Sperm count, tighty-whities, and loincloths, explored.
We’ve been debating the “boxers vs. briefs” clause since the loincloth went out of style—and still, we’re without a definitive winner. It’s the penis-aligned iteration of “Coke or Pepsi”—an unending back-and-forth guided primarily by matters of personal preference. So the age-old question still looms: Will we ever prove one better than the other?
Naturally, different undergarments carry with them different reputations. Your classic tighty-whities bear a different cultural association than, say, Calvin Klein briefs, or Polo boxers. But, at bottom, does your personal preference rely purely on whatever your parents clad you in as a pre-adolescent? Or are there proper bodily merits to each?
Well, in the history of boxer/brief discourse, there have been several prevailing theories. And namely, they speak to fertility. Apparently, nearly half of fertility-related issues for men stem from low sperm count. And when it comes to sperm production, the testes must be at a temperature lower than the core temperature of the body to, well, produce. So briefs, which tend to be the more stifling option, can contribute (however minimally) to lower sperm count. Moreover, things like extraordinarily tight pants, or excessive time spent in saunas and hot tubs can also have the same effect. In fact, several fertility doctors actually recommend men avoid sporting pants as often as possible while at home.
Au contraire, there are plenty of doctors who are quick to call bullshit on the whole briefs-sperm-count situation. As they see it, a slightly more fitted cotton undergarment is probably not the reason your testes are boiling up at unprecedented rates. That said, due to the standard cut of your requisite pair of briefs, the undergarment will hold onto moisture more pointedly than your requisite pair of boxer shorts—which can give way to all kinds of groin unpleasantries. Namely: a rash called tinea cruris (or, as it's known colloquially, jock itch).
Fortunately, though, we need not strike down briefs, entirely. While there are more medical cases for skewing “boxer short” than tighty-whities, at the same time, there are still plenty of ways to take extra care of your groin whilst rocking briefs (and it goes without saying, of course, that briefs are far easier to pair with clothing of any kind). Plenty of urologists simply advise that brief-wearers make a few conscious choices. For one, opt for undies made of a moisture-wicking material to avoid steamy, rashy nuts (sorry). Second, take serious precautions to change your undergarments as frequently as possible—especially after work-outs or showers. And last but not least, refresh your brief selection every couple of months. Underwear does have a shelf-life—and there are only so many washes any one pair can endure.