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The Very Confusing Science of Boxers vs. Briefs

The only scientific consensus we've reached is that no one will have sex with the guy in tighty whities.

The growing and alarming body of research about the declining sperm quality in western men has prompted many guys to ponder if their underwear choices may the culprit (or the culprit’s bagman). Unfortunately, there isn’t clear proof of whether or not that’s the case: The boxer versus briefs war in science wages on. Much like men who wear boxers, the data can go either way depending on the day. Still, the issues at play have become clear and evidence is starting to mount about what does matter when it comes to healthily packaging one’s package.

Here are the studies most relevant to men looking to protect the goods and keep the swimmers ready to go.

Initial Evidence Suggested Little Difference

Research as early as 1998 suggested that the disparities in sperm boxers and brief relative to sperm had been largely exaggerated. The study looked at only 97 men who were only being evaluated for subfertility, whose underwear types were compared. However, the study did not look at how boxers or briefs would impact men who were not already struggling with fertility, or how changing it up would impact virility. It mostly showed that men who were having trouble couldn’t blame their Fruit of the Looms.

But Recent Studies Say That Tight Is Not Right

A more recent and in-depth study had followed men for a year and had them alternate wearing tight-fitting briefs and loose-fitting briefs for two separate 3-month periods each. Results revealed that “sperm density, total number of sperm, total number of motile sperm, and total number of motile sperm per hour of abstinence,” gradually increased under loose conditions, and decreased under tight ones. This may explain why there are so many guys free-balling it at the gym. Their people might just reproduce more rapidly.

Still, Material May Matter More Than Form

It doesn’t matter what kind of underwear you like, as long as it’s not made of polyester, one study adorably found by putting dogs in underpants. Researchers compared cotton and polyester underpants on a sample of 24 good boys and found that polyester underpants damaged sperm production. The good news is that the effect was reversible (and you’re not a dog). Play it safe and don’t wear boxers or briefs that have been repurposed from a cheap 1970s suit.

Or Maybe It’s Just About Being Cool

As long as you’re keeping your boys cool, you’re probably cool, a 2012 study says. Although researchers only followed a small sample of 5 fertile men, they observed that heat adversely altered the DNA, protein, and RNA in sperm. Keep the heat in your loins purely metaphorical, as if you didn’t prefer it that way, to begin with.

And Sleeping is a Whole Different Thing

Overall, it seems men and their swimmers are best off with boxers during the day, and nothing at night, one of the largest studies on the topic shows. After analyzing data on 500 men over the course of the year, they concluded combination resulted in a quarter less sperm DNA fragmentation than briefers. Thus, the question of whether boxers or briefs are better is a bit a trick one. Technically, you’d be better off with nothing and never leaving the house — but that’s no way to set an example for all those kids you’re making.