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Boxer briefs have been manufactured since 1925, but it wasn’t until 1990 that they caught on with the masses, largely from their ability to provide the comfort and spaciousness of boxers but the support and sleekness of briefs (those infamous Calvin Klein ads with Marky Mark helped a little, too). Where we once explored the history of men’s underwear, we now take a focused look at the rise of man’s modern-day favorite.
Primarily touted for their body heat-containing properties, “mid-length briefs” are modeled after the taut, cropped male swimwear of the early 20th century.
As retailers experiment with new colors, patterns, and fabrics, a man’s choice in undergarment becomes a fashion statement. This famous question—now a false dichotomy thanks to the glorious boxer brief—entered the pop culture lexicon as loose-fitting boxers began gaining ground in a brief-dominated market. Even Michael Jordan, the 90s Hanes poster boy, found himself weighing the choices a decade later.
Major brands like Jockey begin stocking the boxer brief, touting the underwear hybrid’s killer app: The streamlined fit of a brief with the style and coverage of a boxer (and no bunching).
Rapper Marky Mark—known today as actor and producer Mark Wahlberg—shoots an infamous Calvin Klein campaign that also features supermodel Kate Moss, though the most iconic shots are of the Funky Bunch frontman by himself.
Photo: Calvin Klein
Eighty years later, the boxer brief repays the favor for swimwear’s early influence as tighter, cropped swim trunks become beachfront staples (and looser and longer board shorts start to die out). Once Daniel Craig champions these trunks in his 007 debut, the classic and confident look is reborn.
Photo: Columbia Pictures
David Beckham leads two major underwear campaigns—one for Emporio Armani in 2008 and one for H&M in 2012. When the world’s most bankable athlete sports them not once, but twice, it’s safe to say the boxer brief has proven its supremacy.