Jimmy from Chicago: I admit it–I try on underwear in fitting rooms. I know it’s bad, I know it’s dirty, but I want to make sure the underwear I’m buying fits before I buy it. I feel like sizes differ by the brands, so how can you be sure it fits?
The Underwear Expert: If you could see us right now, we’d be shaking our finger and scolding you. Instead, we’ll just give you the facts: body lice, bedbugs, fungal infections, factory chemicals. These are just some of the things you could potentially come into contact with trying on underwear in public, so take our advice and just say “no.”
To further our point, consider this: just last week, lawmakers in Zambia, in an effort to halt the sale of second hand underwear, passed a law that bans the wholesale import of used undies, citing high levels of staphylococcus bacteria yeast, mold, and fungi, gross stuff that can all lead to infection. While you may not find yourself shopping for underwear in Zambia anytime soon or wearing second hand underwear, the same creepy crawlies that caused the government-lead Zambian Bureau of Standards to issue an all-out ban come from all around the world, including the United States.
But fear not–we know the importance of the perfect fit, and there are other ways to find it in the underwear department without trying them on first. After the jump.
Try the neck-waistband trick. Theoretically, the circumference of your neck is half that of your waist, so you can find out if pants, underwear, etc. will fit your waist without even trying them on. Simply hold the underwear up in front of you, then wrap waistband around your neck where a t-shirt collar would fit. If the two ends just meet in the back, they will fit your waist. If they overlap, the pants are too big. If they don’t meet, too small. Though this method isn’t 100% accurate, it’s pretty close and will get you a properly fitting men’s underwear waistband nine times out of 10.
If you’re unsure of size to begin with, use deductive reasoning. Remember the whole “If A=B and B=C, then A=C” spiel you learned in school? Now, it actually comes in handy. Apply it to all items of your clothing with an elastic waistband and see how your underwear measures up. If your gym shorts are a medium, your bathing suit is a medium, and the underwear you’re currently wearing are a medium, go with a size medium in your underwear. This deductive reasoning is further effective if you’re after underwear from a men’s underwear brand you’re already familiar with. For instance, if you’re a fan of the 2xist Rio No Show Swim Bikini, and in store for some 2xist underwear, go for the same size you wear in the swimsuit.
Always do your research. While you’re right in saying some brands’ sizing may be slightly off, especially men’s underwear brands originating in Europe or South America, this type of info is usually no secret, so it makes its way to the reviews and discussion forms all over. Simply look up the brand or specific style you want, see what other folks who have worn it have to say, and base your decision on this information. Certain South American brands like Clever and Unico run a size small, which is usually indicated in both the product description and the reviews of a few online underwear retailers we’ve researched. Also, consider that most men’s underwear brands brands use the same sizing standards for all their styles, so if you’ve worn the Calvin Klein Steel Micro Trunk in a size small, you’ll get the same fit from the Calvin Klein X Micro Hip Brief in a size small.
If you insist on trying before you buy, wear a thin pair of briefs before you slip on the trial pair–you’ll be doing yourself and the guy after you a great service. If all else fails, you can always take advantage of the store’s return policy. We kid.
Photo Credit: aussieBum myDay collection