Briefly Noted: Underwear for Your Masculine Center

Go Forth And Transgress Bravely

by Ariel Speedwagon

There’s something about buying underpants in particular that always make me feel extra self-conscious. People read me 50/50 as a man or a woman, which means I’m never sure how I’m coming across. If I’m buying sports bras, I get worried that people think I’m some kind of weird man buying women’s underpants or conversely will be profoundly aware of the weirdness of how I do “woman.” If I’m buying men’s underpants, I worry they’ll think I’m a freak for wearing them. I’m constantly stressed that someone, somewhere, will find something wrong about what I’m doing and want to talk with me about it.

At this point in my life, I shop pretty exclusively in the men’s section for all of my clothes, and for the most part I’ve gotten over the “oh no, they’ll think I’m an imposter” nerves. But there’s something different about underwear – it’s so intimate, so particularly foundational – that makes me feel extra visibly queer. Buying men’s underpants isn’t just about packaging myself to the outer world; it’s admitting how I package myself to myself and my lovers. It freaks me out a little sometimes.

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 9.07.50 PM

Everyone will know!

And I know it freaks all of you out, too, based on the results of the dapperQ underpants survey. Having to deal with underpants judgement – getting caught in an underwear department other than the one you were assigned at birth – was cited almost universally and even quoted sometimes as a reason people make underpants decisions aligned with their birth gender assignment. This is a fear I think most of us who are doing gender differently than the way we were assigned at birth carry around: the fear of getting busted. The fear of being affirmed as a freak or something not-normal is a powerful one. I’ve gotten pretty good at squaring back my shoulders and buying my tighty whities, but even when I’m being read as a dude and therefore getting a pass on the underpants, I’m constantly worried that I’m one second away from some kind of scorn – god forbid I open my mouth to say hi to the sales clerk.

I try my best to embrace this and feel strong in it, not let it control me and feel lucky that I stand on the shoulders of all the masculine-presenting FAAB people who took a lot more shit than I do for the underpants they chose to wear. As one of our respondents put it: “It was initially hard because although I had been buying clothes in the mens dept for a while (im a dapper queer lady), getting underwear felt like another line to cross. I finally did it, and haven’t looked back.

I mean, we’re all in a struggle – even those of us who aren’t struggling in this particular way – between our shame and our desires. And this is a queer blog – so of course I am going to say things like DESIRES SHOULD ALWAYS WIN and GO BRAVELY INTO THE SCARED PLACES. You can stop reading here if you just want some affirmation, but I want to go on.

Robber Kitten

Robber Kitten fights for their rights!

I want to go on because I know that courage isn’t easy and sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that. Sometimes all this is exhausting. Given the comments and the way they focused on underpants transgression fatigue, sometimes – or even all the time – it’s a matter of weighing the risk vs. the reward. We’re all constantly working through our own shame and anticipations of bad responses and sometimes it’s just too much to deal with. Sometimes in the end certain transgressions just don’t feel right. Sometimes it’s Tuesday and you got the stink-eye in the gym locker room.

So yes, go forward and be brave and wear the underoos of your dreams. Put your head high and wear whatever the eff it is you want. Push your growing edge. But also, don’t give into that particular queer pressure to GO ALL THE WAY, unless, of course, you want to. I don’t want everything I’m writing to create some kind of tension for the people who are making different choices. I don’t want to add to what I know can be a real cock-off regarding who is the most very most masculine of all in all their choices. Courage isn’t just about swaggering up to the men’s underoos counter and getting a jockstrap that you wear with a hard pack every day of the week. It’s about standing on your own two feet and feeling good about the choices you make.

So experiment. Have fun. Figure out what works for you by taking the long way, making funny choices. Don’t give into the weird kind of pressure we can sometimes impose on ourselves. To quote Mister Rogers – an icon of a certain kind of masculine-of-center fashion if there ever was one – we like you just the way you are.


It’s a good feeling – a very good feeling!


By Katrina

I was about 19 when I came storming loudly and publicly out of the closet. I was at that stage of queer adolescence where one can be both awkward and slutty at the same time, I was at my first New York City Pride, and I think I was a little bit drunk off what was likely an unpleasantly warm vodka drink stowed unconvincingly in a Tropicana bottle. As was in fashion for me at the time, I had lied to my parents about my location and in that moment, surrounded by topless women in the middle of Washington Square Park, I did what any semi-inebriated and fully excited new queer would do:

I took off my pants.

and handed out autostraddle fliers

and handed out autostraddle fliers

I didn’t realize in that moment that the Removing of the Pants would become my own personal Pride tradition, but it did. My underwear wasn’t particularly masculine-of-center at that point, but then again, neither was my identity. I wore black-and-white striped Victoria’s Secret boyshorts  with a studded belt, because who even cares about belt loops when you’re not wearing pants?

