The back of a handsome blonde man in tighty whities reflected in a mirror between two black panels.

Seeing a man leaning over in tighty-whities can leave your throat parched and your imagination ablaze. The iconic white briefs have scaffolded masculine fashion and culture for generations, captivating the gays with ferocity.

Join Queerty as we delve into the enduring appeal of the cotton classic – the snugger the bulge, the closer to heaven. 

Tighty-whities and the gay sexual awakening 

A muscular Black torso in white briefs.

Tighty-whities are snug white underpants for men, i.e. white briefs, according to Merriam-Webster.

Many gay men started wearing them unconsciously, courtesy of Mom, but their first retail encounter with tighty-whities often sparked their gay awakening.

Underwear packaging was the holy grail of seduction.

What closeted teenager hasn’t lingered a bit too long in the underwear aisle, savoring every glimpse as if trying to remember enough imagery to last for as many erections as possible?

The birth of the jockey 

A man laying on white linens wearing only white briefs.

It may surprise you to learn that the jockstrap predated tighty-whities, which didn’t make their debut until 1934, first dubbed “jockey.”

An undergarment designer named Arthur Kneibler received a postcard of a friend wearing a short, tight, bikini-style bathing suit in the French Riviera and became inspired. If that’s not a gay origin story, we don’t know what is.

The fit and comfort made the underwear style skyrocket in popularity. Brands like Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, Calvin Klein, 2xist, and C-IN2 took advantage of the trend and started producing their own versions. From then on, fitted underwear became a staple in men’s fashion.

Tighty-whities became endearing slang for the style, even if the term slightly tarnished its sex appeal. 

Considering the eons of existence of male genitalia on this Earth, these white briefs are relatively 80-something years young.

But they’ve remained a contender for best-selling underwear and are beloved by men of all ages and sizes.

You can even take our underwear quiz, and we’ll guess if you’re wearing a pair right now. 

Once upon a time, boxers reigned supreme until briefs took over. Interestingly, they eventually merge into boxer briefs, the preferred hetero agenda.

But cheeky publicists (many no doubt gay) ensured tighty-whities remained timeless.

White briefs for all

No underwear style has gotten quite the marketing and celebrity stamp of approval like white briefs. Consider them in a gang with jeans and white sneakers.

Calvin Klein can’t stop, won’t stop with tighty-whities 

Countless brands have given tighty-whities a new yet familiar face – or should we say bum?

Obvi snug briefs are better in numbers

What? Hanging in underwear with friends is our favorite pastime

Youth, Sex, and Cleanliness

A man wearing tighty whities that say "Charmin" across the back

Gay culture is nuanced, and people gravitate to trends for all sorts of reasons. But there’s a psychology behind tighty-whities’ popularity in the male closet, whether you’re in or out of it.

Plenty of people sell used pairs for a pretty penny online, even Shawn Mendes wants to get his hands on a sweaty underwear set (if it belongs to Justin Bieber).

There’s even a red carpet for tighty-whities in Fire Island.

We have some theories on the underwear’s everlasting appeal, but this doesn’t make us your therapist.

  • The bulge of youth: Show us a movie with high school jocks, and we’ll show you a locker room full of white briefs.
  • Talk dirty to briefs: Like porn, specific marketing visuals get ingrained in your libido, basically like classical conditioning for horniness.
  • Purity for bums: Keeping your white briefs pristine is a Clorox hassle; after all, no one wants to wear faded or discolored tighty-whities. But a sense of cleanliness is associated with putting a pair on, ideally right after the shower, with tousled wet hair. Droplets dripping down your body. Oh god, there’s Ivan Pavlov at work.

White briefs as gay as time

Tighty-whities feel like they’ve covered crotches forever.

There’s an unquestionable gayness in how they’ve been sold to consumers across media, and we love them for it. Male sexuality used to be caged as an accessory to women in the fashion industry, and briefs helped pave the way that the penis was just fine on its own. It just needs good support!

But the underwear is beloved for its fit and comfort, so feel free to queer up the style.

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