For a square foot of fabric I almost never see, underwear plays an outsize role in my mood. The wrong pair can make me squirm, forget what I was saying, curse the act of walking. And when I consider this unromantic montage, I wonder why I haven’t spent more time searching for the perfect pair.
Then again, maybe I have: There was the Victoria’s Secret 5-for-$25 bin I combed through all four years of college. There was the post-grad Hanky Panky phase from which I was sure I’d never stray. There was the Calvin Klein Invisible Hipster era, as I’ve mentioned, that made an underwear loyalist out of me. But none, ultimately, were a lasting match, because here I am, at the end of said era, with a drawer containing what appear to be floor scraps from a bathing suit factory: limp, torn, and a little too nylon for my pH balance’s liking.
I’m ready for a new phase — a more perfect phase, not to be greedy. Which is why I turned to the internet last week in search of an uncontested path forward. My call for suggestions asked that the underwear be simple (no thongs), mostly cotton (no nylon), and pants-friendly (limited bunching). They also, ideally, would be the most comfortable square foot of fabric I’d ever touched.
Below, I put the five most recommended pairs to the test. Each was rated out of five on fabric, cut, cuteness, comfort and subtlety (a.k.a. VPL-aversion), with the end goal of losing my underwear cynicism and, obviously, finding the holy grail. See if I did below.
92% cotton, 8% elastane
When Everlane introduced underwear to its line last March, they were marketed as a simple, cotton solution that was “done with the bullshit.” In the comments of my story, they were both recommended and side-eyed, so I decided to break the tie.
Unfortunately I didn’t do that: I fell somewhere in the middle. They are made of basic cotton which is pretty soft aside from the super-thin seams, which feel a little rough (feel: 3). The high cut is very Kylie Jenner and the waist is not quite high-rise (cut: 2), but they are pretty cute on (cuteness: 3). And apart from being quick-to-wedgie (comfort: 3), they do lay super flat under jeans, without cutting into my skin (subtlety: 4).
Overall they get a 16/25. Not my favorite, but I won’t avoid them in my drawer either.
Hanro undies came highly recommended from readers, so I was eager to give them a shot. I was initially a little disappointed with the material, which is somewhat thin and thin-seamed albeit soft (2), but I really enjoy the cut — they are exactly what you picture when you say “classic white underwear” (4), and they’re pretty cute on (3). The super thin seams cut into my bikini line a bit (3) but they were close to seamless under jeans (4).
Overall these tied with Everlane at 16/25, and will happily stay in my rotation. Although, at more than double the price, they’ll be harder to justify.
100% organic cotton
I love Entireworld, and these are downright adorable; I immediately understood why Harling said they are all she wants to wear. The feel is similar to an old cotton shirt (3), the cut is charming in a girl-on-the-sunscreen-bottle way, but is a little poofy (4). The cuteness is maxed out at a 5, but they don’t sit well under jeans at all (2).
Overall they get a 17/25 — I can’t wait to wear them around my house, but will have to be more trepidatious when it comes to pants. (Unless those pants are part of a gray Entireworld sweatsuit.)
100% cupro (cellulose fiber derived from cotton linter)
I’ve long held Base Range in high esteem, so when I got a few DMs about the underwear, I didn’t hesitate. They feel luxe as hell (5) — if underwear can feel expensive, this is it. The cut is satisfyingly high-waist, which I like, although the tight waistband sausages me a bit (3, 3). They are extremely comfortable regardless (4) and are neutral under jeans, visible but not too noticeable (3).
These get an 18/25: a luxurious good-enough.
95% cotton, 5% spandex
Uniqlo, which is already my go-to for socks, sweatshirts, beanies and T-shirts, came highly recommended by Man Repeller readers. Why hadn’t I tried the underwear? I’m still asking myself that question, now that I have, because these were an immediate favorite. They’re as soft as basic cotton comes (4), the cut is more of a mid-rise, but the shape is classic and flattering (4). They look great on and do exactly what I want them to do (5), in both how they fit (3) and how they look under jeans (4).
These get a 20/25 and I’m officially adding underwear to my reasons I love Uniqlo.
93% cotton, 7% spandex
Gap was the most recommended underwear brand of all of them, and that didn’t surprise me (I’ve owned and loved Gap underwear in the past, but only in spurts). I’d never tried this kind though, and was delighted to find they completely fulfilled the archetype I had in my mind when I set out on this hunt. They are super soft (though don’t feel particularly luxe, which I can live with at $6/pair) (4). Cut-wise, they are perfectly neutral and not trying to do too much (5), meaning they look that way on as well (5). They are very comfortable (you don’t even feel them) (4) and are nearly undetectable under jeans (4).
At 22/25, these were my favorite, but Uniqlo’s Basic Bikini look like a strong dupe.
Sometimes comfortable underwear is at odds with jeans, and seamless underwear is at odds with comfort, but Uniqlo and Gap broke that convention easily. In fact, all of them did to some extent. Although nothing I tested in this trial was truly seamless, I’m less concerned with VPL than I’ve ever been. Soft, breathable and comfortable sit far higher on my priority list. Perhaps because I’m more concerned with my own comfort these days than others’, which is an underwear mindset I can get behind.
Did you have a different experience with one of these? Did I not try the one you think would beat them all? I’ve heard good things about Jonesy.
Illustrations by Liana Jegers.