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.