I’ve always had a lot of underwear — but it hasn’t always been good underwear. Since I started buying it for myself around the age of 16, I’ve firmly been in the camp of people who choose to buy another round of 5-for-$25 Aerie underwear rather than do laundry more frequently. I’m also a notorious bargain-hunter — I still wear pairs from the dollar-store pack I bought in 2012 when I ran out of underwear while working as a camp counselor. As far as my underwear went, I was definitely of the opinion that quantity mattered more than quality. That all changed a few years ago, though, when I found myself drawn to a pair of $18 boxer briefs. I saw them at Wildfang’s Portland, OR store, but I didn’t buy them. I held them in my hands, running my fingers over the thick waistband, and then put them back, shaking my head at the price. But, back in my New York apartment, I couldn’t get those briefs out of my head. I found them online and bookmarked them for one day. Two weeks and a bonus from work later, they showed up at my doorstep, and kind of changed everything — or, at least, my underwear drawer.
For too long, I’d worn what I consider default underwear: the forever-in-style bikini-cut. But as a curvy person, that type of underwear, which barely covers my butt, makes me look and feel intensely and uncomfortably feminine. So discovering boxer briefs made for AFAB bodies was revolutionary. I could pull on a pair of underwear and see myself in the androgynous silhouette I longed for. Even more exciting was the ability to hide or show this part of me at will. In those early days of my queerness and gender expression exploration, I continued to dress how the world expected me to dress; how I had always dressed. I wore dresses and heels, push-up bras and low-cut tops, I shaved my legs and had the same long blonde hair I’d had my whole life. But underneath the skirts and tights and deep v-necks, was my little secret — boxer briefs.
Fast forward a few years and I’m now what you might call a boxer brief connoisseur. Though many companies have since jumped on the bandwagon (including Woxer, one of my faves when it comes to fit), TomboyX put boxer briefs for AFAB bodies on the map. Owning a pair of TomboyX boy shorts feels like owning a piece of queer history. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but before they burst onto the underwear scene, boxer briefs only existed in either frilly pink patterns or the men’s section, where they came with extra room, a fly, and a terrible fit for those of us with hips and butts. TomboyX also added to the queer community in an unexpected way — they created a queer bat signal. In the same way Wildfang did with its iconic T-shirts, now when I walk into a room and spot a TomboyX band, I know I’m not alone. That waistband tells me, “Hey, I see you, I got you, you’re safe here.”
My other favorite innovator in the boxer brief space is period product company, Aisle. Though I myself do not experience dysphoria around my period, these boxers are made for those who have periods — regardless of their gender. I got my first pair of Aisle boxer briefs in 2016 back when period underwear was primarily made out of swimsuit-like material and was designed to be as small as possible. But these were different. They fit around my bits and curves and made me feel powerful and sexy at the height of a painful period. I loved them so much, I started wearing them even when I wasn’t on my period. They were like a secret I had with myself: My underwear wasn’t just purely utilitarian; it protected me, and encouraged me to be more myself, even in those moments I felt most uncomfortable.
I still remember the first time I wore boxer briefs to a fancy event. It was a religious wedding and I had a meltdown trying to figure out what to wear. I knew I had to be relatively covered and I knew I was expected to wear something with a skirt. I was still a year away from giving away every dress in my closet and discovering jumpsuits, so I pulled one of my last remaining fancy dresses from the back of my closet and wept. When I put it on, it felt wrong. It felt like an old version of me that somebody else had created. And then, while looking for a pair of socks, my fingers ran over the thick waistband of those Wildfang boxer briefs and I remembered my secret weapon. I pulled them on, switched my push-up bra for a Calvin Klein bralette, and looked in the mirror. On the outside, I looked like the girl the world expected me to be, but underneath the shiny facade, closest to my skin, was my true self. I danced harder that night than I had ever danced before.
Maybe it seems superficial to invest so much power into a single pair of underwear, but perhaps the lack of seriousness is the point. When I look in the mirror now, I see a version of myself that is comfortable in the way that I dress and move through the world, that doesn’t take the business of being me too earnestly, a version of myself that knows how to have fun. I also know that the dress-wearing version of me needed something to look forward to — she needed hope that there would be an iteration of Hannah Rimm who would wear only what she loves, but would also write stories about boxer briefs and jumpsuits and gender expression. Past me needed to hide boxer briefs under a dress so that current me could feel perfectly androgynous in a blazer and lipstick. Past me owned a lot of underwear because it was easier than admitting that not a single pair felt like me. Today, I can open my underwear drawer with a smile — a sea of thick waistbands beaming back at me.
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