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In Review: The Best Merino or Performance Fabric Boxer Briefs for Men

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Smartwool vs Saxx vs ExOfficio vs lululemon (and more)

About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething business analyst in the construction industry. He enjoys whiskey, watches, boots/shoes, and working on his dad bod father figure.

My favorite boxer briefs were discontinued a few years ago during the pandemic and I’ve been on the hunt for their replacement ever since. As we approach Swamp Ass Season, it’s a good time to remind everyone that while cotton is cheap and launders easily, it also holds onto moisture and doesn’t wick. That’s bad news for your “ditches” when the weather is hot and sticky.

I typically prefer pairs with modern performance fabrics for their breezy knits and sweat wicking properties that help keep the family jewels cool and dry. From time to time, I also enjoy wearing pairs made from natural and semi-natural fabrics like modal, lyocell, and merino wool. So, in order to test a bunch of options and find some new favorites, I raided Dappered’s digital coffers for a few greenbacks and went shopping online. I purchased eight brand new pairs of boxer briefs – four made from modern performance fabrics and four made from merino wool or merino wool blends. We’ve put them to the test so you don’t have to.

Pre Boxer-Brief-Brawl Notes:

  • Each pair saw at least one wear and one cold wash/cold dry laundry cycle per week.
  • Each pair was tested in a random rotation over the past eight months!
  • Measurements are post-laundering, so they include any shrinkage or change from stock.
  • We’re judging these pairs based on criteria of fit, comfort, breathability, durability, etc.
  • Scoring system is 1-5 “aubergines.” (The more eggplants, the better.)
  • All items were purchased online.
  • All items were in-person tested in size large on 6’0, 210ish.
  • We understand that we might have missed some models or brands that you love, but we simply can’t test everything out there. If you want to share a great product, email us: [email protected]

***The Merino Wool Contenders***

[TAG38] FINAL


underwear

  • Waist Size: ~15”
  • Inseam Length: ~5.5” from center. Also available in 7″.
  • Fabric Contents: 84% merino wool, 12% nylon, 4% spandex
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Functional Fly: YES (note: fly WAS horizontal, but new for 2024 = vertical fly)
  • Total Price: $45.00 + $4.99 for standard shipping. (Free shipping at Huckberry kicks in at $98.)
  • NOTE: These are final sale and cannot be returned or exchanged. Some brands/retailers allow you to return underwear. Others do not. Which is understandable.

Huckberry’s in-house technical performance brand, Proof, is chock full of surprisingly good stuff, including these merino wool blend boxer briefs. I have been very impressed with this pair for the comfortable fit, smooth and breathable fabric, and durable construction during this trial run.

This pair runs perfectly true to tag size for me. They have a slightly snug, supportive fit that I definitely prefer when I’m wearing boxer briefs. I also love this ~5” inseam as it feels like the right length for me; they won’t show when I’m wearing my ~7” shorts during those warmer days and it’s not so short that the legs ride up or bunch up when you put on your pants. The waistband has just the right amount of stretch and hold to keep them up and it doesn’t lose much elasticity over time from wears and washes. The merino wool blend fabric is absolutely fantastic – it’s soft to the touch, yet has a bit of texture and the nylon and spandex add in some extra durability and mechanical stretch to the recipe. This fabric maintains its shape really well and does not stretch out too much throughout the day. This pair also features flat seam stitching and a seamless rear panel to help cut down on any areas that might cause chafing or irritation. My only real issue with this pair is the front, horizontal fly opening instead of the more conventional vertical fly opening. This new layout can take some time and a bit of training to get accustomed to, especially if you’re someone who tucks in your shirts and prefers to use the zip or button fly on your pants instead of unbuttoning them all the way to use the restroom. I feel like this design may work better for activewear items like athletic gym shorts or joggers. (NOTE: The Spring 2024 refresh has a “normal” vertical fly!!) Over these past few months, I haven’t noticed any durability issues. They keep on working well!

Overall, I really like this pair of Huckberry’s Proof 72-hour boxer briefs. The cut fits me very well, the shorter inseam feels just right, the waistband is solid, the fabric is fantastic and breathes really well, and the legs do not ride up throughout the day. All in all, I highly recommend these.

Score:
men

men

men

men

men

[TAG41]


underwear

  • Waist Size: ~14.25”
  • Inseam Length: ~5.25” from center
  • Fabric Contents: 84% merino wool, 12% nylon, 4% spandex
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Functional Fly: NO
  • Total Price: $45.00 (free shipping/returns on US orders)

Unbound specializes in merino wool goods that include t-shirts, henleys, hoodies, polo shirts, pants, underwear, socks, etc. This particular pair of boxer briefs has been exemplary over these past few months and stacks up very well.

