Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What does a man get when he buys underwear at the mall? A comparative review

Most men receive their underwear as gifts, and the majority of men’s underwear sold falls into two categories. The first is the multipack: An option for convenience and a cheap price, multipacks are offered by companies like Hanes and Jockey and are a quick way of replenishing a rapidly depleting underwear drawer. The second category is a more pricey and varied section of the market, men’s underwear offered by general clothing brands. This variety caters more to discriminating men (or their significant others), usually is sold as individual items, and is usually offered at a higher price point. While many men will end up with underwear purchased alongside other clothing items, what do men actually get when they purchase underwear from a common shopping mall brand? To investigate, I wrote four reviews on products by American Eagle, Gap, Hollister, and Express, and I compare my findings here. 

  • American Eagle AEO Mesh Panel 9” Flex Trunk: Compared to the other three items, the AEO Mesh Panel 9” Flex Trunk combines the best construction quality and materials with the worst design. Created as activewear, the AEO Mesh Panel 9” Flex Trunk is abrasive on the legs and very hot. Combined with the lack of room in the crotch, this is undoubtedly the least comfortable and practical item of the bunch. Still, given the mesh panel design, one could tell that the company had actually made an effort rather than just releasing a cheap item to the market with as little thought as possible. 
  • GAP Stripe Stretch Trunks: This has the most conventional design of the four. The quality is not much better than what would be found in the cheapest underwear available, and the Stretch trunks began to degrade within a few washings. The fit is slightly more relaxed, and there’s noticeably more room in the crotch than the American Eagle or Hollister items. 
  • Hollister Active Classic Trunk: Slick, rubbery feeling makes the Hollister Active Classic Trunk unpleasant to wear. The stretchiness of the fabric makes the crotch a little more comfortable than it would be otherwise.
  • Express Vintage Star Print Boxer Briefs: The highest quality of the four, this one is certainly my favorite.  The elastic around the legs is among the best I’ve seen, which prevents the Vintage Star Print Boxer Briefs from riding up. While this is not competition for high-quality pouch underwear, I can at least say that what quality and features are offered are reasonable for the price.

Overall, I was actually disappointed by my experience trying these four items. While my expectations were not particularly high, three out of the four pairs seem like they are closer to the bottom end of the market than the top end (despite some redeeming features). Half of the items, the offerings from American Eagle and Hollister, were so clumsily designed that it seems like they were released to the market prematurely. My unsurprising observation that the best underwear tends to be made by dedicated underwear companies is vindicated by these four items. What one actually gets when they purchase a pair of underwear from a shopping mall brand varies significantly, but is no better than what one could find from an underwear company at a similar price.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Obviously Essence AnatoFREE Boxer Brief with 3-inch leg

Obviously, as I’ve reviewed before, is an Australian company that makes quality underwear and undershirts for men. I’ve previously reviewed the Essence AnatoFREE Hipster Trunk, and today I’ll be reviewing the very similar but superior Boxer Brief 3-inch leg version. 

Materials and construction: The Essence AnatoFREE Boxer Brief is made out of Obviously’s top grade fabric, which is a micro modal/lycra blend a little thicker than the bamboo rayon/lycra blend found in their Basics Collection. It a bit softer and seems to dry a little faster. The waistband sits fairly low on the hips, but stays in place very well. The pouch, which is attached to the body of the item by a horseshoe-shaped seam, is much larger than one would find on most underwear products, but a little higher and smaller than the AnatoMAX products Obviously offers (which I plan to review in the future). The 3-inch leg variety makes a very small visual difference, but a very big functional one, as I discuss below. As an added bonus, there’s no tag, with washing instructions printed on the inside of the waistband. Overall, this is a great set of features. 9/10

