Whoever thought of calling men's underwear tighty whities? Those two words provoke more extreme responses than Marmite – in that people just love or hate it. With whitey tighties (just as scary in reverse) there's mostly nervous laughter or flat-out denial.

White briefs, me? NO SIR!

It takes a brave man to admit he loves tighty whitey underpants, never mind be seen in public in them. But when a handsome male model or Hollywood hunk like Jude Law emerge on screen wearing only tiny male micro briefs, they are met with admiration and envy.

Tighty whities is a term coined in America referring to early Y-Front briefs launched as an alternative to loose boxer shorts. Like references to 'budgie smugglers' (which is in fact an Australian brand of great men's swimwear famous for colourful beach bikinis), men tend to find the whole idea of minuscule underthings quite horrifying... publicly at least!

Men love briefs

But Deadgoodundies knows their secret – men might laugh, cringe or dismiss the idea of wearing tighty whities themselves, but they DO, they buy thousands of pairs every year!

DGU partner Jane Garner comments on the phenomenon: "Men have a great sense of humour, most of the time, about underpants. But somehow the term tighty whities has got under their skin and they're VERY shy about admitting to wearing a pair… UNTIL some buff blokes wears a pair, carries it off, and gets a great reaction!"

DGU sells the 21st century version of Jockey's original cotton Y-Front briefs, believed to have inspired the tighty whitie, whitey tightie, tidy widy nickname. They have always been hugely popular, and white briefs, be they the tiniest micro or deeper mini or midi gents' brief underwear, are consistent top sellers.

"Tighty whities are just snug white underpants," says Jane. "The term swiftly followed the launch of the very first men's briefs, Jockeys, in 1935. They were the first alternative to male undershorts and constantly sold out, because this new shape that fitted close around the body and thigh appealed to men so much. Fifty years later and guys fell in love with boxer briefs, a male hybrid between a short and brief, made possible by stretch fabrics with Lycra."

Yet still today if you call a pure white bikini brief for men a tighty whitey, there will be cries of 'uncool!', but mention 'Jockeys' or 'Y-Fronts' instead and men are less shy.

Jane adds: "My theory is that boys and men tease each other about their underwear, especially at school or college, and the associations with tighty whities being a bad thing come from that. Sadly there isn't a good collective noun for men's underwear, as women have lingerie, and nicknames for undies range from skiddies to undercrackers.

"With tighty whities, the level of denial is second only to admitting to wearing a men's thong, but that's another story…"

Choosing the right pair

So how does a man wear tighty whities successfully then? Men's cotton briefs must be white, not grubby grey or yellowed. They must fit well enough to smuggle the budgie without ruffling its feathers. They must incorporate something the earliest men's underwear briefs did not have – enough elastane to maintain their shape and support, without relaxing into that other underpants no-no the Dad Sad Sack.

Tight white underpants might come in a different shape, TWs don’t have to be gents' micros like Jude Law's pants (though the ones that hit the headlines were in fact men's white swim briefs). Deeper sides can be sexy too, for example modern midi undies and low rise hipster shorts for men.

And here are two things you never knew about tighty whities – it's the name of a rather nice coffee shop in Ipswich in Queensland, Australia, and these marvels of men's underwear are used by scientists to test soil health. Take one pair of tighty whities, bury, wait… dig. Rotting rate indicates how good the soil's doing.

So tighty whities aren't so dumb after all?

JOCKEY – makers of the original tighty whities still make Y-Fronts like their midi cut, breathable Jockey Spurt 100% Cotton Y-Front Brief, just £9.00 in white or colours. Always a best seller and showing no signs of flagging in popularity. Like the sound of that? Why not read our post on cotton and breathable underwear?

SLOGGI – for men who wear suits and don't like getting uncomfortably untucked! Sloggi Shirt Stop Hipster briefs in 90% cotton and 10% elastane cost £12.00 a pair. Clever underpants with silicon inside the waistband to keep everything in place.

DOREANSE – this brand offers an enormous selection of tighty whities male underwear, from tiny micros to maxi boxer briefs. The Doreanse 1760 Hipster in a modern fabric mix (45% cotton 45% modal 10% elastane) is snug, minimalist and gorgeous to wear. Cost £12.00, also offered in black, bright red or turquoise.

ERGOWEAR – this is one men's underwear brief that's tight everywhere and still fabulously comfortable. The low rise Ergowear X3D Mini Boxer with the 3D pouch is ergonomic enhancing underwear for men from Chile.

BRUNO BANANI – famous for their men's underwear prints on everything from male slips via bikinis to boxer briefs, Bruno Banani's fame is also built on staples like the Anti-Stress Tanga (£17.00). Always available in subtly ribbed white, black or navy, and this summer in seasonal kiwi green too.

HOM – another brand that knows how to make tighty whities that men really love. Their HOM Classic Mini Brief (£22.00) uses a timeless shape and a superbly comfy fabric mix with 65% cotton, 22% modal and 13% elastane. Offered in white, black, navy or marl grey, and DGU have a handful in bordeaux left.