I took off my pants the next year, and the year after that, both in red American Apparel briefs. I stripped down to those same briefs for this Autostraddle article, though I can’t really remember why. That Halloween, I wore a baseball jersey with the now-retired UO buttonflys. Just last month, I donned a football jersey and a pair of grey Hanes boxer briefsto commemorate the Super Bowl, an event that I could not possibly have cared less about (except for you, Beyoncé, but that goes without saying).

or don't

or don’t

Masculine-of-center is a term that took a long time to resonate with me not because of the things it was, but because of the things that I thought it wasn’t. I felt like I couldn’t have nice things. Or pretty things. Or sexy things. Being MoC, I spend a lot of time being covered up – my whole torso lives under a binder, and in the summer, my shorts tend to be on the longer side, and I love all those things. Running around with my ass out isn’t a break from that, it’s a part of it. It’s a secret accessory, only to be broken out on special occasions.

I don’t know when my next pantsless romp will be. Maybe I’ll finally start my career as a male stripper. Maybe I’ll be dancing on a table. Maybe I’ll be staring wistfully at the sea. But whatever the occasion is, I’ll probably go with my two latest choices.

TOPMAN – $14 or $20/2

I’m an American, and TopShop is a European brand with only a few stores in the US which makes me feel like I’m snugly hugging the curve of fashion. TopMan is gigantic men’s department that I highly suspect caters intentionally to “female bodies,” as evidenced by sizes that run down to XXS and by the fact that they’re usually playing something like The Blow or Tegan and Sara – only in the men’s section – every time I go into the store. The boxer briefs, labeled “underwear,” as they only have one style, are fitted but not too tight and sit a little bit above mid-thigh and the band is thick, meaning it won’t let itself get folded over by your girl hips. The black shorts with the gold band are good for feeling like an actual boxer.

Urban Outfitters – $12 or $20/2

Just like most giant corporations, Urban Outfitters is, like, pretty problematic, but I want to subvert the gender binary in a store that actually cares about the way men’s asses look, and UO has a pretty generous men’s accessories section. The trunks are short and tight and come in patterns ranging from bicycles to dinosaurs to hot sauce bottles, but I don’t prefer them for outdoor usage since they seem – this is going to seem ridiculous – a little too underwear-y. The solid or colorblock trunks are a good choice for public display since they just look like extremely small shorts, and – this might also seem ridiculous – the bright colors will be great for the spring.

[You can read about plus-sized masculine-of-center underpants here, and further boyshorts/girltrunks/boxer-brief guides exist here.]

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phoenix has written 1 article for us.



    Bless you Autostraddle. All the hummus to you

  2. “Traditional underwear seams? Used to drive me crazy.”
    “I started buying everything that made me feel comfortable, and that included more men’s underwear so that I could be wearing them on the daily.”

    yes this

    traditional women’s underwear always made me SO uncomfortable, both physically and in terms of gender expression (which i only came to realize much later, it was all very confusing to me at the time). as a teenager i discovered boy shorts which was an okay solution for a while
    then, like a decade later, it occurred to me that i could just go and buy men’s underwear for myself and not give a fuck. somehow this was a life changing insight..;)

    boxer briefs forever and ever
    i wear puma and hanes

  3. I am currently wearing a pair of AE boxer briefs. I actually prefer the low rise trunk over the athletic for the reason she gave for liking the athletic trunk. It is a bit too long for my comfort, but I wear the athletic when I’m home in my sweats… or just walking around the kitchen because I know it turns my gf on.

  4. I am still so confused about sizing in men’s underwear. Should I be trying to match the men’s size guide waist measurements to my waist or hip measurements? Or something in between? Any suggestions welcome.

    • I think knowing your measurements helps, but really every brand is different (because inches are hard, ya know). I can only speak for myself, but I correctly assumed I would take the same size (like S-M-L size) as I would anything else.

      • Thanks, but do you mean the same size as in women’s clothes or the same as in other men’s clothes? I usually wear a medium or large in women’s clothes, generally a UK size 14. Any idea what size that would likely equate to?