Comfort and usability: Like all the AnatoFREE items, especially the boxer briefs/trunks, this does lift you a bit, so it runs the risk of causing a noticeable visual bulge if you’re wearing thin pants. It also requires some more adjustment than the AnatoMAX pouches, which slide into place comfortably with minimal adjustment. There is a major difference between the trunks/boxer briefs versions of this item. Whereas the trunks feel like they have zero traction to stop them from riding up, the boxer briefs stay in place pretty well. The material is a little on the warmer side, and absorbs odors a little more than many materials, so these do not make ideal exercise garments. Overall, I’d say that a bigger pouch would make this an ideal leisurewear item. 7/10

Aesthetics: The solid black appearance with the finely-stitched blue logo looks great. No complaints here. 9/10

Overall rating: 8/10

Big enough? The AnatoMAX line has the ideal pouch, but this is another good offering from Obviously. I could wear these with only occasional adjustments.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Express Vintage Star Print Boxer Briefs

Express is a company that makes men’s and women’s clothing. I decided to give their Vintage Star Print Boxer Briefs a try as a part of my investigation on the quality of underwear found in the sort of stores that are commonly found in shopping malls. I was pleasantly surprised about the results. While this isn’t my favorite pair of underwear, it is undoubtedly better than the offerings from American Eagle, Gap or Hollister that I have reviewed for the upcoming comparison post.

Materials and construction: The Express Star Print Boxer Briefs are made out of the typical cotton/spandex blend, and have a moderate length. Right out of the package, there were a few loose threads on the waistband, so I expected them to rapidly deteriorate with washing, but they’ve actually held up well. There’s a fly, and it functions decently, although a larger opening would be better. The elastic around the leg holes is about as good as that in any other pair of underwear that I’ve tried, and this prevents the boxer briefs from riding up. The waistband is also sturdy, so the whole item stays in place well. 7/10

Comfort and usability: There isn’t a pouch on the garment, so it feels too tight to be genuinely comfortable, especially while sitting down. However, since the waistband and the elastic around the leg holes are so secure, this prevents the garment from riding up and becoming more uncomfortable over the course of the day. For people who are comfortable with underwear that doesn’t have a pouch, I’d say this is one example of a pair of underwear that is actually offers a reasonable deal for the price, although better options can be found. 5/10

Aesthetics: Not exactly my style, but it does appeal to the sort of style that Express shoppers would expect. The distorted star pattern would go with distressed jeans. 7/10

Overall rating: 6/10

Big enough? No. 

Hollister Active Classic Trunk

Hollister is a popular American clothing company owned by Abercrombie & Fitch Co. I picked up the Hollister Active Classic Trunk as an item for my upcoming comparative review of mall brands. 

Materials and construction: This item is made of 88% polyester and 12% spandex. The material, which has a rubbery texture, wicks moisture and is not particularly absorbent. The fit is slim. There’s also a long tag on the left side that can be bothersome. It seems like the material would be rather tear-resistant, but, other than that, I can’t think of any reason to recommend this item. 4/10

Comfort and usability: Most of the time, the small canal of space in the center (it would be misleading to call it a pouch) succeeded in keeping everything positioned in the center. Overall, this item just doesn’t have enough room in the crotch. After sitting down for a while, the lack of space gave me a dull ache, and I had to repeatedly rearrange the fit for comfort. 2/10

Aesthetics: When you stretch these things out, the threads of the artificial fabric give a grid-like, pixelated appearance. Unless you’re interested in looking like a Windows 95 frozen screen, I couldn’t recommend this item on aesthetics. 2/10

Overall rating: 3/10

Big enough? No.

Friday, November 4, 2016

PUMP! Underwear Sugar Rush Jock

PUMP! Underwear, formed in 2009, is a Canadian company that produces athletic-themed men’s attire, primarily underwear. The Sugar Rush Jock is composed of 64% nylon, 19% cotton, and 17% spandex. Like most of what the company has to offer, it has an excellent quality of construction and is well designed for its athletic function. (Even the packaging was of impressive quality.) The fit, while still a little troublesome, worked out for me much better than their boxers or brief

I think I should also mention my experience with their customer service as evidence of PUMP!’s status as a great company. After a long wait for my package arriving, I sent them an email about it. They promptly apologized and sent another package, but with a few extra items. This left me with a lasting good impression, and is the best that a customer could expect from customer service.  