This pair runs true to tag size for me, although they feel a bit tighter than the pair from Proof. Overall, the cut also feels slightly longer than the other pair – these have a slightly taller front rise and the elastic waistband is slightly thinner. Interestingly, the designers at Unbound moved the waistband seam from the center back to the far left side. This choice, along with a seamless back panel, was probably done to cut down on any spots that could cause chafing and irritation. The merino wool blend knit used in this pair is a bit thinner, and slightly more breathable, than the fabric on the Proof pair. However, because it’s a bit thinner, it tends to stretch out a touch over the course of the day. It’s not enough to feel like you’re wearing a diaper or anything, but it’s noticeable. The leg openings also tend to ride up a touch when you’re pulling on your pants, but once on, they don’t move around much. Construction wise, the stitching and assembly is neat throughout with a finer level of flatlock seams than that found on the Proof pair above. Sadly, this pair does not have a fly opening at all, so I’m docking points for lower functionality. I reached out to the brand via email and, unfortunately, they have no plans to offer a version with a usable fly opening. For durability, these are solid and they will last you a good long time.

Overall, I like this pair a lot as well. The fit/cut is pretty good, but not as nice as the Proof pair. I like the shorter inseam length, the soft waistband, and the fabric for how thin and airy it feels. All in all, a very good pair…if you don’t need a fly.

Score:
men

men

men

men

[TAG43]


men

  • Waist Size: ~15.75”
  • Inseam Length: ~6” from center
  • Fabric Contents: 88% merino wool, 12% nylon
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Functional Fly: YES
  • Total Price: $48, although I got my pair via Amazon for a little less, but they’re sold out there at post time.

Smartwool is a household name for a lot of folks as they excel in performance fabric goods. I ran across this pair of Merino 150 boxer briefs through REI but found a better deal on Amazon. Over these past few months, I’ve really liked this pair for their comfort while lounging around the house on the weekends, but they’re far too soft and not supportive enough for day to day wear.

This Smartwool pair fits true to tag size for me, but feels slightly too loose out front. Overall, the cut feels more relaxed and may be ideal for those that prioritize free movement and comfort over support. The elastic waistband is too tall for my liking and it feels too soft and flimsy, thanks to the merino wool backing. This helps make this pair feel more like boxer shorts than supportive boxer briefs. The merino wool blend fabric is solid and feels soft enough for everyday wear, but it feels more like your old, favorite t-shirt than a high performance natural fabric. The construction isn’t as seamless as the other pairs; you can see the back panel is split into three pieces and has a vertical flatlock seam running up the middle of each cheek. While I didn’t notice any chafing or irritation over the course of a typical day, I did notice that this pair tends to stretch out quite a bit and the leg openings ride up a lot. This can be frustrating when wearing textured pants like denim. They do have a functional, horizontal fly opening and it works great.

Overall, these boxer briefs feel really great when you’re just lounging around the house and they could almost double as boxer shorts. The cut feels more relaxed, they have a slightly longer inseam, and the waistband is backed with soft merino wool fabric.

Score:
men

men

men

[TAG46] (via Amazon)


underwear

  • Waist Size: ~15”
  • Inseam Length: ~8” from center
  • Fabric Contents: 100% merino wool
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Functional Fly: YES
  • Total Price: $26.99 (shipped fast/easy via Prime, but not everyone has Prime)

Meriwool seems to be a lesser known brand; we found them on Amazon and decided to give them a try because they were substantially cheaper than the other merino wool pairs. While this pair wasn’t my favorite for a few reasons, they were surprisingly nice for the price point.

This pair fits true to tag size for me, but the overall cut/fit is much closer to that of Under Armor’s heat gear or compression shorts. They have a longer 8” inseam and a taller front rise, which makes them feel more like a base layer that you’d choose to wear for high energy outdoor activities like skiing or snowboarding. Personally, I wouldn’t choose these for everyday wear as they’re far too long for my comfort and would definitely stick out of the bottom of my ~7” inseam shorts. The waistband is effective, but it’s a little more flimsy than the rest and easily folds over on itself if you’re sitting down at a desk. I don’t enjoy the large fabric tag that goes up and over the rear stitching seam on the waistband as it feels scratchy on my skin. The merino wool fabric itself is pretty great and I was shocked to find that it’s not a blend; the other pairs incorporate a bit of nylon or elastane for strength and stretch, but this pair does not. Still, it feels pretty good to me. Overall construction is OK with clean flatlock stitching seams on both the front and back panels. This pair has a functional, horizontal fly opening and it works pretty great.

Comfort is always subjective. While I didn’t like the longer inseam length and higher rise of this cut, someone out there may enjoy it and that’s alright. The fabric felt OK and the legs didn’t ride up much. Durability was OK for my pair, in my fairly limited usage, but I think it’s important to note that there are numerous reviews on Amazon that mention holes developing in the fabric.

