Art by Jim Cooke

Are your underwear emitting an odor of feces or stale urine or stagnant crotch-and-ass sweat that I can smell from a normal, respectful distance? Are you wearing some form of outer garment between your underwear and the outside world? Are you someone with whose underwear I may interact directly in the near future, like for example my spouse or either of my young children (whose underwear I launder and sometimes retrieve from the floor)? If the answers to these questions are, in order, no, yes, and no, then I do not care about your underwear. I have no thoughts about your underwear at all. This is enlightenment.

(If your answers to those questions are, in order, yes, no, and yes, then I have thoughts about your underwear. Those thoughts will be highly individualized, and they are not your damn business.)

Advertisement

Boxers, briefs, a thong, a chastity belt, a titanium codpiece with glowing red eyes—I don’t care! Encase your junk however you like. Go commando! I don’t give a frig. My motto, insofar as this policy regarding other people’s underwear that I just now for the first time put into words can be called a motto, is: Your underwear, your problem. In this respect I guess I am different from the guy at GQ who wants you to stop wearing boxer shorts.

His reasoning goes, basically, like this: The fashionable pants styles of the moment are closer-fitting than in years past; therefore, if you wear boxer shorts, the fabric of your close-fitting 2016 pants will gradually force the fabric of your loose-fitting boxer shorts upward, toward the waistband of your pants, where the boxer shorts will bunch up. This will be uncomfortable, for one thing; for another, it will give the pelvis area of your close-fitting 2016 pants a bad, unflattering look, rather than the “razor-sharp line” of successful tailoring. Also, prospective romantic partners will not want to make the sex with you, because boxers are bad. Therefore you should wear black boxer briefs, and be comfortable, fashionable, and desirable.

Advertisement

The things being taken for granted, here, are, in order: That you are wearing the fashionable close-fitting pants of the moment; that the close-fitting pants style of the moment is good; that your clothing choices should prioritize fashion over what you like, rather than reflecting what you like; and that you have the kind of body—slim and toned—that would present a “razor-sharp line” if not for a small quantity of bunched fabric in the area of your hip bones. (Also, that your prospective romantic partner does not think you look just fine in boxers.) This makes a kind of sense. The business of a magazine like GQ (or Esquire) is to define and sell an aspirational idea of male identity: wealthy, fashionable, fit, cool, single by choice. If men who actually embody those qualities read the magazine, all to the good, but those men—James Bond, basically—do not need to be told what kind of underwear makes their pants look the best. A more realistic approach, the one GQ (and Esquire and the like) take, is to emphasize the social importance of being that kind of man—so that readers will feel they must seek to become that kind of man—and then to appear to illuminate a pathway toward being that kind of man. You want to be fashionable, right? You want to wear the right kind of pants? You want to be cool and desirable, yes? Of course you do. Therefore you must wear black boxer briefs, like for example the kind made by “places like Uniqlo.”

Strip away the aspirational stuff, though, and there’s not much here. If a particular style of pants renders your preferred type of underwear uncomfortable to wear, pick a different kind of underwear, or pick a style of pants that does not do that. You do not have to go around looking like you are about to explode out of your clothing, even if that is the fashion of the moment among the kind of repulsive self-obsessed finance bro ostentatiously checking the time on his obscenely oversized watch on literally every sidewalk square in midtown Manhattan right now. Fashion, after all, is a lot more stupid than boxer shorts; in the long run, it is a worse investment, too.

Here is the thing. You will not be James Bond. Even if you are fit and slim and healthy and good-looking and wealthy, you will still round out as something less flawlessly composed than James Bond, because unlike you, James Bond is not burdened by the complications of being an actual human being who must fit all he will ever do or see or taste or feel, all the working and loving and goofing off and being clobbered by the world he will ever experience, into 70-odd years before he dies. You do not have time for this shit. The best thing that can be said for you—the thing to aspire to most fervently in life!—is not having time for this shit. If you have time to sweat whether your underwear preferences have set you upon a path of incompatibility with the pants-tailoring fashions of the moment, you are living poorly. No amount of black Uniqlo boxer briefs will remedy this poverty of spirit.

Advertisement

Wear what makes you feel good and confident and comfortable. Do you like to wear boxer shorts? That is okay! Wear some pants that do not turn your boxer shorts into a cotton life preserver around your hips, and you will be fine. Do you like to wear a closer-fitting undergarment? That also is okay. You can decide to wear pants that fit like Spider-Man’s leotard, if you like. Do you like to wear an upside-down Misfits t-shirt, with the sleeves as the leg-holes and the neck-hole exposing your frank and beans, because you forgot to do laundry for a really long time and now you just have to make the best of it and the t-shirt at least is closer to cleanliness than any of your underwear? That maybe is less okay, I guess, but still none of my business so long as you throw some jeans over the horror.

Wearing what makes you feel good and confident and comfortable will make you look good and confident and comfortable, and therefore attractive. The people who will be attracted to you when you are feeling good and confident and comfortable will be better—in the sack and everywhere else—than the people who will be attracted to you when you are chasing the fashion of the moment. If they are cool as hell, they will not have opinions about your underwear at all.

Eventually, pants-tailoring fashions will shift, again, like they do, because fashion’s function is to change whenever the prevailing style of the moment spreads outward and downward enough to no longer signal wealth and class status. The next fashion will make its own demands upon the underwear choices of vain, aspirational marks. Let them contort their junk to the industry’s whims, in pointless pursuit of an unattainable ideal! The adequate will be over here, clothing our various nether regions in the most comfortable underwear of all, which is wisdom.