According to USA today, the average woman owns something like 21 pairs of underwear. And with today’s variety, who can blame her?
Let’s find out what’s going on under there.
From leopard to lacy, gaudy to granny, this 4.6 billion dollar industry is booming. Consumer Reports recently did a study on women’s underwear, getting over a thousand women to mention their unmentionables. They found that 47% of today’s women felt “sexier and more confident” wearing a particular pair of underwear, and another 27% said their mood could even be brought down by a bad pair of underwear. Lisa Lee Freeman, who headed up the study, concluded “We know that bad hair days can affect women’s moods, but who knew that bad underwear days could also ruin their day!”
So what’s really going on under there?
Some may have you believe that it’s chemical. “With less material blocking your body, a man has an easier time picking up on your pheromones,” says Ava Cadell, a PhD clinical sexologist on staff for Cosmopolitan. After all, she says, it works for Christina Aguilera. “Pheromones are the natural chemicals you emit below the belt that make you attractive to guys.” However, brief reader disclaimer: while his puppy-like behavior may be charming, the guy complimenting your crotch pheromones is probably not the one you want to bring home to meet the family.
Meanwhile, there’s a whole other kind of chemistry going on.
You see, for hundreds of years, there has been a war between health and fashion. And the battlefield is your underwear drawer.
A brief on the battle: It all started in the sixteenth century with the popularity of the corset, a tight fitting undergarment used to cover and shape the body. These corsets got the job done, and then some; A lot of these corsets were actually capable of doing permanent internal damage. Elaine Benson and John Esten wrote in their “Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear” that “undies—especially for women—were developed, in part, as a Victorian attempt to control and hide genitalia and physique.” Although corsets were agonizingly restrictive and painful, they remained popular for about two hundred years, changing shape to match the fashion of the time. And then, in the eighteenth century that all changed. The cotton gin was invented, allowing for mass production of cotton underwear.
Alright, ladies. If you’re wondering, yes, these were the great-great-granniest of granny panties. White cotton as far as the eye can see.
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long until we decided that the grannies had to go. By 1960’s, underwear had shrunk to the “bikini style.” Twenty years later underwear shrunk once more as Brazil introduced the “G-string.” This introduction was combined with the rise in personal fitness and tight clothing of the 1980’s, which Jill Fields, PhD author on ladies’ underwear, says had an impact on what went under those tight clothes. This is where we got the dreaded term VPL, or “visible panty-line.” The deciding battle in this war occurred in 1995, when Victoria’s Secret held its first-ever public runway show. While Fields says that underwear fashion shows had been around since the 1930’s, they were never a public ordeal. Back then, only undergarment dealers attended. But now, with the face of Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks, it just seemed wrong not to thong.
So how do you pick a side in the war of your underwear drawer? Doctors have discovered that, as it always has when it comes to women’s undergarments, sex appeal has replaced not only practicality, but also health. According to Dave David, ob-gyn who spoke with Women’s Health, a thong can be extremely detrimental to health, especially when worn during exercise. I’ll be brief, but the construction of the thong, for one, can cause tiny microtears in the skin. This makes the skin vulnerable. Secondly, the thong almost guarantees the transfer of bodily fluids from back to front. This means that wearing a thong makes you vulnerable to all kinds of infections, including urinary-tract and yeast infections, which are painful and can do permanent damage to some pretty sensitive things.
As it turns out, the healthiest option is also the one that comes in the ten-pack: our old fashioned granny panties. Why should this formidable fashion faux-pas find its way into your underwear drawer? Doctors say that cotton fabric, more than any other option available, is both moisture-wicking and breathable. For instance, while nylon is breathable, it doesn’t wick. While wool wicks, it isn’t breathable. According to gynecologists at Rutgers, excess moisture, though common in women with fashionable undergarments, is the leading factor in candida albincans, otherwise known as yeast infections, otherwise known as way worse than a VPL.
Doctors follow up by saying that if you can’t stomach the grannies, the second-best option is to salute the general and go commando, at least for exercise and sleep.
TLDR; While a bad pair of panties might ruin your mood, a bad case of infection could ruin a whole lot more. So woman up, buy a ten-pack, and make nine friends one pair of granny panties smarter.