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What men wear under there - (8/25/2020)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Biff came into the pharmacy all smiles. “Gee, thanks, Doc, for recommending boxer shorts instead of briefs. I tell you, those tighty-whiteys have given me more fungal infections since high school than I can tell you.” Note well! Nothing is wrong with classic white underpants, originally called BVDs. Founded in 1876 and named after the manufacturing firm Bradley, Voorhees, and Day, BVDs were favored because of their purity, snugness, and elastic fit. 

The next iteration of men’s undergarments came from the boxing world. In 1925, the Everlast® Company designed elastic-waist trunks to replace the leather-belted kind used by prizefighters. Men liked the backsides' roominess and allowed them, as if they were sparring in a boxing ring, ample movement. The new configuration surged in popularity among the hoi polloi. However, a virtual fashion tug-of-war between boxers and briefs has endured ever since, often based on generational and regional factors. Gym locker rooms set the styles as men became more at ease with disrobing in semi-public. Today’s under gear has circled the moon and back with everything from whimsical shorts to fluorescent jockstraps to peek-a-boo thongs to going commando.

From a health perspective, undergarments are clothing items worn in direct contact with the skin. Their intent is to keep outer garments clean, lessen the friction of outerwear against the skin, shape the body, and provide concealment and support. Here are some rules. Rule #1: They must be clean. Quickly moving on to Rule #2: You must be clean from south to north. Rules #1 and #2 are not interchangeable. If not #1, then not #2. This is not math class – it’s hygiene. Rule #3: One’s underwear should cover the body parts appropriate for that venue – whether it is leather or the weather. 

Now, whatever you wear down there, trouble may brew. The nether-lands of the male anatomy have folds and furrows that often do not see daylight. Thus, they create the perfect environment for critters to set up shop. Body lice are not what we are discussing here, but let’s just say that Rule #4 is: Don’t share underwear. What we are talking about are fungal infections, like the kind Biff had. The pharmacist recommends two things to sidestep this razor-sharp, unsightly pain. First, when one emerges from a shower or tub, do not wrap the towel around the waist. While it may inspire you to do the hula, everything inside remains moist and airless. Instead, scrunch the absorbent fabric between your legs, positioning your equipment high and dry while allowing as much moisture to be wicked out before you slide into your skivvies. 

Are you a powder guy? Men’s body powders are classically either talcum or cornstarch-based. For blokes who find powders to be too scattershot, sprays and lotions are neater. If you have a fungal infection, over-the-counter creams exist. Ask your pharmacist. Use the cream for 7 to 10 days and even a few days after the infection has cleared to eradicate any fungus from the deeper skin layers. 

Rule #5: Know that underwear can kill. The atomic wedgie is a painful prank in which the victim is lifted by the sheer force of having his underwear pulled up while wearing them. In 2015, an Oklahoma man died when his 33-year old stepson gave him the ultimate atomic wedgie. The stepson pulled the elastic band of his underwear over his head and around his neck, asphyxiating him. The judge charged the stepson with first-degree murder and was given a 30-year prison sentence. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.


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