As many of you are aware, I am a gearhead with ravenous demands who will never be satisfied with anything less than immaculate perfection.
You may assume that my unreasonable standards are to blame for my ongoing discontent, but the reality is that there are far too many gear manufacturers that fall short of even bearable mediocrity.
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The never-ending quest for the world's greatest underwear has been the most agonizing issue in this respect.
Since males have been wearing underwear of some kind for hundreds of thousands of years, you'd think that this kind of issue could be resolved quite quickly.
However, regrettably, mankind had not yet developed a widely adopted solution to this absurdly straightforward problem that was satisfactory to me.
I've previously described the absurd torture that is the outdoor industry's hamster cycle of $30 failures that arrive one after another and that has drained my energy and crushed my soul in ways that would make mothers cry.
But not anymore. The hunt is finished since I've found The One. The El Dorado of private parts, the Holy Grail of undergarments. The world's greatest men's underpants.
They are the Uniqlo Airism boxer brief, and I am prepared to purchase a dozen of them, get rid of all of my other underwear in an inferno of sarcastic scorn, and never bother with any other underwear again.
Uniqlo Airism Unique features
I fail badly at a frequency of 100%, thus I fail to see what is so tough about this whole situation. It annoys me beyond comprehension. But the function of undergarments is as follows:
- Boxer brief: It is the saneest synthesis of socially acceptable look and immobility.
- Tight fit: It is forgiving enough to make you forget it's there while being tight enough to keep it in place.
- slick as silk: A pair of trousers wouldn't wriggle about in your underwear all day if they were made of a frictionless material.
- Front panel with the proper form. After all, we are males.
- moderate appearance: I'm not advertising for you if I'm not paid by the advertising department.
- A soft fabric: Because I like to travel, I tend to choose quick-drying synthetic textiles, although natural fabrics that are cozy and absorbent may also be used. It would be nice to have both possibilities.
I could end this discussion right here by mentioning how the Uniqlo manages to hit each of these points, but I'd rather go into crushingly boring technical detail, so I've chosen to pit the Uniqlo against another candidate for the title of "best underwear ever," whose praises are widely sung but whose flaws are numerous and agonizing.
Another objectively right quality of the Uniqlo that the Ex Officio lacks is masculine accommodation.
Because anything needs some breathing space and is hidden behind that curtain.
With the pain of skin-on-skin issues and the need to continually reposition eliminated, this produces a tailored cloth pouch that, um, suitably surrounds this area.
Contrarily, the front panel of the Ex Officio is completely flat. Although it can be stretched in any direction to naturally create something with a formed front panel, this cannot compare to anything that already has a front panel that is appropriately shaped.
Fit is certainly somewhat arbitrary, but these particular changes are simply demonstrably better. The Uniqlo will be far more likely to fit more individuals because to the folding front panel and availability in additional sizes. That said, it seems to be suited for smaller males, so have that in mind.
It's also important to note that the Uniqlo has a broader waistband (by diameter) and shorter legs than an Ex Officios of the same size.
These distinctions don't seem to me to be inherently good or bad, but they are nevertheless important to note. It would be wonderful if the Airism's legs were just a little longer since many people would appreciate the longer fit.
As previously said, I'm undecided as to whether the world's most ideal underwear would be made of a fabric that dries quickly and wicks away moisture or one that is more natural and very absorbent, or a combination of the two. I'll take what I can get since the alternatives are typically worthless in any event.
Although they use different materials to do so, the Uniqlo Airism and Ex Officio are both quick-drying, moisture-wicking underwear intended for athletic pursuits:
- 86% polyester, 14% spandex, Uniqlo Airism (with minor variations for different colors)
- 94% nylon and 6% spandex (with variations for heathered colors)
But the true difference is in the texture.
In addition to being loose already, the Ex Officios' extremely rough surface creates a lot of friction, which causes a pair of trousers to tug them in all kinds of odd ways and necessitates regular readjustment to keep them in place.
While it's true that the Ex Officio's rough surface may be more pleasant when moist (by lowering the amount of cloth in direct touch with the skin), it should only be the inside of the fabric; the outside should be slick and smooth.
