There are certain things in life that have been — fairly or unfairly — established as “the best.” You want a pair of rain boots? Hunter. Looking for cast iron? Lodge. But sometimes conventional wisdom is wrong, or at least not one size fits all. In our series As Good As or Better Than, we seek out the things that top — are prettier, longer-lasting, or just plain cheaper than — the historic favorites.
I’ve been fiercely loyal to one particular brand of underwear for the past ten years (you may have read that all the famous people wear it). But since they are around $30 a pop, I tend to only wear them on special occasions — so imagine my joy when I found a three-pack at Target that turned out to be 95 percent as good as my favorite briefs.
These seamless, microfiber, hipster-rise panties from Hanes (Hanes!) are perfect for wearing under leggings, skinny jeans, pencil skirts, or shorts. Once you adjust them (there is some sticking your hands down your pants to get everything where you want it), they behave just like my favorite fancy underwear: They don’t twist, curl, ride up, or show themselves to the world. And just like those $30 pairs, the razor-flat edges of these have no elastic band or bulky trim, which means they lie perfectly flat and are totally invisible underneath your clothes.
At the gym you’ll never wonder if your leggings are too see-through or if your underwear is bunching up around your bum. These are just as soft, stretchy, and weightless as my fancy $30 pairs, and actually have a slight edge over them: The gusset (also known as the crotch area) on these is a bit wider, so it stays in place and is far more comfortable when you bend and move. It’s like wearing nothing at all, only better because everything’s secure.
A few caveats: Like the Commandos, these don’t have elastic at all, which means they don’t work quite as well under full skirts — they can tend to creep down by the end of the day. Work around this by wearing them with tight-fitting garments that’ll ensure that they stay firmly in place. They also have front seams that are glued instead of sewn, so hanging them to dry (and always washing them in a mesh lingerie bag to prevent excess twisting and wringing) will make them last far longer. They’re not a total replacement for my fancy underwear, but they are a cheap option that comes pretty darn close to the real thing.
More Strat-approved underwear
The original invisible underwear Freer told us about months ago — it’s the one that celebrities wear under tight red-carpet dresses: “They are whisper thin, lie perfectly flat like a second skin, and are absolutely invisible underneath every single pair of pants I own. If you’ve ever wondered what the stars on the red carpet were wearing underneath those sheer, unforgiving gowns, the answer is almost certainly a pair of Commandos. Commando’s boy shorts are both elastic and trim-free — which means they won’t dig in, bunch up, or cause lumpy, unflattering bulges under a flattering pair of pants. They don’t ever shift around, slide, twist, or reveal themselves once you start moving and sweating.”
Kim France, the founding editor of Lucky magazine, swears by this bikini underwear: “My underwear drawer is the most boring place in the world because all I have are dozens of pairs of the same thing: On Gossamer’s Mesh Bikinis. It is so far and away the perfect underwear that I have a hard time understanding why anybody wears anything else: It’s superlight, highly breathable, and — most importantly — hugely VPL-resistant. Seriously, it’s as VPL-resistant as a thong, but without the annoyingness of a thong.”
Strategist writer Lori Keong tested the new line of Everlane underwear and loved what she discovered: “I love a good high-waisted moment because it makes your butt look like it’s starring in its own ’90s Calvin Klein commercial. These slide right up to your navel, hug but don’t squeeze your midrange, and don’t lose their shape or bunch up around your hips during the day. I could see myself loading up on these in a bunch of different colors, though white really nails that ‘Carrie Bradshaw in tighty-whities’ vibe.”
Another Strat mainstay is this pair of Natori briefs, which Dolley Frearson told us about: “For everyday underwear, I need them to feel comfortable and breathable. I also need them to appear smooth, and not pinch my skin in any place or ride up. And this is the only pair that does all of the above! They will eventually replace almost all of your underwear in your drawer.”
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