Toddler underwear is bullshit

“What a cute little boy!” says an unfamiliar voice behind me in the cereal isle.  I turn to see an older woman peering into my baby carriage.

“Thank you!” I beam, “She’s actually a girl.  Not that it matters.”  The woman looks confused and gestures toward the baby, who is wearing striped pajamas.

“Oh, I’m sorry, it’s the green.  Well, she’s lovely!”  We part.

It seems like I have interactions just like this almost every time I leave the house with my baby.  I think we all have, right?  I’m not a person who gets particularly annoyed or offended by this sort of thing, but it does make me think about the strange ways in which our society imposes and enforces gender roles from the moment our biological sex is known.

One thing that has been on my mind lately is underwear.  We potty trained our oldest daughter about three months ago, and it was then when I first became aware of the weird and infuriating world of toddler undies.  I’m just going to say it: Toddler undies are bullshit.  Bull.  Shit.

So first of all, undies are apparently completely character driven.  If you are in a store like Target, there are no stripes or polka dots to be found.  Solid colors – ha!  My daughter wanted Mickey Mouse, which was fine by me.  I felt a little silly when I got home and opened the package to realize that they had the little pee hole in the front for boys (aside: they don’t actually use that hole, do they???), but my kid was happy.  And frankly, I was a little bit proud of her choice.

But I was also kind of annoyed.  My kid really likes Mickey but he was only on underwear intended for boys?  My daughter really isn’t even familiar with the female Disney characters.  And not that I’m anti-princess, but… pretty girls with long hair on our underwear??  Must we?

Anyway, as we all know, one pack of undies is not enough.  Over time, we accumulated many more.  Our acquisition of a Minnie Mouse pack was the true turning point for me, because it was the first time I got to see that, at least for this brand, there is an inexplicable difference between girls’ and boys’ undies.  Behold – same size, same brand:

Photo property of Emily Gonzalez

So the most obvious difference is the cut.  The boys’ undies are generous, full coverage.  For some reason, the girls’ ones are that “high cut” style that all women have learned to hate.  Let’s be honest, they go right up the butt, right?  I see no reason for the cut of 2-year-old’s underwear to differ by gender, except for the fact that society is already expecting them to be little men or little women instead of the practically genderless children that they are.  Let’s not forget that immediately before potty training, all kids are in unisex diapers.  I can’t imagine that their butts are really that different in size and shape by potty training age.

But we also need to address the fabric.  The boys’ undies are a soft, thick cotton.  The legs are lined with more cotton, and the waistband is a nice elastic.  The girls’ undies are so thin.  So depressingly thin, like tissue paper.  The worst part is that the legs and waist are finished with this awful lace.  The only thing worse than thin, depressing underwear in your butt is itchy, lacy stuff in your butt.  In short, the Minnie Mouse undies go to school and into my diaper bag as extras for emergencies, but we stick to Mickey and Minions during the day.

Moral of the story?  Girl stuff is inferior, and being a girl is uncomfortable.  Life lesson learned.  There you go, age two.  Boom.  Look, boys don’t exactly win here either.  God forbid a little boy doesn’t like his choices.  Can you imagine how people would react, knowing that a mom bought her son girls’ underwear?

I know some would say, “It’s just underwear,” and accuse me of overreacting.  But that’s exactly my point – it is just underwear.  This is the kind of crap (pun) we are looking at with just underwear.

So, readers, fill me in.  Are there brands out there that present better underwear options for toddler boys and girls?

