and the cotton weave keeps the odor under control.
While the cut is classic, it isn't our favorite. The waist is especially high and doesn't jive well with more modern low-rise pants and untucked shirts. We also found that the Hanes underwear ended up being a somewhat undesirable mix of bunchy and swampy. The waistband's seam was scratchy and was one of our least favorites in the review, rubbing our hips while moving about. Sweating on top of that only made it worse. We think there are better options elsewhere in this review for a quality all-around boxer brief.
The Gildan Covered Waistband Boxer Brief is far from our favorite pair of skivvies, and fell into a lot of the pitfalls we don't love about men's underwear. The waistband is bulky and frequently got pushed up or down by our tester's pants. Similarly, the hem on the bottom of the legs is bulky, and every time our tester would step up or squat, they would ride up. We also found the fly annoyingly small when nature called.
With their roomier cut and thicker fabric, they're a decent pair to hang out in. However, we found them to be hot and swampy when working out, bulky under our pants, and not as comfy as some of the others. The price can be tempting, but outside of saving a couple of bucks, we'd recommend you look higher in this review for other options.
Why You Should Trust Us
As a jack of all trades, Ethan Newman never knows what he might get into next, and needs clothes that can adapt with him. He owns and operates several vacation rentals, which means he may need to look professional or get dirty fixing something, often on the same day. This adaptability taught Ethan to carefully pick his tools and his clothes to suit multiple occasions, and he brings this mindset to every product he tests. He's been reviewing daily and travel underwear for two years, totaling over 22 pairs tested side-by-side overall.
In this review, we researched dozens of pairs of boxer briefs and then whittled the list down to the top thirteen products. We independently purchased each model and tested the products in side-by-side comparisons. We tested how they performed both during daily tasks, as well as high output activities. Our testers carefully noted how each seam, waistband, and fly felt and performed during use, and how they held up to repeated use and several wash cycles. From sitting in an office chair to sitting in a bike saddle, each pair is thoroughly tested and compared to the other products we purchased for testing.
Analysis and Test Results
We use each product to test their quality and performance and rate them as objectively as possible. Each product is evaluated across the same four metrics: comfort, breathability, durability, and odor control. We think these are the four qualities most important when searching for boxer briefs.
Clearly, the most important quality a pair of underwear could have is that they are comfortable. For a place on your body that is so sensitive, a comfy undergarment is paramount. Smoother fabrics and seams, wide and soft waistbands, and a thoughtful fit all contribute to our assessment in this metric. We also looked for how comfortable each pair of underwear remains throughout the day, and in many situations. For example, we looked for how well they fit under thicker work pants as well as lightweight fitness shorts. The comfier they fit, and the comfier in a broader array of situations, the better they scored.
The comfiest pair of underwear is the Tommy John Second Skin No-Rise-up boxer briefs. The sleek fit works under thick work dungarees but also moves well under lightweight shorts, and in both situations, they don't bunch. The modal fabric is silky soft and feels nice, even after going through repeated washing and drying cycles. The modal fabric seems to be a nice compromise between the silkiness of synthetic fabrics and the weight of natural fibers. We also found the Smartwool Merino 150 to be excellently comfortable. Don't let the wool fabric fool you — these are not scratchy. On the contrary, they feel great against the skin, and the design is neither baggy nor skin-tight on our testers' legs or waist.
One thing we cannot tolerate in underwear is a sticky, swampy feeling. We look for fabrics that wick away moisture and sweat and keep skin feeling cool. We also look for thinner weaves that let more air pass through to keep everything feeling fresh.
Both natural fibers and synthetic fibers can be breathable, but each has its own upsides and downsides. Cotton is breathable until it's saturated, as cotton can absorb up to twenty-eight times its weight in water. Synthetics tend to do a better job of wicking moisture away from the skin, but then the weave and texture come into play, so it doesn't feel plasticky. Wool can be breathable too but often has to come in thicker weaves, as the fiber itself is thick.
We found that the ExOfficio Give-N-Go to be the most breathable underwear we tested. The texture of the fabric lifts it away from the skin so it doesn't feel sticky, even when we were working in the desert summer sun. The nylon does a great job wicking sweat away from our tester's body, and he reached for the Give-N-Go every time he was going to be sweating a lot. The Columbia Performance Cotton Stretch also did surprisingly well in this category, as the cotton pulled the moisture away from the skin, and the polyester pulled the moister away from the cotton. We like that the almost all-cotton Fruit of the Loom CoolZone has a synthetic fly panel to allow greater breathability in the front, although it might have benefited from a similar fabric on the bottom and in the back of the briefs.
We wanted a way to quantify all the little details that make a pair of underwear nice, and that keeps it nice day in and day out. This metric assesses durability through repeated wearing and washing cycles, as well as the quality of stitching and construction.
The Smartwool Merino 150 tops the charts in this metric. The folks at Smartwool know what they're doing, and it shows. The stitching is clean and unfrayed even after months of use, the waistband is as snappy as ever, and the wool hasn't pilled up noticeably. One tester has a pair that gets weekly use and has lasted two years already without holes or much noticeable wear at all. We also thought that the Tommy John Second Skin No-Rise drawers were quite nice as well, as the fabric and waistband felt nice and were made of high-quality materials. Both of these pairs cost significantly more than most of the competition, but their higher prices also provide convincing longevity, which increases their value.
One should never dread undressing after working out or a long day for fear of a rising stench from below. Some fabrics and fibers deal with odor better than others, and our testing proved this correct.
Again, the Smartwool Merino 150 rises as the cream of the crop. Wool has a naturally occurring coating called lanolin that is antimicrobial and helps fight body odor from building up. The ExOfficio Give-N-Go also performs better than expected in this metric, especially for a synthetic garment, as ExOffico's antimicrobial coating is reasonably effective, and its baggy fit feels less stuffy. The other synthetic options performed much more poorly in this metric. The all-cotton drawers performed in the middle of the pack in this category.
Our testers rigorously researched and tested all these products, and are happy to bring you our recommendations. While we tested all kinds of boxer briefs, we found that the ones with quality materials and fit often performed the best for more situations, more of the time. We hope that you find this review useful, and ultimately that you find the underwear that works best for your body.
— Ethan Newman