        • I’m a small, and generally take the same size in women’s and men’s (though I don’t usually/ever buy men’s pants, so I don’t know about their sizes). I have a couple pairs of mediums that are a little big, but not to the point where I can’t wear them. If they were cheap I’d probably get a pair of each then buy more of whichever fit better.

        • i think i generally wear like two sizes down in men’s clothing compared to women’s.
          in underwear it seems to be one size down, so if you wear women’s underwear in medium, i would start with a men’s small and see how that works out

    • It seems to be by waist measurements, like mens pants. So I’m a 32 in mens pants which means I’m the same in underwear. Also, mens S/M/L underwear sizes seem to correspond pretty closely with womens! I guess our bigger butts make up for our smaller overall body size in this case. I’m usually a medium in both.

  5. I would love to start wearing more boxer style underwear but I don’t know how to find the right stuff! I have large hips although I’m trying to lose weight I’ve never been below 40ins in that department. I have a very girly hourglass kind of figure and I’m worried about them riding up. Back when I was a closeted gaymo I used to steal and wear my boyfriend’s underwear and OH MY GOD SO COMFY. I want them for myself, but I’m not sure if they’ll work on this body.

    • I have the same hip issues (45in) with fuller thighs as well .. and my waist is a good 11 or so inches smaller .. I get mediums and larges in the boxer briefs depending on the brand (genuinely Hanes or Old Navy which tend to be smaller so don’t freak out) if you wear a guys jean go by the waistband to start (sm . 28/30 md 32/34 lg 36/38 xl 40/42) ..
      Not Only are they comfy .. they are made more durable with better materials and last ages longer than girls underpants

      • Whoa hey, it’s okay. I’m asstastic and I wear the AE boxer briefs. I think my actual waist is around 30″ and my hips are 39″ or 40″ or somewhere in there. It’s totally fine. Go for a low rise one and you should be alright. Low rise men’s clothes, unlike a low rise junior’s fit (vomit) should still hold your butt in.


    • dearest samantha,

      let us fistbump for having identical situations. i, too, have child-bearing hips that make me cry a lot. i wear only mens’ underwear and have found that not that many brands work for me but i’ve had a lot of luck with h&m mens’ boxer briefs(which is also very cheap!) because the band is very stretchy and with american eagle briefs and boxer briefs. ae has very stretchy bands and run in weirdly large sizes? so a medium is pretty comfy and can stretch to some wide-ass hips.

          • omgravy .. you must try a pair .. you will not believe the power they have in boosting your confidence .. the way they bring everything together .. is crazy good …
            I know it’s easy to say .. and can sometimes be a tall order .. but, go easy on yourself .. you gotta love you ! (trust me .. I’m a semi-old lady and know about these things)
            there are a lot of things you can do with clothes to mask the outward feminine appearance .. shirt length, layers, relaxed fit / baggy jeans .. if you’re not already familiar with DapperQ you should check them out .. lots of dappers of all shapes and sizes
            and don’t worry so much about mom .. there are plenty of answers that can work without screaming out I’m GAY (unless of course you are ready to do that) .. for example .. pj’s .. or for working out .. (they really do protect your inner thighs) .. or even omgosh they are so comfy I love them .. you of course are the best judge on how to answer ..
            side note .. my mom is very vocal about Not liking my white ones .. she says they do nothing for my hips .. sooo .. you might try out a solid color to ease into wearing them .. no need for added trauma ..
            I totally agree .. You CAN do this ..

  6. I have so many boxer brief feelings. Mostly that I wear them all the time, and my mom doesn’t think it’s weird. Also, if you work in a kitchen and wear super-baggy chef pants with regular girl’s underwear, you really need to make the switch because I bet your thighs are rubbing together and it’s uncomfortable.

    And, if you’re not buying $10 Calvin Klein underpants at Marshall’s/TJ Maxx, DO THAT!

    • This is the main reason I need to figure out how to wear men’s underwear! My nursing uniform trousers are a total nightmare and by the end of a my third twelve hour shift I consider it a huge and fundamental injustice that they don’t sell thigh-covering undergarments for women. Glad I’m not the only one with this problem :)

    • thank you for letting me in on this tj maxx calvin klein undies secret, i’m clearly all set for anniversary gifts for the rest of all time. and if my girlboifriend is reading this (and i know she is)…happy early anniversary, babe!

    • this is true! almost my entire calvin klein underwear collection is from TJ Maxx.

