Made In The USA, Affordably: Union House Underwear

Assembling the complete American-made work-from-home outfit at reasonable cost isn’t that tough: there are at least three legitimate choices each for T-shirt, pants, belt, socks, sweatshirt. Until, that is, you get down to the underwear. There are a few sources for USA-made boxers, but those of us who feel that our life might include a bicycle at any randomly chosen moment are probably better off with briefs, and those are in shorter supply. They’re also expensive when you can find them. Flint&Tinder will periodically do a run of USA-made briefs at Huckberry for about thirty bucks a pop. Ramblers Way has some very nice options at sixty-five dollars each. Why your humble author can justify an eight thousand dollar sportcoat, while blanching at $65 underwear, is a matter best left to qualified mental health professionals.

No matter. There’s a cheaper alternative, and I can report that it’s also a very well-made alternative.

The boxer briefs from Union House are a drop-in replacement for the Hanes boxer briefs I’ve been wearing since time immemorial. This is good news because I’ve had to watch said Hanes products get progressively worse over time. For me, the wear spots on these are over the quadricep/hip flexor area, which is where they come into conflict with my shorts or jeans when riding skateparks and whatnot. Fifteen years ago, I could expect perhaps a hundred wearings before they became threadbare — now it’s 25, tops. During that time, their place of origin went to Mexico, then Central America, then Bangladesh, then Pakistan, edging ever closer to the inevitable day when Hanes boxer briefs will be sewn in the mountain redoubts of the Taliban, at which point the shareholders of Hanes will have to hire a private air force to defend those underwear assembly plants from US attack in a scene right out of a Sprawl-era William Gibson novel.

Make no mistake, there’s nothing particularly improbable about this. The average corporate board of 2020 will pay any price and bear any burden to avoid returning to US soil for manufacturing. It’s not about the cost, although that’s often why the manufacturing left in the first place. It’s political and ideological. Giving work to blue-collar Americans is seen as aid-and-comfort to the enemy; they’re in the other tribe. There’s one permissible exception, and that is to set up a quasi-sweatshop in Southern California, as practiced by American Apparel, (and the new effort of AA’s disgraced founder, Los Angeles Apparel) Betabrand, and a few others. The wink-and-nod there is that the factories almost exclusively employ undocumented workers and/or recent Mexican immigrants — that’s not an assumption on my part, I spent two days in the immediate vicinity of American Apparel’s main shop a few years ago for a BMW i8 photo shoot, observing the shifts enter and leave. That allows the California crowd to buy their products safe and secure in the knowledge that none of the profits are being used for hunting or Trump boat parades or the unironic contemplation of the King James Bible.

The Union House boxers, by contrast, are made in rural Minnesota, under a union contract. They’re about twelve dollars apiece. The Hanes equivalent run about six dollars each, so while it’s a 100% price difference it’s also just six dollars. Sizing is about equivalent to Hanes, and it’s “vanity sizing” about on par with what you’d get from a pair of Lucky Jeans, which is to say you should probably go 2-4 inches down from your waist size depending on how snugly you want them to fit.

My impressions after 30 days of wear are very positive. They are clearly better-made of thicker fabric than the Pakistan Hanes, they are less prone to shrinking, and they were also remarkably consistent as to actual size across the five-pack. In case you’re wondering, that’s not necessarily the case with overseas-sourced underwear, which will often come out of the bag in obviously different sizes.

I anticipate that I will buy more five-packs with the idea of taking my old Hanes out of rotation sooner rather than later. There’s not much more to be said. If you buy these, I doubt you will be disappointed.

13 Replies to “Made In The USA, Affordably: Union House Underwear”

  1. AvatarBlack SAABath

    An article on which Made in the USA brands stand above the rest in terms of how their products are manufactured would be enlightening (or perhaps some helpful comments from the peanut gallery). As a big American Giant fan I hope they make the cut.

    Is this ‘quasi-sweatshop’ issue confined to clothing? I have always heard the joke about US made vs Mexican made Fender guitars – same employees just a few hours north or south depending on the origin label.

