In 1934, Wisconsin hosiery company executive and designer Arthur Kneibler received a postcard that depicted a Frenchman wearing a bikini-style bathing suit. The image inspired Kneibler to design the first-ever pair of tighty-whities: Snug, legless underwear featuring an overlapping Y-front fly.
This new design was welcomed by men at the time, many of whom were still sporting incredibly uncomfortable knee-length flannel drawers well into the 1930s. But while tighty-whities remained popular for a few decades, they lost much of their appeal in the 1970s and 1980s, when underwear transitioned from something that men traditionally hid underneath their trousers into flashy (and often fun) fashion statements.
These days, tighty-whities act almost solely as a punchline. When actor Bryan Cranston asked Breaking Bad writer Vince Gilligan why his character sported tighty-whities while stumbling through the New Mexico desert, his response pretty much summed up the current cultural opinion toward these outdated undergarments: “Tighty-whities are funnier than boxer shorts.” (That said, that particular pair of tighty-whities would go on to sell for nearly $10,000.)
But despite tighty-whities being stigmatized as both dorky and childish — two qualities that most men don’t want associated with their junk — some guys defiantly continue to wear them. Responding to a post asking whether any men still wear tighty-whities, redditor DoublePostedBroski admits to occasionally sporting them [sic]:
“I think there’s a difference between ‘juvenile’ tighty-whities and other briefs. I wear briefs sometimes, but Calvin Klein or American Eagle — stuff like that. I don’t wear plain, old white Hanes or whatever. I personally wish there wasn’t this stigma against them. They’re comfortable, and when it’s 100 degrees out, it’s nice to not have extra material.”
Of course, fellow commenter ApolloRockOfLove fires back with what would appear to be the commonly held opinion [sic]: “No, because I’m not five years old.”
I also stumbled across a Quora post asking whether any millennial men wear tighty-whities, in which commenter (and millenial) Jon innocently explains why he continues to sport close-fitting, white briefs [sic]:
“I’m probably one of the last few generations that grew up wear tighty-whities. I was born in the early 90s, and white briefs were still the most common male underwear. As I went through school, boxers became popular, and later on, boxer-briefs. But I still wore plain, white briefs, because that’s what my mom always bought me. Between my friends and I, most of us still wear tighty-whities, because it’s what we’re used too. Plus, I think it all depends on where you live: Our store shelves are filled with boxers, but the briefs are usually running low on stock, because most guys wear them around here. I say just wear what you want and be proud of it.”
Once again, however, a fellow commenter (in this case, Nix MacPherson) replies by dissing everyone who wears tighty-whities [sic]:
“Some do. Often these are folks that…
* Don’t really care about what covers their bottoms.
* Bought a pack on sale and wear them for frugality sake.
* Received them as a gift and therefore wear them.
* Some hipsters wear them because tighty-whities are ‘retro’ now.
* Emergency! They’ve got nothing left.
One thing to remember about tighty-whities: They’re granny panties for men. So of course many people will still wear them, but clearly these are not their ‘sexy’ underwear. Of course, many guys also don’t own any sexy underwear. Pity really. Occasionally I like to dress Big Jim and the twins up in something so sexy that my lady will love it. But all to their own, right?”
Clearly, tighty-whitey wearers are the minority. But they’re out there! As I discovered after talking to producer and filmmaker Phillip Soulliere, a millennial who proudly wears tighty-whities (which you can see in the photo below).
“The main reason I wear tighty-whities is for support,” Soulliere tells me over the phone. “I used to always wear boxer-briefs, and after a while, I realized that they were always riding up my leg.”
“I’m being really personal here, but I’m a grower, not a shower,” Soulliere continues. “So every once in awhile, there would be this gap in there, and all of the sudden, I’d have half of my underwear inside of my asshole.”
But ever since Soulliere tried on tighty-whities in an attempt to thwart the annoying extra material that comes with boxers or boxer-briefs, he’s been hooked. “They hug your business like an old friend who you haven’t seen in a long time,” he emphasizes.
When I ask Soulliere whether he feels more confident sporting tighty-whities, he responds enthusiastically: “Absolutely! 100-percent. I mean, I’ve received some mixed reviews, but for the most part, any time my pants have come off and someone sees that I’m rocking tighty-whities, I get a lot of respect.”
Finally, Soulliere mentions that we might be in the midst of a cultural shift toward tighty-whities, as increasingly popular brands like Calvin Klein continue to sell and advertise tight, white briefs as a potentially sexier alternative to boxers or boxer-briefs.
Model Cole Benedetti (who you can see rocking a pair of black briefs below) reinforces this idea that we’re approaching a tighty-whities revolution: “We’re in a new time. Tighty-whities are definitely becoming cooler.”
Benedetti also swears that wearing snug briefs improves his sex life. “I prefer them, because they help with my sex drive,” he explains. “When my balls are sagging, it’s harder for my dick to communicate with them.”
If more and more men do start wearing tighty-whities, it’s worth remembering that snug underwear can reduce your sperm count. Even so, you have to admit, tighty-whities are still a better option than knee-length flannel drawers.