Boxers or briefs?

Hey, Alice!

I just found out about you, and you're the perfect avenue for finding out the answer to a question that a lot of my friends have been wondering about: What are the health-related pros and cons associated with wearing different types of men's underwear: briefs (tighty-whiteys) and boxers? A lot of men seem to prefer the tight ones, but there's some concern that it's more healthy to hang loose.

We'll appreciate hearing your answer.

— Curious About Underwear

Dear Curious About Underwear, 

Boxers or briefs? Maybe boxer briefs? A comfy cotton or smooth silk material? There are many options for underwear, but you (and your friends) are free to choose based on comfort and personal preference. The physiological characteristics of the scrotum may lead many to think that the choice between boxers or briefs significantly influences sperm quality and count; however, the effect is minimal at best. When compared to boxers, form-fitting underwear may reduce healthy sperm due to an increase in scrotal temperature. However, there isn’t a strong scientific consensus because the results often vary depending on which marker of sperm quality is measured. While this may seem alarming, current studies have found that these modest changes in sperm quality don’t appear to have any observable influence on reproductive markers such as conception, pregnancy, and infertility among the general population.  

Although the tightness or fit of your underwear may have a slight effect on sperm quality and count, research findings are even less clear on how much the type of fabric worn matters. There’s no conclusive evidence to suggest the material of underwear can affect sperm, as more research is needed. However, both tightness and material do influence the likelihood of chafing, irritation, and jock itch. For more information, check out this response on groin chafing and physical activity on the Go Ask Alice! website.  

If you’re concerned about your sperm quality and count, you may want to book an appointment with a health care provider, especially if you’re considering having children soon. However, your discussion may not even approach your underwear choice. When it comes to fertility, many factors are involved, but the research doesn’t indicate that underwear style or material is one of them. So, the likely answer to the dilemma of boxers or briefs: whatever makes you feel confident. 

Last updated Oct 16, 2023
Originally published Dec 23, 1994

Submit a new comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

The answer you entered for the CAPTCHA was not correct.