Quality vs price

When it comes to certain high-end products, are you paying a premium for quality or just brand?
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03.Men's underwear

Men’s underpants run the price gamut, ranging from less than $5 all the way to $100. Some even claimed to be spun with distilled water from the Italian Alps. 

Men’s underwear designer with Diamond Cut International, Kaitlin Romei, says cheap underwear may not necessarily be a great buy. “With a very cheap pair, you’re likely to lose features including stitches per inch, and compromise on the quality of the fabric and elastic, and the fit.” But spending up big isn’t necessary either. “Once you get to the higher end of the market, it’s more of a fashion thing. You’re just paying for the brand.”

To find a good pair, Romei recommends putting undies through their paces before making a purchase. “Feel them, make sure they’re soft, give the elastic a good stretch to see if it bounces back. Look at the price point. If you buy a $5 pair of trunks you can’t expect them to perform miracles and last forever. But for $20 you should expect a reasonable quality.”


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CH1112_Worth_U_alpha_EAlpha Hipster Trunk

Price: $15 for three

Favoured by two of our testers and coming in second-best for the rest, the Alphas, which are available in Kmart, performed reasonably well overall, particularly considering their price tag. All our testers generally found the waistband, seams and leg holes comfortable, and the pouch provided good support for all but one of our testers. The fabric also received good reviews from four of our testers.

What they said 

  • “At a first glance these undies seem OK. However, an imperfect fit and my concerns about their durability means I could not recommend them.”
  • “The back piping on the leg holes rode up a little bit.” 
  • “They held their shape the best of the undies.”

CH1112_Worth_U_bonds_EBonds Hipster Trunk

Price: $18

Overall, the Bonds were the favourite undies of three of our gentlemen. However, two were less impressed, with one describing the fabric as cheap-feeling and the other as too thin.

What they said 

  • “The support is very good, especially while playing sport. Movement is unrestricted while ensuring certain parts are kept out of harm’s way.”
  • “The most comfortable overall fit. The waistband is very comfortable, although I would like it a bit thicker.”
  • “They rode up a little bit at night.”

CH1112_Worth_U_miroslav_EMiroslav Boxer Brief

Price: $59.95

The Miroslav undies promised the world: “never underestimate what’s in a pair of underpants”, their packaging implores. Using “superior elastics that hold their shape”, the undies are made of “Japanese cotton for superior comfort and sperm count”, because “Japanese cotton ensures there is no excess heat, which new scientific studies are showing is linked to a decrease in sperm production.” Though we didn’t test Miroslav’s claims, we put them to Romei and fertility experts.

Romei says Japanese cotton varies in quality and its origin is no guarantee of superiority. “There can be a difference in cotton from Japan as compared to cotton from elsewhere, but Japanese origins are no guarantee of quality. You can get some [good Japanese cottons but you can also get] cottons from Japan that aren’t good at all,” says Romei.

Fertility experts we spoke with told us they were not aware of any scientific studies that supported the claims being made, and said evidence only supported fertility benefits from loose-fitting underwear like boxer shorts.

Fertility specialist Dr Janelle McDonald says: “There is some evidence that loose underwear improves the sperm probably by allowing the scrotum to hang lower than the rest of the body. This was also tested in sheep by putting nappies on them and testing the sperm before and after. We usually recommend boxer shorts and avoidance of lycra cycling shorts… [However] a small fit underpant would not allow cooling, regardless of the fabric.”

And aside from the outlandish claims, only one tester said the Miroslavs were their favourite in our user trial. Four complained that the undies were too tight (unsurprising, considering they were much smaller than their equivalent sizes in other brands), and three complained of a particularly uncomfortable care label.

What they said

  • “They had a hand made feel to them. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.” 
  • “The stitching for the label felt like fishing wire and scratched my lower back. Though they were the same size as the other pairs, these seemed smaller.”
  • “The pouch is very small with very little give in the fabric. It was constricting and extremely uncomfortable, verging on painful, to sleep or play sport in.” 

Sizing up

Australia doesn’t have standard clothes sizes. So it came as no surprise that in small, medium and large sizes, the Alpha, Bonds and Miroslav underpants were vastly different: the expensive Miroslavs had the smallest fit of the bunch, followed by the Bonds, then the Alphas. In fact, the large Miroslavs were about four centimetres smaller around the waistband than the Bonds when laid flat, which were another centimetre smaller than the Alphas. 

In addition, the size you start out with isn’t necessarily the size you end up with. While the Miroslavs held their shape, the Bonds and the Alphas shrank after three washes following the washing instructions provided by the manufacturers. 

And while the Alphas and Miroslavs held up well after being put into the dryer on a cool, gentle cycle, the Bonds shrank and dramatically darkened in colour. While this was against manufacturer’s instructions, CHOICE believes it is not unreasonable to expect a pair of men’s undies to survive a turn in the tumble dryer. Bonds did not return our requests for comment on this issue prior to our deadline.

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