The boxers vs. briefs debate has raged on for decades. The long-and-short of it: If you want to have children, the answer is boxers; if you want to keep a partner around to sire children with, the answer is boxer briefs. But what if we just ditched the underwear altogether? After all, doesn’t it seem like all that heat and sweating — responsible for everything from low sperm counts to fungus and rashes — is caused by having that double layer in the first place?
Underpants: The Pros
If you found this article by Googling, “Should I wear underwear today?” we’re going to start with advantage #1: hygiene. According to Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth from NYC Surgical Associates, the perineum (better known as the taint) “tends to be colonized easily by bacteria and fungus due to the proximity to your backside.”
Even with a regular cleaning in the shower, he adds, the moisture from sweat “allows bacteria and fungus to multiply and spread, giving off a corresponding offensive odor.”
“Underwear, in particular briefs or boxer briefs, can reduce this bacteria, fungus and odor, by absorbing moisture from your skin and allowing it to evaporate more easily.”
So rather than your underwear exacerbating your swamp butt, it’s actually the contrary — your underwear is helping prevent you from becoming a stinky mess.
The second benefit of this moisture control is the prevention of friction-induced chafing. “Any areas where we have skin in close contact with other skin — such as the armpit or groin — are prone to sweating and moisture accumulation,” says Hollingsworth. “For this reason, underwear typically improves comfort by reducing friction and absorbing moisture that can leading to chafing. It provides a softer layer that’s in direct contact with the sensitive skin of our external genitalia.”
Finally, according to a report by ABC News, there’s about a 10th of a gram of fecal matter in the average pair of underwear. The human body is pretty much constantly leaking in one form or another, and underwear stands as the last defense from your favorite pants getting a fine coating of blood, semen, fecal matter or whatever else is going on down there. (It should go without saying, but this only applies if you change your underwear daily.) So in order to avoid being chafed-up, caked in bodily fluids and full of germs, get yourself a breathable pair of athletic underwear.
Underpants: The Cons
The main argument against underwear is the whole heating up your balls and killing your sperm angle, but a loose-fitting pair of boxers or lightweight boxer briefs solves that issue, all while providing that soft barrier between your pants and your more-sensitive skin downstairs. So really, unless you’re a committed briefs-wearer, there are no major cons to speak of.
In defense of briefs, Hollingsworth also cites a study published in Andrology, which concludes, “Male underwear choice is associated with few differences in semen parameters; no association with time-to-pregnancy is observed providing reassurance to couples attempting pregnancy.” In simpler terms, while briefs have certainly been linked with lower sperm counts, they don’t actually affect the quality of the swimmers that do come out. Still, this is faint praise for briefs and, yeah, you should still switch to boxer briefs.
As underwear companies produce new combinations of fabric that wick away moisture while preventing heat retention, we are slowly but surely separating ourselves from our swamp-balled ancestors of yesteryear. Or, as Hollingsworth concludes, “The ancient Romans wore no underwear and their empire eventually collapsed. Coincidence?”