      ALSO one time i found two pairs of the original hanes boxer-briefs for ladies i talk about in my boyshorts/girtrunks post at a TJ Maxx in like 2011, and I bought both of them and gave one of them to my friend taylor because I knew she liked them too and there would never be another chance for us to have them

      • (Which is extremely relevant, as my work uniforms never fit quite properly leaving me tugging up the crotch all damn day and making my coworkers wonder why I keep juggling my junk)

  7. I would like to officially express endless gratitude/appreciation for all of you brave MoC souls who overcome your fears of buying “men’s” underwear in order to wear said underwear. Few things make me melt faster than seeing masculine underwear on queers.

    It is a very attractive style, & I am thankful to all of you for rocking it.

  8. I’m thinking about ordering some trunks from AE, but I wear a size 32 in their men’s shorts/pants. The size chart says medium, but anon said in the post they wear a 32 & a small. It’s right on the edge and I don’t want to end up with baggy underwear, so could someone familiar with them tell me how they run? Any other size 32 folks around here?

    • I’m a 32 (though depending on brand and skinniness of pants, sometimes a 33) and I’m pretty sure I’m also a small in AE. The wasteband is a little squeezy, but I prefer squeezy in the waist to baggy in the butt, and I think if I went up to a medium, they wouldn’t achieve the same butt-hugging feel.

      So I’d say you could probably do either one depending on your preferences, but small works for me!

  9. Can underwear week become a national holiday? These posts are the best. Plus I would really like more excuses to party in my underwear.

    However, on a more directly Autostraddle-y note, any chance of a top-half underwear week to go with it? I know we’ve had posts on chest-wear in the past, but the layout of the market has changes all the time, and I know I for one could certainly use some serious help on that front (haha. puns)/ space to unleash all my bra/binder difficulty feelings!

  10. >>When it comes to gender presentation, I don’t want to be pigeonholed and my underwear reflects that. When I get dressed, I want my underwear to contradict my skirts; when I get undressed, I want the layers I peel off to be full of surprises and contradictions much like my body, much like myself.>>


  11. I just want to put in a plug for Jockey Y-front low-rise briefs. SO COMFY! These are what I wear all the time.
    I wear Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs under skirts, to deal with the thighs rubbing together issue (seriously, this is always an issue, and even was when I was skinnier than I am now. I can’t understand putting up with this.)

  12. i say it all the time but american eagle low rise trunks are my underwear of choice and i think they are amazing. also topman boxers are really comfy, and think about walking around with ‘topman’ sticking out of your jeans…

  13. I actually look at the AE briefs ALL the time because the colors and fabric are so appealing but I have one question that I am hoping SOMEBODY can answer…

    I am a fairly average size gal (waist sits at about 28-29) so I know a XS/S would fit in the bum/waist etc but I have always really disliked the look of a lot of extra fabric in the crotch area that some male underwear has?? I just like the underwear to shape my whole body nicely so I can rock a boys underwear but still look sexy doing so. For this reason I stick mainly to little boy briefs because they dont need that extra fabric yet!
    Everyone seems to recommend the AE ones which I want SO bad and when I creep the underwear section and unwrap all the sizes, they seem to be pretty tight in that area, but I can’t 100% tell. Does anyone have any thoughts on my dilemma? Or does everyone recommending these underwear not mind the pouch as much as me?

    • I too mind the pouch. I’m the same size as you and have two pairs of AE low rise boxer briefs. They don’t fit comfortably under my skinny jeans/cords/everything so I only wear them around the house. For some reason my solid black pair has less of a pouch than the heathered gray ones, so maybe give those a try.

  14. AE boxer briefs are the best, best, best! I go in thinking I’m going to get a nice button down and walk out with at least 2 pairs every time. PLUS they update styles all the time. Can’t say enough about these. Seriously, Sugar tested, and approved.

    But A-Camp #1 I bared by undies for the whole camp and those were Urban Outfitters, which are also super comfy.

  15. i’d like to let american eagle know that this post inspired me to try their boxer briefs ;)
    you guys were right they are pretty sweet!

    (for those of you with size questions, i wear a 30-32 waist in men’s pants, and i got a small and they fit very well)

  16. “When it comes to gender presentation, I don’t want to be pigeonholed and my underwear reflects that. When I get dressed, I want my underwear to contradict my skirts; when I get undressed, I want the layers I peel off to be full of surprises and contradictions much like my body, much like myself.”

    Today I went to Target and bought Hanes boxer briefs.

