There was, for a long time, something funny going on in the drawer where my underwear is stored. For as long as I can remember, new pairs just… appeared. One day there were 10 or so pairs of boxer briefs with loose waistbands and holes in the crotch, the next day the old ones had been pushed to the bottom of the drawer by a new set of three, plastic-wrapped and pristine skivvies. For years, I took this boxer-brief regeneration for granted. I didn’t think twice about it. The new ones were always just there.
The magic, however, stopped when I went off to college. There, I would realize that wooden drawers don’t just manifest boxer briefs. Underwear, like all things, must be procured with money. It was then, on a cool winter day in Connecticut with my itchy balls ensconced in a pair of eight-month-old boxer briefs with the elastic so frayed it was crunchy, that I would venture out to purchase, for the first time, a new set of boxer briefs.
But by then, it was too late. The damage had been done. The habit of holding onto underwear until they’re rendered nothing more than some threads clinging to my waistband had permanently set in. Like so many of my fellow men, I had learned that the only time one must replace an old pair of underwear with a new pair of underwear is when the old pair is literally toasted. Or as some redditors have noted, many of us have for years just expected that someone who loves us will get tired of looking at our crappy pair, and thus, we rely on their disgust to afford us a replacement. “I have a fantastic agreement with both my mom and girlfriend that those are my stocking stuffers,” writes one redditor. “I get enough once a year to supply me. Not to mention they get me the funniest stuff (Superman underwear, the Grinch, classic hearts boxers, etc).”
Another reports that her husband has never bought himself a new pair of underwear. “My husband and I were just discussing this question,” she writes. “I do the same thing your girlfriend and mom do. My husband doesn’t think he has ever purchased underwear for himself. He’s in his 50s.”
According to board-certified urologist Jamin Brahmbhatt, it’s important to note that at a bare minimum, you should be changing your underwear daily to avoid rashes or infections. “Fungus, yeast and bacteria can accumulate in the groin,” he says. “These are more likely to happen when the environment suits them. Washing daily and changing your underwear is a simple way to prevent these problems.”
In other words, he says, even if your boxers are six years old, as long as they’re clean, you can wear them mostly hazard-free until they’ve disintegrated. Similarly, Philip Tierno, professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University, told HuffPo that even though there’s roughly a 10th of a gram of poop in an average pair of washed underwear, “it’s normal, and it doesn’t hurt you.” “As long as they function properly and you wash them and the elastic is fine, and they fit fine, there’s no holes or fabric erosion, you can use them,” he explained. “There’s no end period, except when it’s mechanically dysfunctional.”
From a less practical standpoint, a customer service representative from Underwear Expert, a subscription underwear service, recommends that, on average, it’s a good idea to replace a pair of underwear with a new pair every two to three months. “Start with receiving two pairs of underwear every other month,” she tells me.
But again, from a functional standpoint, your pair of old, permanently poop-stained, white underwear from back when you used to rely on a fake ID is perfectly fine as long as you’re okay with the stains. As for me, well, I clearly wasn’t and have now accepted that if I want my balls to feel taken care of, it’s worth spending the time and money to replace the old cloth hammock with a new one when the fabric rips.