Score:
men

men

***The Performance/Tech Fabric Contenders***

Granted, Batman wears briefs (instead of boxer briefs) on the outside of his batsuit…
But you get the picture. Those aren’t merino.

[TAG49]


underwear

  • Waist Size: ~13.5”
  • Inseam Length: ~5” from center
  • Fabric Contents: 86% modal, 9% Lycra elastane, 5% polyester
  • Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
  • Functional Fly: NO
  • Total Price: $41.52 + free standard shipping.

Most of us are probably familiar with lululemon and their upscale performance and lifestyle gear. While I haven’t purchased clothing from them before, my wife loves their Align leggings. Based on her experiences and feedback, she says the lululemon garments are a step above the dupes that you find from Amazon and Target. So, with this in mind, I grabbed a pair of their Always in Motion Mesh boxer briefs to try out. I’m a fan, but they do have durability issues.

These boxer briefs fit true to tag size for me. The cut is great, too, feeling more like an athletic cut than a looser fitting boxer short. The shorter 5” inseam was spot on for length and does not show when you’re wearing ~7” inseam shorts on those warmer days. The legs don’t ride up too much throughout the day, either, and their waistband is by far my favorite from this entire test. This waistband has the perfect height, has the right amount of compression, and does not seem to lose any elasticity through wears and washes. The perforated mesh fabric that lululemon uses is another highlight – this stuff feels like textured silk, it stretches and supports well, and it breathes VERY well. You can actually feel air move through them if you’re running around, half naked, in your backyard. Sorry, neighbors! Unfortunately, this pair also does not have a functional fly.

On durability, I did experience the fabric pilling within a few wears and they seem to collect lint and hair like a lint roller. While my pair hasn’t fallen apart yet, you may want to note that reviews online mention holes forming within a few weeks of regular wear. Caveat emptor?

Overall, I really enjoyed the lululemon Always in Motion Mesh boxer briefs. They fit me really well and I like the extremely breathable mesh fabric a lot. Sadly, based on the lack of a functional fly and the early pilling (in addition to the many reviews that mention holes forming), I fear that these wouldn’t make it more than a year in my regular, day to day under-roo rotation.

Score:
men

men

men

[TAG53] (via Amazon)


comfortable

  • Waist Size: ~14.5”
  • Inseam Length: ~6” from center
  • Fabric Contents: 77% nylon, 14% elastane, 9% polyester
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Functional Fly: YES
  • Total Price: $34.99 (shipped fast/easy via Prime, but not everyone has Prime)

Saxx is a pretty common brand result when you search for new underwear online. While I’ve never tried them prior to this test cycle, there are a ton of positive reviews out there for their boxer briefs. Most folks like the fit, fabric, and unique “pouch” hammock that keeps your fruit supported and separated for more airflow to your nether regions. Let’s give these a try, too.

This pair fits perfectly true to size for me. The cut/fit is great – they have a medium rise with a slightly trim and supportive feeling. The elastic waistband is EXCELLENT and it refuses to stretch out too much or fold over upon itself when you’re sitting down at your desk. The fabric is extremely breathable and you can feel the air flow through the mesh material. The legs aren’t as snug as I would normally like, but they don’t ride up or inhibit motion at all. The flatlock side seams and seamless back panel are welcome additions here as well. Saxx’s claim to fame is their internal pouch that consists of two mesh panels that route down the sides of the cup. This pouch helps separate your twig and berries from the rest of your body and promotes more airflow around this zone to keep you cooler. I was skeptical at first, but sure enough, it works like a charm but does take some getting used to. After a day or two, I kept going back to these when I knew that I’d be working on my feet all day, actively moving around the office and warehouse. Durability wise, I didn’t notice much shrinkage or loss in waistband elasticity. BIG fan of these!

Note – Stock can come and go on Amazon. For example, the gray pair shown above is sold out at Amazon at post time (although Amazon has plenty of other colors shipping fast with Prime). These ended up being $44 total because the order at the time was fulfilled by a third party, not Amazon. So we got tagged with $10 for shipping. Expect possible extra shipping costs if you order directly through Saxx, unless you’re spending more than $75 or you sign up for their rewards program.

Score:
men

men

men

men

men

[TAG57] (via Amazon)


underwear

  • Waist Size: ~16.25”
  • Inseam Length: ~5.75” from center
  • Fabric Contents: 90% nylon, 10% elastane
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Functional Fly: YES
  • Total Price: $32 (shipped fast/easy via Prime, but not everyone has Prime)
  • Note – we paid $24.76 total when these were on sale. Amazon’s pricing robots will do that from time to time.

