A couple are on a mission to overhaul men’s underwear, having created a new style of pants featuring a pouch that actually separates a man’s penis from his balls.
Dubbed a “palace for the phallus” by the creators of JustWears, the ventilated fabric on the underside of these pants is said to offer more space and airflow and be up to 50% more absorbent than cotton.
While there’s a focus on comfort and a reduction in sweatiness, there’s another potential benefit to the new style, in that they could help keep the testicles cool, which may be good for fertility.
Yang Liu and her husband Alex Walsh, were inspired to create JustWears, after Walsh struggled to find comfort when sitting behind his desk all day in a finance job.
“Alex often complained that his underpants would regularly bunch up or get uncomfortable after a long day at his desk,” Liu explains.
“It felt awkward to adjust the wedgie in offices. We looked around and tried to find a solution which would be both functional and comfortable.”
While researching how to make more comfortable underwear for men, a conversation with a family member, who had been trying to conceive for three years, gave the husband and wife team some inspiration for product development.
“In the past, infertility has been recognised as a women’s issue,” Liu explains. “It only became more apparent in recent years that men play an important role when trying to conceive too.”
Keeping testicles cool is one of a number of lifestyle changes recommended by the NHS that can improve your chances of becoming a dad.
“If you're planning a pregnancy, taking a few simple measures to keep your testicles cool may help,” the NHS website states.
Liu and Walsh decided to make this a focus of their design.
“Alex and I quit our jobs and started JustWears, a direct-to-consumer brand on a mission to solve men’s wellness issues by reinventing basic wears, starting with underwear,” says Liu.
“By introducing sustainable, high-tech fabrics and ergonomic designs, we help men relieve discomfort and reduce sweat.”
Read more: Do men really need special penis cleaners?
So can pants help with fertility?
The makers claim the pants allow more air to flow through the fabric, so that it dries quickly and that in turn helps to keep a man’s testicles below core body heat.
Additionally the pants have a larger front which provides more space for a man’s package than standard underwear.
If underwear is too tight, as well as causing discomfort, via chafing, it can have adverse effects on health too, caused by a rise in temperature which can lead to lower sperm counts.
According to the NHS, wearing tight underwear is thought to increase testicle temperature by up to 1°C.
Research suggests that wearing loose underwear, such as boxer shorts, while trying for a baby can help to keep testicles at a lower temperature and therefore increase sperm count.
A 2018 study of 656 men, by researchers at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, revealed boxer short wearers had a 25% higher sperm concentration than men in tight-fitting underwear.
Cooler temperatures around the testicles was sited by study authors as a potential reason.
The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, found men attending a fertility clinic with looser-fitting boxer shorts had higher sperm concentration, a 17% higher total sperm count and 33% more swimming sperm than men with tighter-fitting underwear.
Watch: No evidence to suggest COVID vaccine impacts fertility.
“If you are a man who is trying to conceive or worried about your fertility, you may have heard about the importance of wearing loose fitting underwear,” says Kate Pleace, fertility nurse at Dr Fertility.
“Whilst clinical evidence has had mixed reviews over the years, some studies suggest that men who wear boxer shorts have higher sperm concentrations and sperm counts than men who don't.”
Pleace says the advice on selecting loose fitting underwear when trying to conceive is largely based on the fact that a man’s testes are located outside the body and are meant to be at a lower temperature than the rest of the body.
“The testes need to be at a lower temperature than the rest of your body to produce healthy sperm,” she explains.
“Tighter fitting underwear may result in a higher temperature for optimal sperm production, however, more research is needed.
“The right underwear can help to keep the area cool and comfortable, preventing excess sweating or chaffing.
“It is also important not to just focus on a change of underwear, other key factors such as lifestyle, BMI, not smoking or drinking alcohol can also affect a man's fertility.”
As well as potentially being cooling, there’s also a sustainable element to the fabric used in the new style of JustWears pants.
The fibres in the pants are made from sustainable Austrian Beech Trees and produced in a non-toxic and renewable process, meaning the remaining wood leftover from manufacturing the pants is recycled to supply energy back to the factory.
The husband and wife team hope their focus on function and away from “sex appeal” in their marketing, will also help open up the discussion about male down-there health to help solve real problems men might have.
“Our ultimate goal for JustWears is that we create a world where men can feel comfortable to talk about what they are dealing with,” explains Liu.
“Whether it be excess sweat, itchiness or sperm counts, and a world where men of all shapes and sizes can feel accepted and inspired!”