Materials and construction: As I mentioned, the construction quality is excellent. The mesh on the pouch is very stretchy, and breathes very well. The taut elastic in the waistband and the slightly more forgiving elastic in the leg straps are well balanced for offering flexibility without relinquishing stability. Unlike the pouches in some jockstraps, where the pouch is designed as a relatively flat piece of fabric, the pouch here is an actual cup, although I’d prefer it to be larger. The only tag on this item is a tiny one on the back. Being washed numerous times, the only significant sign of wear that I can find is the information printed on the inside of the waistband getting harder to read. 9/10 

Comfort and usability: Despite what the company offers in its sizing information, PUMP! Underwear tends to be rather small, so I’d recommend everyone go up one size. I found the pouch very constricting at first, but realized that if I adjusted the elastic on the sides of the pouch to be flat against my body, it became comfortable enough for a workout session, with some adjustment. The pouch keeps everything close to the body, so it shouldn’t form a bulge. It should also be noted that the leg straps stay consistently flat against the legs, which is often not true of jockstraps. All in all, this would be a perfect item for me with a bigger pouch. I suspect a lot of men who do not have trouble finding comfortable underwear would already find it to be the perfect jockstrap. 8/10

Aesthetics: PUMP! Underwear always looks cool. The red, blue and white colors look good together, especially inverted on the inside of the waistband, and the mixed visual textures of the waistband, mesh pouch and straps add to the appeal. 8/10

Overall rating: 8/10

Big enough? The pouch isn’t ideal, but going one size up made this item comfortable enough for a workout session.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Too Tight to Review 6: PUMP! Sugar Rush Jogger

The “Too Tight To Review” series covers the pairs of underwear I’ve tried on that I couldn’t wear long enough to give a fair review. If I can’t keep a pair on for at least the length of the day, I’ll leave a few brief thoughts rather than a full review.

Pump Underwear, as I’ve mentioned before, is a Canadian company that produces workout-themed attire, primarily underwear. The Jogger boxers are a series of boxers that each have two mesh pockets. On the Sugar Rush Jogger, two mesh pockets and a mesh pouch are attached to a cotton blend body. Just like the first PUMP! item I’ve reviewed, the construction quality is absolutely top notch, and the item looks great, too. Unfortunately, the pouch isn’t nearly big enough, so this item isn’t usable for me. (I can't even fully pull it up onto my hips.) If PUMP! ever created underwear with large pouches, they’d probably be my favorite underwear company.

Friday, October 28, 2016

GAP Stripe Stretch Trunks

Gap is a large American retail chain that makes cheap clothing for both sexes. Due to their widespread distribution, I thought Gap underwear would make a good contribution to my upcoming comparison post on underwear from the sort of brands typically found in shopping malls. Compared to my previous entry, the American Eagle AEO Mesh Panel 9” Trunk, this item lacks the quality of materials and construction, but the fit is not quite as sloppy.

Materials and construction: The Stripe Stretch Trunks are composed of 95% cotton and 5% spandex, which is a very typical fabric blend for this type of item. There’s nothing particularly unusual about the Stripe Stretch Trunks. It does contain what could be considered a “pouch,” with an area around the crotch surrounded by a seam for support, but the extra space allotted within is minimal. The Stripe Stretch Trunks do not seem to have good longevity; when I took them out of the dryer the first time, the waistband was sealed shut like Velcro, and multiple loose threads had appeared throughout the garment, and the long tag on the left side had been almost entirely torn off. On the whole, I do not get the impression that this item is of significantly better quality than the Hanes or Jockey underwear you could get in multipacks. 2/10 

Comfort and usability: While the waistband is decent, there is little elastic in the leg holes and the overall fit is not baggy, but reasonably loose fitting. This quality made them wearable, but hardly worthy of recommendation. 3/10

Aesthetics: The trunks really do embody Gap’s aesthetic, which seems reasonable enough. 6/10

Overall rating: 4/10

Big enough? No.