32 thoughts on “Toddler underwear is bullshit

  1. I’d love to know if you finally found a brand that you felt comfortable letting your daughter wear (and she liked, too)! Mine is almost 2 and starting to potty train, I’ve spent countless hours browsing the internet and Amazon trying to find the perfect cut for her round toddler butt (HA, a rhyme). I don’t mind getting boys underwear, she doesn’t know the difference and is just happy to be a big girl. We’re using “training pants” right now, which have a fuller bottom, but come with a liner so they’re not “real” underwear. I know this is an older article, but I’m hoping you’re still responding to comments. Any help is greatly appreciated! 🙂

    1. Yes, same here! Though we are now in January of 2021. My daughter wears her brother’s hand-me-down PAW Patrol underwear…her preference. She took one look at the girl’s PAW Patrol and said, “These are not underwear, Mom!” laughed at me like I was silly for thinking they were underwear, and she will NOT wear them. She took them off at school (private daycare academy) and put on her spare pair. The teacher asked her why she did this, she said they were dirty. Well…teacher saw her do it again the next day, asked, she said they were dirty, no they were clean, so my daughter TOSSED THEM IN THE TOILET, then told the teacher that she had an accident-!!

      I think she’s onto something– I don’t give a crap about whether the little double seam is in the front…heck, it helps her figure out which side is the front…but I think she’s going to be getting to that age where the other kids see her in blue-based underwear and tease. She’s a solid leader, so maybe she’ll start a revolution-? Who knows. I just wish my kid didn’t have to be the one to do it…all because I’m not that adept at sewing, nor do I want to be-! Signed, a mom with a PhD in Cog Neural Science…who hates lacy leg-openings, too!

      1. I still want to know this answer! Mine refuses to wear underwear made for girls for all these reasons! The coverage is awful! Girls’ boxer-briefs, when you can find them, aren’t any better because they’re so thin. So, I’m off to buy size 8 of boys’ character underwear (continuing the favorites since size 2T!), hoping that that pee-hole area isn’t too bulky, because the fit around the waist and legs is just so much better. I’ve tried Primary and Hanna Anderson– the waist on HA is way to high (above the belly button) and doesn’t have that same snug elastic fit, and the holes in the legs of Primary don’t have that same snug feeling (and they don’t have boys’ cut briefs without the leg-hole). Why is this so difficult for clothing designers, especially Primary and HA, to understand: make underwear that’s identical to “boys'” underwear without the pee-hole other extra material in the front.

    2. My daughter refuses to wear girl underwear because and I quote: it shoves up her butt! She has gone just over a year not wearing underwear at all cause it wasn’t worth the fight for me. Last week she wanted to know why she couldn’t wear underwear like daddies. So I went the the store to buy boxer briefs, not the stupid boy shorts made for girls that have a short leg and ride up because that’s just more fabric to “shove up my butt”, but REAL boxer briefs with a long leg. I was shocked to discover that boys boxer briefs come with a significant pocket of fabric in the front and/or an opening for peeing. Do toddler boys have enough junk upfront to garner this much fabric? I found two pairs of shorts with no extra room pocket. I brought them home and she was in love. I went back to the store to retrieve more pairs and thought it was another success, but discovered when I got home that there was a penis pocket in the front. She complained slightly and I told her I would take them to the sewing machine to remove the pocket so they were appropriate for her comfort. She is now asking me to purchase them in pink. As a fellow mom you know this will be impossible. I agree with your statement that toddler underwear is bullshit and even though I have no experience manufacturing clothing, I can see myself doing some investigation in order to make my daughter happy.

  2. Gap, old navy and carters have been better than Hanes. I’ve also found some good ones on Amazon, simple search of toddler underwear you can peruse patterns and reviews with all the same caveats you’ve mentioned. Yes, it’s been a big problem (probably for awhile) but we’re all new to the party (I have a 4yo so I’m only 1-2yrs in navigating this minefield!) Good Luck!