    I have plenty of Surefires, Benchmades, Supro amps etc but always looking to cast a broader net especially for everyday items.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Great idea — I’ll get on that.

      If you want a great American amp, find one of Paul Cochrane’s Heritage amps from 10 years ago…

      Reply
  2. AvatarGuns and Coffee

    Same as the above. The quandary stated in your review is exactly as I discovered. I’m in, especially since were not talking USA made Shop Stool money.

    Thanks,

    Reply
  3. AvatarJMcG

    I think I’ve posted this before, but Tyndale FRC makes jeans here in the US. They are supplied to us where I work and they are Fire retardant, but they are indistinguishable to me from regular jeans. They are 69.00/ pair.
    I have no affiliation with them other than being a satisfied customer.
    On a side note, I’m taking delivery of a new Mustang GT and was disgusted to see that the Getrag six speed is sourced in China.

    Reply
    • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

      Way back when there were still physical bookstores I went into one and tried to find a single children’s book that was printed somewhere other than China (spoiler alert, I did not). It was particularly striking because it was roughly the same time as California tried to ban kid’s motorcycles because the batteries have lead in them. I guess the powers that be in California thought that a kid might try to eat the battery but it never occurred to them to be skeptical of what the Chinese government said was in the ink of “Goodnight Moon.”

      Reply
  4. AvatarBurgersandbeer

    100% cotton might be enough to qualify something as fire retardant.

    Tyndale has jeans treated with tick and insect repellent! Not sure if I would count on that, but it’s a cool idea.

    Reply
    • AvatarNordicGoats

      It is not. My father had to acquire a fire retardant work wardrobe several years ago for use in electric transmission facilities. The fire retardant rated jeans are a heavier weight denim than your OTR jeans and more in line with what FBI uses for ammunition testing. The cotton clothing appears to use a higher quality thread and is woven tighter so as to prevent stray fibers. The “fuzz” that develops on low-quality lightly worn cotton fabric is highly flammable. All cotton will burn, but the idea is to make it harder to ignite initially. Dense thread tightly woven is pretty hard to ignite without prolonged exposure to flame source.

      Reply
  5. AvatarEric L.

    Hmmm, it’s certainly better than $65 underwear, but wake me up when there’s a pair of US stitched modal boxer briefs. Jockey has a fly-less, modal boxer brief that’s simply outstanding, for ~$18 / pair. It seems to come and go from their website, but I was able to pick up some replenishments from one of their outlets. I carefully scrutinized the outlet copy against the jockey dot com copies and could tell no difference. The fly-less design makes for the most comfortable underwear I’ve ever worn. I threw out all my old 100% cotton Haneses two years ago–and never looked back.

    Pre-post edit: Ah, they call it “Supersoft Modal Boxer Brief” and it’s on the site, albeit hidden from their own product search.

    Reply
  6. Avatarhank chinaski

    I will bookmark this for future purchases, undergarments and otherwise. The Hawaiian shirts are tempting. There are some decent deals on their closeout page.

    On the upside, I hear tell that Taliban sourced briefs, when wrung out, will yield a gram of high quality vitamin H.

    Reply
  7. AvatarScottS

    I appreciate the timely post! I will definitely order some of these briefs today.

    Speaking of American Made products, I made a road trip through rural PA and Western NY today. The route took me through Bradford, PA where Zippo lighters have been made since 1932. You don’t have to be a smoker to need a Zippo. Interestingly, on the entire route I counted exactly 6 Biden campaign signs and one Biden billboard. Yes, I could count them all, while the Trump signs numbered in the hundreds, maybe thousands. It seems the folks in these rural communities left behind by the Gig Economy aren’t the least bit bashful about declaring their support for Donald Trump while in wealthy Northern VA we wouldn’t dare to do so for fear of retribution. Something to think about.

    Reply
  8. Avatarsilentsod

    I have sets of boxer briefs wearing out right now and I’m been tossing them.

    These look like a great alternative; thanks for finding them!

    Reply

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