In 1934, a Wisconsin-based fashion designer named Arthur Kneibler received a piece of mail that would revolutionize the male undergarment industry. It was a postcard from a friend visiting the French Riviera, which depicted a man wearing a short, snug, bikini-esque bathing suit.
That image gave Kneibler an idea for a new type of men's underwear.
Just a decade earlier, boxers shorts took the market by storm. But their loose fit couldn't compete with long johns. Thus, Kneibler created a prototype: a legless undergarment with a Y-shaped opening for easy access—what we now call "tighty whities."
Early adopters noted that the new undies were nearly as supportive as a jockstrap, so Kneibler dubbed them "Jockey" shorts. Within 90 days, 30,000 pairs of Jockey shorts were sold across America.
Tighty whities had an unprecedented run, but as we look back nearly 90 years later, it's apparent that they've lost their appeal—for now.
A Statistical Analysis of Underwear Preferences
In 2016, AskMen partnered with HuffPost to discover what type of underwear guys prefer. Here's the breakdown of responses:
58% wear boxer briefs
18% wear boxer shorts
16% wear colorful briefs or bikini briefs
6% wear tighty whities
2% wear thongs (apparently men's thongs exist)
It should be noted that guys aren't always discriminatory when it comes to underwear. One respondent points out that different scenarios demand different underwear.
"It's situational," he says. "I don't buy the same underwear for working out as I do for lounging. And everyday wear is not conducive to rough and tough workouts." These days, most dudes go back and forth between boxer shorts and boxer briefs.
Nevertheless, tighty whities are barely hanging onto their position in the market by a (white) thread.
The Pros of Tighty Whities
If tighty whities dominated the underwear market for four decades, they must have some redeeming qualities. You can't deny a best seller. If you're anti-tighty-whitie, here are a few facts that might end the stigma:
They're Cheap as Hell
Tighty whities aren't the most stylish of skivvies, but if you're living on a shoestring budget, they might be your saving grace. A nine-pack of tagless Hanes will only run you $15.99. They're also not bad to have as backups in case of a shart attack.
More Support, Less Material
Arthur Kneibler may have been onto something when he designed underwear that featured the support of long johns without all the excess fabric.
Dudes are no strangers to sweaty thighs in the summertime, so a pair of tighty whities can be a decent option if you want to let your legs breathe while still keeping your balls cradled securely.
The Cons of Tighty Whities
Over the past decade, tighty whities have become one of the most stigmatized male clothing articles on the planet. This is partly due to subjective style preferences, but there are some practical and even medical reasons why tighty whities are no longer the go-to underwear.
They Make You Look Like an Old Man
If you're stripping down in front of your significant other, the last thing they want is to be reminded of is the underwear their dad, or worse, their grandpa wears. Retro may not be their thing.
They Show Your Shit Stains
Tighty whities are, well, white. That means any foreign substance (i.e., your nasty shit stains) are going to stick out like a sore thumb. And we already know you don't separate your light and dark laundry, so you can forget about keeping them as bright as they look in the advertisements.
They Lower Your Sperm Count
Remember that Seinfeld episode where Kramer's doctor tells him to switch to boxers to spare his sperm count? There's some truth behind that.
A 2018 study (the largest of its kind) found that men who wear tight-fitting underwear (like tighty whities) have a 25% lower sperm count than men who wear boxers.
So you've weighed the pros and cons, but now for the most pivotal question: What do the ladies have to say about tighty whities?
What Do Women Think About Tighty Whities?
In 2016, GQ asked 200 women what type of men's underwear they found the most attractive. As you can see in the graph below, tighty whities (which fall into the category of briefs) ranked dead last.
"White is like your dad's underwear which, like, no," said one woman. "White piping makes your junk look like a cartoon."
But don't let some pesky survey stop you from girding your loins with a pair of crisp tighty whities. There are plenty of pop culture icons who have embraced the look.
For starters, there's Bryan Cranston's Walter White from Breaking Bad, whose tighty whities sold for a whopping $9,900 in an auction for the show's props and items. Soccer star-turned-supermodel David Beckham is an outspoken supporter of tighty whities. And who can forget Tom Cruise rocking a pair while grooving out to "Old Time Rock and Roll" in Risky Business?
Put it this way: If fanny packs, overalls, and dad shoes all made comebacks in the fashion world, tighty whities have a chance too.