Men's underwear – simple isn't it? They're just underpants aren't they, some bigger, some smaller?

The main styles of men’s underwear are:

But then there are the wild cards, including:

Unravelling the jargon, with the help of expert Jane Garner, will help gents make the right choice when they next treat themselves to new undies. The rule of thumb is to check out the depth of the side seam…

As Jane explains, there are always variations and some brands have specific terms for their own special designs, such as brazil or cheeky briefs.

"This is fashion, so the terminology is flexible and brands use different terms for different shapes of male underwear," she says. "Men are hugely loyal to the brand and shape they know and love, but we do recommend they stray once in a while to try something new, which is often a surprise improvement on their original choice."

Key features of each style


String or thong: DGU describes a design with a very fine back strap as a string, but if it's wider, then a thong, but these are mostly interchangeable.

hom plume g string with black rear
HOM Plume G-String. When DGU's best selling men's string was launched, it was described as the lightest thong the world had ever known. It may be a wisp of fabric that's the next best thing to going commando, but a Plume keeps everything in order! In six colours, the HOM Plume G-string costs £17 (or £29 for a skin tone twinpack).


There are many variations called briefs for men

Micro brief: also known as a slip, male bikini or, in America, as the 'European' brief. The side seam on a micro will be 2-3cm, or around an inch deep, or less. This shape is massively popular and a well cut micro is always a top seller.

Side shot of HOM Chic comfort micro briefs in red.
HOM Chic Comfort Micro Brief. The perfect combination of shape and fine, silky fabric this micro brief is the latest addition to HOM's male slip selection - £20.00 a pair. Minuscule briefs and tangas have overtaken men's underwear thongs and strings which held the top slot in DGU sales for over a decade.

Tanga brief: easy to spot because there is no extra fabric beneath the waistband at each side, but still good front and back cover. Ideal for men of action who want maximum room to manoeuvre.

Black Sloggi Basic Tanga Front Shot
Sloggi Basic Tanga (Twinpack). This cotton masterpiece shows all the advantages of tanga men's underwear – a flattering low rise horizontal fit, no fabric at the sides, a dual layer pouch for ample support and good bum cover. And just £19.50 for two.

Mini brief: here the side seam will be 2-3 inches/6-7cm – a slightly safer choice than the minimalist micro, offering more overall coverage.

bruno banani micro brief in white
Bruno Banani Simply Cotton Sport Slip 2 Pack. Bruno Banani men's underwear is famous for quirky prints and sleek microfibre fabrics, but they do stretch cotton just as well. This classically shaped mini brief has a slightly deeper side than bikini cut micro underpants. Twinpack £15.00.

Midi brief: this shape needs to be seen on the body to be appreciated, it's half way between a micro and a maxi brief or trunk. The depth is 4-5 inches/10-12cm, creating good, solid underpants which can have a chic retro look.

hom soft midi briefs in blue
HOM Soft Midi Brief. With a 12cm side seam this is a great example of the midi shape in men's underpants. Ultra soft in smooth microfibre, the shape and second skin fit are substantial enough for men who prefer full cover. A great combo of retro and modern. Price £22.00 in black or white, plus fresh colours each season.

Hipster brief: a shallower boxer brief using an attractive and very modern low rise fit.

dorense 1590 air truck hipster briefs
Doreanse 1590 Aire Trunk. An ultra smooth hipster boxer brief sits lower on the body than the classic maxi shape. Contemporary, comfortable and rather addictive, especially in a super fine fabric like Doreanse's featherlight Aire design (£14.00)

Boxer brief/maxi brief/trunk: whatever you call them, the snug fitting boxer brief shape for men is probably the world's best selling shape in male underwear today (based on high street sales – online retail like DGU's favours more diverse shapes, especially shallower cuts). Deep sided, these undies fit from below the waist to the top of the thigh in a boxy trunk design.

hom ho1 grey boxer briefs
HOM HO1 Boxer Brief. Pants with many talents – quite apart from being a great example of the favourite boxer brief shape. At £26 in core colours and lots of seasonal shades, this men's underwear uses natural cotton and modal yarns to create superb softness, comfort and support. Plus the horizontal opening is 100% accessible to left and right-handers. THIS is the answer to the question about boxers vs. briefs – both!


Boxer short: classic loose fit boxer shorts, mostly in shirt-style cotton rather than softer jersey fabrics, often with buttons down the front.

doreanse 1505 white boxer shorts
Doreanse 1505 100% Cotton Boxer Short. Like a traditional men's boxer short – only better. DGU customers love this pure cotton jersey fabric short, partly because of the price (£11.00), definitely because it has a proper no-button fly, but most of all because it is supremely comfortable and doubles as lounge or nightwear.

