The Great Underwear Debate: What Do You Wear Down There?

The Great Underwear Debate: What Do You Wear Down There?

Seriously, nothing has sparked a more raucous and spirited discussion among my barn mates than this topic: what the hell kind of underwear do you wear to ride? It wasn’t until recently that I even gave it any thought at all, although I guess I did experience the occasional wedgie or need to awkwardly readjust during a lesson. I just wore the same underwear I wore to workout and assumed that was cool. I mean, are there that many choices? Apparently, the answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’, and parties are more divided in the great underwear debate than in politics. This whole panty line thing is kind of a big deal (or so I am told, which also means I’m pretty sure I’m a repeat offender). I had one friend tell me she wouldn’t be caught dead with a panty line! Who knew? I for one really didn’t. I just didn’t. I wish someone would have told me sooner because now I feel funny. I feel like the girl who walked around with spinach in her teeth all day long and no one did her the solid of telling her. You know, a friendly, “Hey you’ve got a little something in your teeth,” or in this case, “Hey we can all see your underwear from a mile away,” would have been nice. But that’s only part of the puzzle. This rabbit hole goes deep.

Needless to say, I was horrified to learn that people actually do pay attention to what you’ve got on under your breeches. And not just fellow riders, but judges. According to two USEF ‘R’ judges I spoke to, who preferred not to be named because - you know, it’s an article about panties - this fashion faux pas is on par with having your hair hanging out the back of your helmet. It is apparently far worse than a more minor infraction, of say, wearing a four-button coat in the hunter ring (which I am told is becoming on-trend, so maybe there’s hope for us granny panty lovers out there). The most horrifying part? This one will actually get written down on the judge’s card as DPL: Definite Panty Line, a nice play off the old acronym of VPL, for ‘visible panty line’. Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s not quite the kind of thing I want to get noticed for in the show ring. I can just picture it in the judge’s booth, “Wow did you see that horse’s knees snap up to his nose over that last oxer?” the other judge replies, “No I was too distracted by the hideous panty line on that rider.” Great.

Photo by Thomas Reiner

Now that I’ve been properly educated on the serious offense that is the DPL, what to do about it? Up till now, I’ve been a brief girl. No, I’m not wearing full-on granny panty briefs, just something with some nice coverage. In addition to what you can see, there’s also the important matter of how things feel down there. I favor the bigger britches because they don’t give one that dreaded front wedgie that often happens from contact with the saddle and forces you to hide in a corner and, ahem, address the issue. So, in the wake of all my panty realizations, I decided to investigate my options and take a very informal poll of my riding pals’ personal preferences to gain some perspective on each selection's pluses and minuses. I had no idea until this moment that people were so passionate about underpants. Everyone was really committed to their own particular style and had some pretty strong opinions on the choices of others. This made for some pretty hilarious yet enlightening group texts with only a little bit of shade thrown.

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In my attempt the rectify my own panty problems, I will share the results of my super scientific research with you. We’ll run through the list moving from more coverage to well… less. And let me tell you, you’re going to want to stay with me to the end, as that was where things got really interesting. I think you know where I’m going with this (here’s a hint: It rhymes with Orlando).

The Brief

Oh, my beloved brief. As I said, I like me some coverage, and I really do think that can be accomplished without crossing into granny panty land. The big (no pun intended) benefit is that they don’t ride up. And we all know what I’m talking about here. This isn’t the bold canter to the next fence ride up, this is, for lack of a better term, a wedgie. And like, a front wedgie. Not cool. Honestly, being wedgie free was my main motive for selecting this style, but apparently when it came to selecting the actual product, I chose poorly. But I hear there are some brands of briefs that promise not to give you a panty line while still protecting your goods. Take, for example, the aptly named ‘No Panty Line Promise Brief’ by Jockey. I’m willing to give this one a try but I have some pretty adamant neigh-sayers who claim there is just no such thing as a brief with no panty line. We’ll see about that.

The Boy Short

Somehow this one garnered less ire than the brief, but aren’t they essentially the same thing? If you’re going for the boy short, coverage is obviously what you’re after. The boy short is just a slightly different configuration. I personally think this is just a trendy way to accomplish the same objective as a brief without running the risk of being accused of wearing granny panties. Advocates for this style say the longer leg is what makes them not have a line and if you find the right ones, they don’t ride up.

Hanky Panky Signature Lace Boyshort, $32. Photo courtesy of Hanky Panky

The Bikini

This one has got to be the trickiest of them all. I really don’t know how you hide it under your breeches. I had one lone voice in the wilderness claiming to love this style. She swears if you get the sports variety with the raw cut edge, meaning no seam, they don’t cause the dreaded line. I find this surprising and I really would like to know how they stay put. The bikini to me seems like underpants no man’s land - too little material to provide any meaningful coverage and too much to not show up.

The Thong

From here on in is where it starts to get dicey for me, and for this style in particular because well, it goes on in if you catch my meaning. We are way past the wedgie here and are squarely in what I consider a serious no-go area. Even so, I decided to give this style a go during a recent lesson, and I’m telling you I just can’t do it. While I’ll admit, I didn’t notice it while I was riding, the second my feet hit the ground, it felt like that thing was going to have to be surgically removed. We are talking atomic wedgie here. So it’s a solid no for me. Still, this style was easily the second favorite among my little focus group, which totally weirds me out. The selling point here is that there is no panty line while still providing coverage in the most, let’s call it, “essential,” area. The brand that seems to be the favorite among those who enjoy butt floss is the Hanky Panky thong.

Hanky Panky Signature Lace Thong, $22. Photo courtesy of Hanky Panky

And finally… Commando

If the thong was where it got dicey for me, then this is where it went off the rails, and I wasn’t alone. This was the one that really got people going on both sides. The name commando seemed especially appropriate, as those who were all for it, were practically militant in their support. This is the “I wouldn’t be caught dead with a panty line" set. In my mind this is the equestrian world’s equivalent to the women who will suffer in some fabulous four inch heels until they are begging for the sweet release of death by the end of the night. Apparently, they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of fashion. As one of the outspoken opponents of this approach put it, “What, are these women’s lady bits made of leather?” The obvious question here is what about the chafing? Those seams in the crotch of breeches don’t seem too comfy, especially for such a delicate area. Add the friction that comes from straddling a horse and smushing said area against a saddle and wouldn’t that just hurt? Again, the supporters say no, and they seem to really mean it. They claim there really is no chafing, a fact the detractors were simply unwilling to accept, as one put it “It’s just wrong.”

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So it seems the great underwear debate will rage on. I for one am willing to experiment with a few of the recommended brands and styles but will not be going sans underpants in the saddle anytime soon. I just can’t. I am, however, firmly committed to eliminating my DPL / VPL but I absolutely still require a layer fabric down there in some capacity.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you a Granny or a Commando, or are you somewhere “in between?”

Feature photo by Thomas Reiner

Written by Emilie Gaffney

Emilie is an amateur rider and freelance writer who just recently made the move from California to the Midwest with her husband (and more importantly her Pug and Mini Dachshund). You can catch her and her big dapple grey hunter competing in the Adult Amateurs. Her long-term goals are to ride in a National Hunter Derby and for love of all things holy to stop taking the long spot.