    Also a maxi skirt and a pushup bra.

    I plan on wearing all of them at the same time.

  17. this inspired me to go shopping today. got some Björn Borg ones and they fit real good. also they have a longer leg option. Björn Borg is also perfect for katrinas way of wearing it.or better not wearing anything else.

  18. Today is tomorrow. I went out and bought myself two pairs of American Eagle Outfitters Athletic Trunk boxer Briefs. Put ’em in the wash and eagerly ate lunch wondering about how they’d fit. I just pulled them out of the dryer and put them on. My verdict? Damn, these are totally comfortable (even more so because they’re all hot and toasty from the dryer). I got a size small because I usually wear 28/19 in pants. They fit like a charm, even over my soccer playing and biking thighs. In Canada they’re 2 pairs for $25 right now, which is still kinda pricey but so damn comfy that I don’t care.

  19. I swiped my lucky Spiderman boxers from my 5 year old brother before he ever got to wear them (psh the kid can has no need for such luxuries when he doesnt even read comics).
    I find now as many excuses as possible to disrobe on the regular.

  20. Note on sizing: I’m a 32 waist too, and usually fit a small, but I’ve found that Lucky smalls are teeeensy on me! Way too tight. So! If you, like me, come across a pack of them for crazy cheap one day, make sure you buy a size up.

  21. This article gave me the last boost of courage that I needed to go out and buy myself some boxer briefs. They are so comfortable, and just knowing I had them on gave me a little extra confidence all day long.

  22. I like the GAP low rise boxer briefs. I like the patterns which I can’t find in other boxer briefs. I love these as underwear and I don’t consider myself butch at all…I am curvy and a bit heavy, and have always found regular underwear (panties) just doesn’t fit/look right. Boxer briefs forever!!!

  23. OMG American Eagle Outfitters.


    So many of my clothes already come from there that perhaps I should look into their collection of underwear designed for and marketed toward male-identified people.

    But for serious, guys. I love American Eagle.

  24. Today I bought my first pair of boxer-briefs. Habitually, I have purchased underwear in the bright pink ladies section, feeling utterly awkward and out of place. Today, I, weak-kneed, bought two pairs of boxers briefs. I am wearing one pair now. I feel so incredibly weirdly okay with my underwear now. Like, I have never felt so happy with a piece of clothing since I started wearing white t-shirts, instead of camisoles and tank tops, under my button-down shirts.

    Thanks, AS, for the much needed courage boost.

  25. Great article. I like AE and Gap but I will say my favorite boxer briefs that I’ve found so far come from the Ellen shop (Ellen DeGeneres’ show website). I only have 2 so far because they are $20 a piece, but I always ask for them as gift ideas. SO COMFORTABLE!

  26. i have to say i fell in deep love with boxers last summer c’:
    i recently bought a pair of penguin boxers (they’re so cute x.x) but sadly they’re super loose at the leg so i cant wear them with the school uniform skirt *sigh* u_u
    this weekend though i making it my mission to go to the mall and get some boxer breifs from american eagle
    i recomend gap’s knit boxers that are for kids (and me) their soo cute ^o^

  27. I am a tall female. So, “regular” mens boxer briefs do not cut it. They are too short and chafing is not my thighs best friends. Long-leg boxer briefs are rare to find. I have a shit-ton of Hanes X-temp, and two Jockeys. Would anyone know of other ones to check out?

  28. I just bought my first pack of boys underwear and was so weirdly nervous while shopping that I ended up getting the wrong kind. Picked up a pack of Calvin Klein briefs instead of boxer-briefs and when I tried them on they were a bit too tight. :( When I went to pay for them I just kept thinking omg does she know they are for me?! I had to keep telling myself in my head that they were “for my little brother” so I wouldn’t be nervous and act funny.

  29. OLD NAVY. I tried on a lot of underwear before I went there. OMG. The Old Navy briefs and boxer briefs are insanely comfy. I almost got some Psycho Bunny trunks at Nordstrom Rack because they fit pretty well, but were a little small in the butt. I thought “well that’s just how it is, since I don’t have a boy butt”. But the Old Navy ones fit perfectly. Very soft and stretchy too, (much softer than the Target ones) not restrictive. And not baggy in the front. I was able to take the package to the fitting room and try them on, (unlike Target!) they don’t watch you too close there. Just bring a couple shirts or something to try too. The boxer briefs come in some good patterns! So do the boxers but I didn’t try those.

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