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A brief look at unmentionables

April 14, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

At the risk of seeming indelicate, I feel compelled to mention a problem with unmentionables.

It is inconceivable that a nation that can routinely devise machines to take men into space, and fashion indestructible single-use throwaway packaging that has a greater half-life than uranium, cannot design an elastic waistband that will last more than about five minutes.

I want to make it clear that I don’t have any bizarre requirements with respect to underwear. I simply ask that a garment be comfortable, provide a bit of security around the premises, and stay more or less in place.

That doesn’t seem too much to ask, and yet, my search for decent underwear is a mission that has occupied me for years.

It is a mission that has been fraught with disappointment.

Time after time, I have returned home from a shopping expedition, thinking that I have finally acquired the ultimate set of drawers.

The next morning, I experience that wonderful feeling one gets the first time one slips on new underwear for the first time.

They fit superbly, and the waistband is flat and smooth, and provides just the right amount of tension to keep the garment snugly in place.

One finishes dressing, and sets out to begin the new day with a spring in one’s step and a song in the heart.

The euphoria is short-lived.

By lunchtime, the timorous elastic has already abandoned the fight, and it has begun to slip and sag.

In my quest, I have discovered that the high-end, name-brand drawers hold up better than less expensive models.

The best seem to carry the logos of golf-related companies. Golfers know their undergarments. No one wants to have to contend with dodgy elastic while executing a tricky approach shot from behind a tree on the short 17th.

I have never been a fan of boring white briefs (or, “tidy whities,” to use the vernacular).

In underwear, as in life, I am constantly looking for artisanal bakeries in a white bread world.

I prefer boxers with a bit of style to them, and the expensive specimens provide this.

Underwear is a fashion item. That is why we put on our best underwear when we go out to a party. There may be less chance of anyone else actually seeing our underwear than there is of George Bush being elected president of the Sierra Club, but, even if others don’t know we are wearing the good underwear, we know it, and that is what matters.

Unfortunately, even the designer models demonstrate a lamentable lack of durability.

It is true that they hold up better than less expensive skivvies, the kind that have inferior waistbands that wilt like last week’s tulips if one so much as coughs in their general direction.

It is a failure of industry that the purveyors of unmentionables seem incapable of designing a waistband that can survive more than about three trips through the dryer.

This is true even if one does not employ extreme heat in either the washing or drying phases.

I concede that my waistbands need to cover a greater distance than they once did, but I buy my boxers in the appropriate size, so this should not be an issue.

Perhaps it is all a part of a diabolical plot.

Underwear, like most things, seems to be manufactured in places other than the US these days.

It is possible that our enemies have conspired to overthrow the US by deliberately shipping us only underwear with inferior elastic.

When our enemies finally work up the courage to invade the US, they will have an advantage because we will all be stumbling about with our underwear around our ankles, while they are able to move quickly and confidently in their superior skivvies.

It is frightening to think that the future of the free world hangs by the flimsy waistbands of our underwear.

Undergarments have changed quite a bit over the years, and, perhaps we shouldn’t complain. The garments we have today are vastly superior to those that were available in the past.

In the days before efficient central heating, our great-grandfathers roamed around in union suits, which were great for keeping out the drafts, but were not very stylish.

These were eventually replaced by separate shirts and drawers.

Underwear has generally become briefer and more comfortable over the years. It has also become a lot more expensive. It seems that the price of a garment is inversely proportional to the amount of fabric used in its construction.

Women’s undergarments, historically speaking, were, by all accounts, even worse than those of men.

Some observers have attempted to prove that global warming is real by using photos of women’s underwear. They do this by presenting a series of photos showing the evolution from the elaborate, frilly bloomers of the past, to the micro thongs of today.

One wonders if women have the same challenges with their undergarments as men do. To the casual observer, one suspects that they might have even more challenges, but this is not the sort of thing about which a gentleman asks a lady, at least not until after a long and close acquaintance.

One thing is certain. Inferior elastic is a subject that demands attention.

Perhaps one could get a government research grant to study the problem and develop a viable solution.

The future of the country may depend on it.