If you have a favorite T-shirt or underwear you would basically live in, chances are it's actually the fabric you’ve fallen in love with. If you want to make the best decisions about your intimates collection, get to know your textiles. Here is a simple guide to some popular fabrics in menswear, including background, advantages and common uses.
In use for clothing since about 3,000 BC, the advantages of cotton are well known. People talk about its natural source, its breathability and its soft, heavy feel. This is why you will see 100% cotton used for everything from socks to blankets. However, cotton can take a long time to dry, it wrinkles easily, it doesn’t keep its shape well and it shrinks very easily. Because of this, some of the best intimates are made of a cotton blend. Check out this classic tee, which boasts wearability and easy care because of its blend of cotton and polyester (which we will discuss below).
Maybe it’s because of the seventies, or the fact that it is derived from oil and coal, but this fabric gets a bad rap. Invented in the 1930’s by the same research group that created nylon, polyester brings a lot to the table. While 100% polyester clothing will make you sweat, a lot, using it in a blend will actually help control moisture levels. Having polyester in your fabrics makes them dry faster, helps retain their shape and strengthens the fibers so it can stand up to repeated wearings and washings. As an example, these boxers are a slinky blend of polyester (90%) and spandex (10%), so you get the resilience of the one and the snug clinginess of the other. And here’s another combination: these swim trunks use more polyester (96%) than the boxers, allowing them to dry even faster. It makes them extra strong too, so they can face up to the salt water and chlorine they’re designed to withstand.
Designed in 1951 in Japan, this cloth is basically a souped-up version of rayon, an older and more popular synthetic. Modal is super soft like rayon, but it’s been processed further so that it is even stronger. And, technically, modal is “semi-synthetic” because it partly comes from beech trees. This makes it perfect for underwear and other things you want close to your skin and sensitive areas. It feels amazing but you won’t have to worry about your items getting worn out in the wash.
Modal dries faster than cotton, which is another reason it's great for underwear and other items that can get sweaty. On an environmental note, modal is known for being more sustainable than cotton because it requires a lot less water and energy for its production.
Check out these classic boxer-briefs for an example of this fabric doing its job perfectly. These are 47% cotton, 47% Modal and 6% spandex. The cotton brings depth and softness, the Modal is also soft, but brings that rugged element to make it last, and then the Spandex keeps things in shape where you want a little structure.