Thongs are comfortable in the way two-inch heels are comfortable: In a vacuum, at their absolute best, they’re much worse than wearing nothing at all, but they offer such great circumstantial and comparative benefits that wearers are able to look past the discomfort and even grow to believe they’re just as good as going bare. I guess I’m saying people who claim thongs are more comfortable than full-butt underwear are mildly delusional (there is a reason people pick wedgies), but I say it with tenderness and empathy, because I love a block heel, too.
If you couldn’t tell, I wear full underwear exclusively, regardless of the resulting vulnerability to visible panty lines, a.k.a. VPL. (Bless an acronym that doesn’t make me say “panty.”). Women hate VPL. Maybe men do too, but who cares? And while I’d like to sweep everyone’s VPL fear under the tantalizing umbrella of the patriarchy (because isn’t that fun), I actually kind of get it. I, too, would rather a dude on the subway not be able to detect the exact shape of my undergarments through my pants. That shit’s personal. But thongs aren’t the only salvation! As I’ve been saying since I wrote my anti-thong thesis in April, some full-butt underwear really does the trick.
I’ve been loyal to Calvin Klein Invisible Hipsters for years. I believe they check almost all the boxes of what makes underwear good, barring two things: 1) They’re made of nylon instead of cotton, which isn’t ideal for the bits, and 2) I guess this is a personal problem, but I’m getting sick of them. I want to wear cute high-waist cotton ones! But cotton is notoriously bad for VPL and I maintain my position that strangers don’t need to understand the physics of my butt.
I was curious to find out what other styles and materials might achieve the same effect as my Calvins (AYOOO), so I tried five and made our photographer Edith stare at my butt for 25 minutes in our photo studio. The below documentation, which includes the Calvins as a control, is the result. I’ve rated each pair on their pants-off appeal, their provided level of comfort, their shape-shifting effects (a.k.a. do they help, hurt, or do nothing to my natural shape), their price and, finally, their immunity to VPL. The scoring is as follows: 1, bad; 2, not ideal; 3, fine; 4, good; 5, dreamy.
Style: Seamless hipster
Made of: 72% Nylon, 28% Elastane
CK Invisible Hipsters acted as my control for this experiment because I own about 15 pairs and wear them all the time. I like how they look by themselves. They appear truly seamless in that they simply sit atop my skin. That’s 4 for pants-off appeal and 4 for comfort (would give more if they were made of cotton). The price, at $10, is incredible given the quality, which means another 5 for price. For the rest, let’s consult the photo. It does not at all change the shape of my butt, which gets a 4 for shape-shifting. The visibility surprised me. While I always imagined these to be genuinely seamless, you can definitely see the seam. That said, it’s very subtle (and doable, in my opinion) so that’s a 3 for immunity to VPL.
Overall score: 20
Style: High-cut bikini
Made of: 100% Cotton
I don’t own a single pair of high-cut underwear, so this was a first for me. High-cut anything does two things: lengthens the shit out of legs and shortens torsos. I couldn’t decide if the latter was worth the former, but either way, I enjoyed the adorable little cotton novelty of it. That’s a 5 for off-pants appeal. It was a little close to going up my butt though, so that’s 3 for comfort. A knock goes to price, 2, because although it’s well-made of “combed baby rib-knit” cotton, it’s more than I’d ever pay for a single pair of underwear. Per the photo, it’s a 2 for immunity to VPL — it’s def visible — but countered with a 4 for shape-shifting, as the high cut is kind of cute, even through pants.
Overall score: 16
Style: Mid-rise brief
Made of:90% Tactel Nylon, 10% Lycra Spandex
I’m surprised these cost more than my CK Hipsters, as I assumed Jockey would be the budget option. That said, this isn’t your average cotton underwear sold in packs; this is specialty shit, and for $11, I’ll give it 4 for price. Supposedly, these have a “smooth, silky feel with plenty of stretch,” and a “unique leg binding [that] helps eliminate panty lines.” Unfortunately, this leg binding didn’t work with my shape, which means a 1 for shape-shifting and, as a result, 1 for immunity to VPL. They’re not as uncomfortable as they look though, so I’ll give a neutral 3 for comfort. By themselves, they’re kind of cute, if a little translucent. That’s a 3 for pants-off appeal.
Overall score: 12
Style: Standard bikini
Made of: 71% Cotton, 29% Spandex
I’ve never seen truly seamless underwear made of cotton (more specifically, “a luxurious European fabric that is beautifully breathable, supremely comfortable”). I’m so impressed! That’s an immediate 5 for comfort. They’re cute off too, although bikini isn’t my favorite cut, so just 4 for pants-off appeal. Visibility is basically NILL. Damn. That’s a 5 for immunity to VPL and a 4 for shape-shifting (nada, which is a good thing, but no improvement either). Price gets a 2, because it’s a lot for a single pair, but maybe worth it for people looking for cotton that’s truly seamless.
Overall score: 20
Style: High-waist brief
Made of: 86% Cotton, 14% Spandex
First off, $4 is banging. That’s a 5 for price. They’re also made of mostly cotton, feel okay on and aren’t cute, per say, but are totally fine and basic, so that’s a 3 for pants-off appeal and 4 for comfort. The other metrics are where these babies get into trouble. They are not ideal for fitted pants, despite being designed to give the “confidence of shapewear and the comfort of a panty.” I suppose the photo speaks for itself: My butt cheek is essentially cut in half, causing a very visible line through the pants. That’s 1 for immunity to VPL and a 1 for shape-shifting. These are okay for the price, but not even close to a seamless experience.
Overall score: 14
Style: High-waist brief
Made of: 78% Nylon, 22% Spandex
Last up, we have another Commando pair, but this time a high-waist nylon pair. Despite not being cotton, they are a super satisfying material. They’re both comfortable and, due to the coverage, secure-feeling. They smooth me out in a nice way. That’s a 5 for comfort and 5 for shape-shifting. Worn alone, they’re cute, if a little Spanx-ish. I’ll give a 4 for pants-off appeal. The price is high, BUT, for something that kind of feels kind of like Spanx without the too-tight discomfort, $34 isn’t terrible, so I’ll give it a 2 for price. The underwear line is remarkably invisible. Take a look at the photo. Any wrinkling you see is just the pants, not the underwear, promise. It’s completely invisible. That’s a 5 for immunity to VPL.
Overall score: 21
Okay. Let’s tally it up! Here, in order of lowest to highest:
Jockey Tactel Hip Brief: 12 points
Hanes Smooth Illusions Brief Panties: 14 point
Hello Beautiful White Signature Panty: 16 points
Calvin Klein Invisible Hipster: 20 points
Commando Cotton Bikini: 20 points
Commando Classic High-Rise Panty: 21 points
The Commando Classic High-Rise Panty (pardon my panty) is the winner at 21 points, just one above the other Commandos and my Calvins (SORRY) at 20 points. My personal apologies to Jockey and Hanes, I promise I’ll to wear you babies under my finest dresses and sweatpants. And look for my Hello Beautifuls in my next sexy photo shoot, because they made me feel like Kylie Jenner in a good way.
Thong-lovers: DID I CONVINCE YOU? Honestly, that’s why I wrote this entire story. It wasn’t to make you stare at my butt.
Photos by Edith Young.