After spending a majority of this year slumped on the couch, eating Skittles and bingeing Survivor, I’ve come to a few realizations. First, CBS has been hiding the most homoerotic show on network TV for two decades. Next, a white woman named Parvati is the reason I’m finally into mindfulness. Oh, and men are seriously terrible at picking out underwear that properly suits them.
Spending 39 days trapped on an island without running water, plumbing or an extra pair of undies will make any clothing item look grubby. But it’s worth considering what items contestants (some of whom are literal models) are forced to wear on national TV. If their options for stylish, well-fitting underwear are slim, then it’s bad news for us average Joes.
I came to this realization a month ago while bingeing Season 23, Survivor: South Pacific. Legendary contestant Ozzy Lusth strolled up for his third season wearing… tie-dyed blue-and-white cloth boxer briefs.
This is the man who famously competed as a surfer twink on Season 13, Cook Islands, and an Abercrombie twunk on Season 16, Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites. But much like his loin covering, Ozzy’s star return for Season 23 felt a little droopy. It’s telling how much a nearly naked man’s attractiveness plummeted because he was wearing a pair of raggedy, saggy undies. (Also, his level of self-adulation — no thanks!)
Of course, the contestants have little control over what they wear. Producers exert a heavy hand when it comes to contestants’ apparel, assigning colors, shapes and even materials. Some are forced to stroll up in high heels, spaghetti straps and business blazers. John Cochran reportedly never owned a sweater vest until producers told him to wear one in the South Pacific.
The presentation of one’s package is understandably not a concern when they’re literally starving and trying to keep from being voted off. But the show illuminates the pervasive issue with modern-day men’s underwear. It’s largely centered on a single cut: the boxer brief.
It’s understandable that many men gravitate toward boxer briefs, both on Survivor and in real life. They’re slimming without restricting. Boxer briefs, at best, are unassuming, which is their greatest appeal. But standard three-pack classic cotton boxer briefs are a Trojan horse. They might feel more comfortable than a brief squeezing the crouch, but the absorbable material contorts silhouettes. One water challenge and you’re suddenly wearing shapeless, droopy drawers, fully stretched out at the thigh — the signature Russell Hantz look.
Boxers seem loose, laid-back and colorful. Really, though, boxers are just thin, pocketless shorts. Take Nick Wilson, who wore crimson-red patterned boxers on a recent season. He’s in the center:
Wilson’s boxers aren’t inherently childish. They just make his ass look like a wrinkled paper bag, and the waistband pleats balloon under the hip. Imagine strolling up to meet your lifelong idols and childhood crush only to simp in a pair of… bunching, wrinkled boxers. Definitely not what I’d like to be wearing in the thousands of photos under my Google Image search.
This leaves Survivor contestants with largely one appealing option: compression shorts.
They’re really just the athletic twin to boxer briefs. Jeremy Collins of Seasons 29, 31 and 40 always looked composed in a pair of sleek — shiny even — gray compression shorts.
In Survivor, it’s all about projecting composure even when you’re nervous about being voted out. Let Collins’ sartorial effortlessness translate into your daily life. Still, compression shorts aren’t comfortable for 39 days. Really, they’re unappealing after one 30-minute workout (unless you’re Australian Survivor‘s Locky Gilbert).
Perhaps the best everyday underwear is the most unappealing for Survivor: a classic brief. Modern briefs — like Calvin Klein’s polyester and spandex pair — are lowkey the best affordable option. They lift your ass while cupping (but not crushing) your crotch. You never have to worry about the annoying boxer brief line protruding through tight jeans. Still, the perceived brief aficionados are grandparents and awkward ’90s middle schoolers in tighty-whities. Certainly, briefs aren’t appealing on a desolate island where bare thighs lead to bruises and insect bites.
So instead of fixating on a specific style, as has been the narrative of most mass-market underwear, we should be focusing on the material. Water-resistant and nylon boxer briefs offer a more arid climate that keeps your junk from spoiling, and they look flattering on men of any size. I gravitate toward Mack Weldon boxer briefs (made of jersey), while Calvin Klein, Tommy John and even American Eagle moisture-wicking undies are safe choices.
For boxers? Jeff Probst put it best: Got nothin’ for you.