They are still too loose to remain in place, even with the decreased friction, if you turn them inside out (EMS offers a pair of boxer briefs that look like this, but they utilize a terrible waistband and aren't that great anyhow).
Uniqlo's Airism, in contrast, feels like silk. It cannot be dragged in any direction by other layers due to its amazing smoothness and lack of friction. It still has to be adjusted, but the amount of friction will be lowered to zero, not eliminated.
The waistline from Uniqlo is much more forgiving because it is softer and more flexible. Additionally, as previously indicated, it is substantially broader than the Ex Officio's (not from top to bottom, but rather in terms of diameter), which appears to have a far too narrow waistline given how loose the rest of it is (though admittedly this was not much of a problem for me).
Again, fit is a matter of opinion, so I won't dwell too much on it, but I thought the waistband on the Uniqlo was much more logically sized and, when combined with the fact that it was more easily elastic and didn't feel like a rubber band around the waist, substantially more comfortable.
I can only think of one area where there might be opportunity for improvement. Potentially, because up till now it hasn't been a major issue for me.
The Uniqlo has an inseam gusset, which results in two rather than one seam between the legs.
If constructed poorly, this might be awful because the forward seam begins to intrude onto extremely sensitive locations and the rear seam may begin to approach problematic terrain as well.
When not "in use," inseam gussets are effective for guys who are rather small. Keep in mind that if you are at full size all the time, issues could result.
Although it may be rather arbitrary and unimportant to most people, I think the Uniqlo's look is better for the following reasons:
Zero logo. Ex Officio's waistband logo is unobtrusive enough that I don't mind it, but Uniqlo's is totally absent, and I detest being a walking billboard for businesses.
More colour and patterns. Solids, stripes, dots, plaids, paisleys, and a wide variety of other options are available at Uniqlo. It's true that Ex Officio has been succeeding in this area, however it doesn't seem that they have ever tried the next step:
Subtlety. Even though it's not a major thing, I greatly like the way Uniqlo's underwear appears to regular underwear.
The majority of performance apparel is made to seem like flashy, neon body armor, with vibrant colors and racing stripes all over.
I much like the dull, neutral shade of boringly dark grey, which is available alongside Uniqlo's sassy, ego-boosting scarlet rather than in place of it.
Again, Ex Officio doesn't do badly in this area; it's just that Uniqlo's underwear is completely indistinguishable from regular underwear, which is delightfully uncommon in the realm of high-tech clothes.
Finally! Someone appeared to demonstrate that pricey high-tech equipment is not always necessary. It's basically all composed of polyester, which is mixed with cotton since it's less costly than cotton, so how come performance wear made entirely of polyester is more expensive? Lame!
The Ex Officio costs $25 and the Uniqlo Airism costs $10.
There is absolutely no justification for pricey high-tech equipment, and I'm relieved that I will never again be required to pay exorbitant amounts for designer underwear.
It's not all that horrible, The Ex Officio. Others that I've seen cost up to $50 a pair were just average. Arcteryx, I'm looking at you.
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Is Uniqlo Airism still the best at this point?
Since publishing this review a few years ago, I have in fact discovered a few solutions that I prefer, but they are all priced between $30 and $50, so a lot of people won't be able to afford them.
Check out my selection of the top men's underwear if that's what you're after (and a dedicated list of travel-specific options here). But I believe this is the best you're going to find if you're looking for a truly good pick at a reasonable price.
Everything about it is exactly what I've been looking for for a decade, from the curved front panel to the snug fit to the frictionless surface to the (comparatively) dirt-cheap pricing to the understated aesthetic to the quick-drying fabric.
I would love a somewhat softer, more malleable fabric, an additional inch in the legs, a higher inseam, and a front panel that protrudes more forward if I could make any changes. But even with that in mind, I continue to use these frequently.
These have been a favorite since I first tried them despite the fact that I've tried dozens of alternatives from other companies, both large and little, and they've all disappointed me.
So, if all of that sounds amazing, bring them here. They are only accessible in the summer because they are seasonal, but you may still find them on eBay during the winter.
I do hope you've liked hearing my opinions on this topic. Please excuse me while I go make a therapeutic bonfire to burn the remainder of my underwear.
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