Long boxer: variation on the boxer brief with a longer leg – this could be 3cm, 6cm, 9cm or more onto the thigh. Skin tight but not restrictive, these are for guys who want more leg cover, have larger thigh circumference, or as an under layer for sport, running, cycling, yoga…

comfyballs long cotton boxer shorts in red
Comfyballs All Red Cotton Long Boxer Brief. Comfyballs, as the name implies, makes quite a promise… to be 'the world's comfiest men's underwear'. PackageFront design avoids ball squeeze, while Oeko-tex certified fabric is environmentally and body friendly, reducing heat transfer. The sporty brand has leg cover very much in mind, with regular and longer lengths in different designs. This stunner in scarlet combed cotton costs £26.00.


Long john: classic full length underwear favoured as a thermal layer by lovers of winter sport and the great outdoors, but also men who work in any cold environment. A flurry of interest from fashion designers a few years ago shifted the appeal of long underwear so it's also worn as male loungewear and nightwear these days.

bruno banani retro long johns in white
Bruno Banani Retro Perfect Long John. All the classic features of men's long underwear combine in Bruno Banani's cotton male leggings - £35.00 in black or white. The waistband is covered with fabric for the best fit and feel, there are deep cuffs at the ankle to avoid bunching and the two-button fly is easily accessible when necessary. Handy as a thermal base layer, under jeans, for the great outdoors, working, sleeping, relaxing…


Jockstrap: another men's underwear style that's gone from purely practical to high fashion. Made up of a pouch with buttock and waist straps, a jock offers support, shaping and sometimes protection (with a cricket box), with maximum aeration round the back. Since fashion took an interest, the jock has metamorphosed with some brands moving more into colour and sensuality.

obviosuly primeman titanium jockstrap
Obviously PrimeMan AnatoMAX Jockstrap. Looks like tanga brief men's underwear from the front, but round the back are the familiar straps that make this new jock from Obviously an instant hit. In wonderfully soft Lenzing modal, its anatomical pouch provides ample room and lift up front while there's airy security behind. Great for sport, or just because you like the way it feels - £21.00 in black, white, grey, blue or red, each colour with a different waistband.

Cheeky brief: as the name suggests this is a clever shape designed to expose more bum than classic male undies.

manstore bright blue cheeky briefs
Manstore M101 Cheeky Brief. As the name suggests, this men's underwear slip (£31.00) exposes more bum cheek than standard briefs. Manstore's whole M101 collection is always in demand from DGU, not least because of the fabulous colours, but also because the fabric is tantalisingly translucent.

Knee/calf length johns: variation on a theme… Same top as long johns, but finishing just below the knee or onto the calf in a style preferred by men who don't like too much fabric round their ankles or want greater leg cover for exercise or sport.

jockey merino overknee length johns
Jockey Merino Overknee. A new development on calf length long johns, Jockey have launched their Merino Overknee (£40.00) with 85% quick dry Smartwool and no internal labels. An interesting shape that works equally well under a suit as for a mountain trek, for sport or running, in fact for any man who wants leg cover without full fabric to the ankle.

Meggings: usually highly fashionable in daring fabrics and patterns, male leggings are the same shape as footless tights. The second skin fit is much closer than a long john.

olaf benz white meggins
Olaf Benz 1601 Leggings. Male leggings… meggings… or long johns? Men's long underwear terminology has stretched, along with fabrics, from practical thermal layers to sexy second skins that look more like dancers' tights. Meggings are the fashionable take on long johns, frequently in beautiful multicolour prints and transparent fabrics. This is a worthy hybrid in cotton, £53.00 a pair in black or white.

All-in-one body: using the same principle as a one-piece swimsuit, a male body will be tight fitting. Some are designed for practicality – avoiding that breezy gap between t-shirt and underpants – but most are slinky, mostly totally smooth but some with zip fronts. The upper body can have sleeves or vest straps, the lower half echoes boxer briefs or may have a thong back or full length legs.

doreanse all in one body
Doreanse 5002 Boxer Body Suit. At just £33.00 this men's underwear body is a bargain combining a vest and boxer briefs in one draught-proof layer. In a lovely soft cotton modal fabric with poppers all the way down the front, it can be worn as a base layer or nightwear. The term 'body' in male undies covers diverse designs, from minimalist mesh and strap-and-pouch designs to zip-front looks and more traditional cottons, but they have one thing in common - they're one piece.

When it comes to best sellers on, preference has shifted in the last two years from strings and thongs having total dominance to micro briefs and tanga cuts. But as Jane points out, there is always a market for the teeniest undies for men: "A lot of men will wince at the thought of wearing string underwear, but many of our customers love them. The right size and shape thong can provide just the right amount of support and coverage for activities from sport to dance and yoga, or in extreme heat, and an invisible but modesty-preserving layer under light clothing." has customers of all shapes, sizes and physiques all over the world. As Jane concludes: "The best underwear a man can wear is something that fits well, feels great and makes him look good. We have individual size guides for each brand to help customers choose what's right for them. Our detailed descriptions will point out if a specific design has been created, for example Obviously for Men AnatoMAX underpants, with additional capacity for well-endowed gents, or a shape that caters for larger thighs.

"Whatever you call them, there's a style of men's underwear to suit everyone and DGU has one of the biggest selections of quality brands in one place anywhere in the world. So it's a good place to start." Back to top.