All the essential underwear you need for your wardrobe

Before you unfurl your spring style, here are the foundations on which to build

At Gentleman’s Journal, we dedicate a fair few hours to discussing style, from spring-friendly sneakers to the newest timepieces to hit the market, British brands, and even topics such as how to dress like your favourite big-screen heroes. However, as we were talking about spring refreshes and wardrobe revamps, we realised it’s been quite some time since we addressed the topic of underwear, which seemed a little surprising. After all, it is the first thing you put on in the morning, the item that sets the foundation for anything that goes on top, and a decent pair, like any good hotel safe, keeps all the important stuff locked in and secure.

The underwear game can be a tricky task – consideration of shape, fit, pattern and material a few factors to consider – but, as we always argue, the best port of call is to reach for something timeless and fuss-free. Therefore, for this guide, we look to fitted boxers and trunks – neither as dividing as Y-fronts, nor as slipshod as baggier alternatives – most of which are done in subdued colours you’d want to be seen in rather than patterned, garish creations that are designed to be seen. 

So, before you completely reboot your wardrobe for spring, here are the foundations on which to build. 

The heritage one: Sunspel

There are a select few established brands that just do things in a universally appealing way – Apple, for technology; Jaguar, for cars, Aesop, for grooming – and Sunspel is certainly one of those when it comes to wardrobe basics that are conceived with a premium touch. The t-shirts are legendary, the knits coveted, and the boxer short is perhaps the crowning glory, especially given that it is widely acknowledged this was the brand to first introduce it to these shores.

The top-end option is done out in sea-island cotton, which has the feel of a remarkable, one-of-a-kind material, and we’re particularly drawn to the pair of mother of pearl buttons, as it gives the product a throwback slant. It’s unnoticeable as soon as you slip trousers on top, and the rear features a back panel rather than a central seam, which can often cause discomfort in lower-price-point options. For a vintage-sports feel, we also recommend a white poplin option, which is double-turned and feldlocked to prevent rough edges.

According to the brand…

David Telfer, Creative Director: “The Sunspel boxer short is the result of over 70 years of craftsmanship and innovation. John Hill, the great-grandson of our founder, first discovered the style when on his honeymoon in the US, and so, in 1947, Sunspel became the first brand to make boxer shorts in Britain. Hill realised it was a great product, but, as with all our essentials, we looked to improve it. He began redesigning it, using the highest-quality long-staple cotton poplin, refining the cut and introducing a back panel. In doing so, he turned a functional basic into a high-quality, luxury undergarment.”

Sunspel Sea Island Cotton Boxer Shorts


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Sunspel Poplin Boxer Shorts


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The old-world-meets-new-world one: Hamilton + Hare

Given the rise of more streamlined, sports-influenced underwear in recent years, the boxer has, in some circles, been delineated as an ill-fitting garment of generations gone. However, loungewear specialist Hamilton + Hare equilibrates the argument, as its version has a slimline silhouette that gently contours the upper thigh, but with enough room for movement of leg, a considered style that was made in tandem with a Savile Row tailor. The shirting-grade cotton from which it’s made bolsters the suave, premium feel.

We also like the T-shaped panelling at the top, which gives it the look of a luxe pair of swim shorts. The lightweight seersucker option, which has easy-feel elastane in the waistband, is suited for the hotter months ahead. 

According to the brand…

Olivia Francis, Founder: “The design brief we gave ourselves when developing all our underwear styles was that you should be able to put them on and immediately forget about them. There is nothing worse than spending your day rearranging your underwear; it can be infuriating at worst and distracting at best. The other element is what they are made of, as they sit directly on your skin. Quality natural fabrics, such as cotton and lyocell, are by far the best option as they are beautifully soft, naturally breathable and anti-bacterial. Our latest seamless trunk design took nearly two years to develop; I think there were over 20 iterations before we got it right.”

Hamilton + Hare Boxer Short Sky Blue


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Hamilton + Hare Boxer Short Seersucker Sky Blue


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The snug-n-stretchy one: CDLP

There’s just something very alluring, almost sensual, about CDLP, whether it’s down to the Stockholm brand’s racy marketing, the lustrous sheen of its hues, or the way its underwear glides, glove-like, over the skin, contouring and moulding features, but without a vice-strong grip. A secure, ultra-snugness comes courtesy of the lyocell material from which it is made – a semi-synthetic, plant-based fibre – allowing for maximum ventilation and breathability.

Due to their well-cut fit, we’d advise you buy half a dozen pairs for daily wear, as they’ll neither bulk out your workwear trousers or the shorts you wear at the gym. As a rule of thumb, with underwear that sits closer to the body, we suggest opting for darker shades. 

According to the brand…

Christian Larson and Andreas Palm, Founders: “Worn-out and faded underwear not only looks unappealing, but can also be uncomfortable to wear, so it’s important to regularly assess and replace any that is no longer in good condition. By investing in quality underwear, you can ensure that your drawer stays well-curated and fresh for a longer period of time – and, when you feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing, it can naturally boost your self-esteem.”

CDLP Boxer Shorts Navy Blue


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The patterned one: SIRPLUS

A longtime favourite of ours, SIRPLUS has always set itself apart from the crowd for being a brand whose mission from the start has been to upcycle scraps and unwanted fabrics; we’ve always had a soft spot for its hardy chore jackets and lightweight knitwear. It was with the boxer, however, where the company began, building the construction from offcuts of shirt materials.

Of the extensive range, we’ve been drawn to the option designed with Liberty, the London retail magnet celebrated for its decorative-arts patterns, which include floral and paisley. The red and blue pairs we’ve highlighted showcase opera motifs, and the whimsical style is kept in check by the non-flashy palette. It’s printed on Tana Lawn cotton, which allows the colours to sing with vibrancy, and the fit is a bit looser and more giving than the other options on this list, meaning it’s better suited for at-home lounging. 

According to the brand…

Henry Hales, Founder: “Boxer shorts should have a gusset. This means they use slightly more fabric, but avoid a seam going down the back middle. When I started my business, Jeremy Paxman was in the news for commenting that M&S had taken out the gusset, which he was disappointed about. It tipped me off to the importance of that detail, which I made sure to include. Many years later, I was able to communicate this to Mr. Paxman when he popped in to one of the stores. I gave him a pair of boxers for his (un-intended) consultancy.”

SIRPLUS Amanda’s Opera Boxer Shorts


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The back-to-basics failsafe: L’Estrange

For a decade, L’Estrange has been finely tuning its bevy of menswear staples, which runs the essentials gamut from bombers to trousers and everyday t-shirts, all created in the most sustainable of ways.

The Air Boxer is named so for its featherweight blend of elastane and Tencel, a fabric whose popularity is growing because of its green credentials and cooling properties. Mesh panels enhance ventilation, and a no-roll waistband keeps the item from losing its structure. Also, the stitching, embellishment and seams are kept to a minimum, which makes them widely appealing.  

According to the brand…

Tom Horne and William Green, Founders: “The perfect boxer for us came down to the fabric. As the first layer of comfort for every outfit, we wanted to remove any distractions caused by bunching and scrunching. So, we designed the boxer to feel like nothing, like air, so you can forget about it all day. Beyond using responsible materials, conscious design, for us, is also to design for longevity, which is why The Air Boxer is primed with a similar enzyme technology found in our Re_Fresh Tablets – the world’s first-ever rejuvenating laundry tablet – so they can stay fresh for longer” 

The Air Boxer


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Want more essentials? These are the most stylish men’s sneakers for SS23…

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