A random piece of TMI you should know about me: I have been wearing the same underwear since 1991. No, not the same pairs, but the same style — a very basic black cotton string bikini from Jockey. They’re practical but a little flirty, functional and easy to order in bulk. They have been on my butt since I was in high school, and mostly I just don’t really think about them at all. But after two decades, I’ve finally changed teams. I’ve got new underwear, inspired by literature and mildew. Lemme explain…
This summer I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, about a Nigerian woman adapting to (and eventually rejecting) American culture. In it, the protagonist shares the tiniest detail about (of all things) how she washes her underwear:
Back home, she would wash her underwear every night and hang it in a discreet corner of the bathroom. Now that she piled them up in a basket and threw them into the washing machine on Friday evenings, she had come to see this, the heaping of dirty underwear, as normal.
I have no idea why this quote stuck with me, but somehow it did. I never really thought about it, but it IS sort of gross that I build this pile of crusted dirty underwear that just sits in the corner of the room where I sleep…
Then, a month later, I had an unfortunate incident with a load of my cotton underwear getting left in the machine for a few too many hours. Despite rewashing the load in hot water a couple times, I could not get the musty smell out of the underwear. And you know what you don’t want your most intimate apparel smelling like? Mildew. No one wants their vag-related clothing smelling like old musty gunk. It’s just not good synesthesia, you know?
These two things (random quotation from a book + mildewy underwear) combined to set a course for a life-changing event: I finally stopped wearing the same style of underwear. I made the change. And what did I change to? Merino wool underwear from Icebreaker.
Merino wool is a mysterious and magical thing. It doesn’t feel at all like wool, and almost more feels like raw silk. It’s soft, lightweight, breathable. It doesn’t get clammy (which is a good thing with underwear). It doesn’t itch and seems to never smell (also a good thing with underwear). Unfortunately, it’s also stupid expensive, and requires super delicate care and feeding.
[Editor’s note: readers have expressed concerns about how the sheep are treated in the production of merino wool. Icebreaker is super up-front about how they avoid animal cruelty. Read up if this is an issue that’s important to you!]
I justified the investment cost by purchasing the overpriced underwear as a travel item: I was going to be traveling for two weeks, and was trying to pack super light. I didn’t want to deal with lugging around my pile of dirty underwear while abroad, so I purchased two pairs of merino underwear, and resolved to wash them each night. I wasn’t sure how well it would work out (even my friends who travel light were like, “You’re bringing two pairs of underwear for 18 days of travel? Seriously?”), but it ended up being sort of awesome… so awesome that I’m making the change permanently.
So now, this is me: my only underwear are two pairs of merino wool skivvies. (Those two pairs cost me as much as my last 10 pairs of Jockey cotton underwear.) Each night, I carefully hand-wash the pair I’ve been wearing and, yes, hang them discreetly in the bathroom. It’s weird, but hand-washing my skivvies has become a really nice evening ritual, almost a form of self-care. For me, the ridiculous price of merino underwear feels worth it — they’re eco-friendly, super comfy, and (I’m hoping) uber-durable. I don’t know that I’ll be able to afford more than a couple pairs, but wow: I’m a convert.
PS: I feel the need to make it super clear that this post is NOT a sponsored, NOR is it an affiliate post. (Note the lack of sponsored/affiliate disclaimer at the top of the post.) I get nothing if you buy stuff featured in this post (which is too bad, because it’s expensive and I’d love to be making a cut!)… but I just really, REALLY like merino undies.