Fellow business travelers and outdoorsy people have probably heard of ExOfficio as they’ve been pretty popular in those circles for years. Admittedly, I tried a pair of their Give n Go mesh boxer briefs a few years ago and didn’t love the generous fit, but when putting this group together, I knew that I had to give ExOfficio another fair shot.

This pair of Give-N-Go Sport 2.0’s fit true to tag size, but feel slightly too loose for my taste. I also prefer the shorter 5” inseam used on most of the other pairs instead of this slightly longer 6” inseam. The waistband is alright, but not as sturdy as the one that Saxx uses. The fabric is nice enough, silky smooth, and feels very breathable. The leg openings are a bit too loose for my taste and they do tend to ride up throughout the day if you’re wearing jeans or tailored chinos. This pair has two flatlock seams around the back that are smooth enough to not cause any discomfort, but I do prefer the pairs with a seamless rear panel over these.

Overall, I can see that these could be winners for some folks, but for me, I just don’t love the fit as much as some of the other pairs from this test. Durability wise, I had no notable issues except for the waist band wearing out a bit. If you find these on sale, maybe give them a try.

Score:
men

men

men

[TAG59]


men

  • Waist Size: ~14.5”
  • Inseam Length: ~5.5” from center
  • Fabric Contents: 88% polyester, 12% spandex w/ 90% nylon, 10% spandex waist
  • Country of Origin: Vietnam
  • Functional Fly: YES
  • Total Price: $14.90 + $7.99 for standard shipping.

UNIQLO is a great store for those of us on a tighter fashion budget. Generally speaking, you can find some decently made and decently stylish goods from the Japanese brand. Their AIRism undershirts and underwear are pretty solid overall, but how do they stack up?

These fit true to tag size for me, but they are considerably thinner, lighter, and fit slightly smaller than anything else we’ve reviewed thus far. This pair feels so thin and light, it’s almost like you’re wearing nothing at all. Usually that would be a great thing, but here, I think that they’re too thin and there’s less substance to this model. The waistband is very thin and very flimsy; it easily folds over on top of itself when you sit down at your desk. The fabric is very sheer – it’s almost see through if you hold it up to a light. The leg openings have almost no structure at all and they constantly ride up throughout the day. I am just not a fan of this fit/cut for my body type. Durability seems fine for the times that I wore and washed them, but I definitely prefer every other pair on this list. These might be great for those of you who want the thinnest, lightest pair.

Overall, I am not a big fan of the UNIQLO AIRism pair. Costs were cut here. And not just on not paying a professional underwear model to put on these skivvies and stand in front of a camera (of which they clearly didn’t shell out for). Spend a bit more on some Saxx instead.

Score:
men

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, this was a great “challenge” and an interesting trial period for eight new brands and pairs of boxer briefs. Each pair had an interesting feature that separated it from the rest, for better or for worse, such as seamless rear construction, a fabric-lined waistband, a pouch to help separate your banana and grapes, a VERY airy knit, or a super thin and lightweight fabric. However, it’s now time for us to pick this year’s Boxer Brief Brawl winners:

Best Merino Pair: [TAG61]


comfortable

Huckberry’s Proof 72-Hour merino boxer briefs get the nod over Unbound as my favorite merino wool option this year. While I initially liked Unbound’s thinner and more breathable fabric, the lack of a functional fly was a major turnoff. Proof’s merino wool blend is softer and feels nicer than a pair of typical performance underwear. The initial fit was fantastic, the elastic waistband kept its shape and strength, the seamless back panel felt great all day long, the legs didn’t ride up too much, and they didn’t lose anything in the wear/wash cycles. My only nit to pick is the horizontal fly (which has been remedied on the latest version), which took some time to get used to. Overall, I like this pair a lot and plan on buying a few more pairs to keep on hand for those long, multi-flight travel days.

Best Performance Fabric Pair: [TAG63]


comfortable

SAXX takes the win with an unusual, but fruit friendly pouch design that helps keep your carrot and sprouts separated for enhanced airflow and cooling. The mesh knit is incredibly breezy and, although it’s not as buttery soft as Lululemon’s mesh material, I prefer the overall cut and feel of the Saxx pair. Plus, the elastic waistband is stronger, it resists folding for longer, and the seamless rear panel helps prevent chafing while running or irritation from sitting too long. The functional fly works as intended, too, although this one also has a slight learning curve. The “fruit basket” pouch takes some getting used to, but if you’re open to new experiences, it actually works well. I highly recommend these! Moving forward, these are my new go-to pair.

NSFW-ish. Pretty sure Lenny isn’t singing about Star Wars.

https://dappered.com/2024/06/in-review-the-best-merino-or-performance-fabric-boxer-briefs-for-men/
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