  3. This is exactly what drove me to sew my own underwear for my child. She gets nasty rashes if any of that lacy elastic touches her skin. Thankfully because of it, I’ve around this issue catering to parents of kids and adults alike that feel the same. The underwear I make has no annoying elastic, but instead has a soft fabric band. Made completely from cotton/lycra (spandex) and 100% customizable with any print for either gender with options (panty, boxer, boys brief with or without fly). I’ve had total success training my daughter by using mommy and me matching pairs so she can see how I am a “big girl.” and maybe some treats thrown in too. I am the owner and sold sewist at and all my available fabrics can be found at Thank you for bringing light to this issue and hopefully with awareness, we can save one tush at a time. ;P

  4. I totally agree! Try Joe Fresh at the Superstore. Boy cut style (reinforces your point!) in polka dots, stripes and plain colours, with soft cotton elastic edges. My daughter has loved them for 6 years!

  5. Hands down Hanna Anderson! Best kids underwear. My daughter refuses to wear anything else. They have lasted the longest and have the best cut. They are long waisted but my daughter loves that. The material is the best I have found.

  6. Hi Emily! I’ve had all my bestest friends and customers send me the HuffPost article. I’m the owner of Girl Gotch – we make underwear for girls that actually stays put 🙂 Originally designed after boys traditional boxers and briefs – we’ve made them for girls – designed to keep them covered, comfortable and cute. We are just launching our new line Bloom – an upgraded, more gender neutral underwear. Here’s our recent video 🙂 Please let me know if I can send your daughter a pair 🙂

  7. I also vote for Hanna Andersson. They are awesome – substantial, no characters, complete coverage – you can get boyshort cut even if you *really* want coverage, even organic varieties. They are pricey but are nice enough to hand-down.

  8. I know I’m coming to the comments late but I just recently found the Cat and Jack brand of undies at Target. My daughter likes them. No characters just colors and prints. No lace and a thicker material than the Hanes. Also they come in different styles like boy- shorts, hipster briefs and regular briefs. No more wedgies, no more lace lines on my daughter’s legs.

  9. As a mom of only boys (who happen to love the character undies), I never really put much thought into underwear. This is really eye-opening. I had no idea of the difference in quality! I can almost FEEL those itchy little lace edging. Yuck!!

  10. Yes, yes. I hate that kids clothes are SO gender-specific. It makes me nuts! And sidenote– WHAT boys are using the fly on TODDLER underpants? That always made me confused. Never heard of it being used by kids ever!

    1. Do grown men even use it? I never understood that whole design. It doesn’t seem very efficient to me!

    2. My child does but hes a skinny 5 year old. Hes also delayed and only started going potty a few weeks ago so we skipped the padded ones. But he loves to be a “big boy” and go potty like his grandpa. For a true toddler i would certainly keep them sitting lol. Maybe its there for older kids who still wear toddler stuff?

  11. The issue with quality of boys’ versus girls’ clothes goes well into adulthood, as well. My husband and I buy many of the same clothing brands (J. Crew, Lands’ End, Patagonia, etc.) and the men’s items are MUCH better made and last far longer. They also wash better, stretch out and shrink less, and hold their shape and color much better than the women’s items. I replace clothing more regularly than my husband, not because I am some kind of a clotheshorse, but because basic items like jeans, socks, and sweaters just wear out more quickly for me.

    1. Unfortunately that has a lot to do with the stats on how woman shop. And unfortunately a larger percent of women are willing to purchase uncomfortable products at a higher cost because of things like trends, convenience or social conformity. Men are statistically more brand loyal and shop less often. So if a brand used cheep material, resulting in a guy having to shop more often for underwear, then I’m assuming they would likely want to switch brands moving their loyalty to another company. Since women are noted statistically for being the primary decision maker for most household items, these trends probably transfer to toddler underwear. Even if it’s subconsciously. Thanks for the post and the comments. I’m tucking this in my back pocket for when we’ll need to pick up toddler clothes.

  12. When my girls were toddlers, we bought a lot of Boden and Hanna Andersson undies. My older daughter wouldn’t be caught dead in anything that had pink (or princesses) on it–and these often met her color/pattern requests. Also, the material for both was thicker and softer–much better than hanes or any of the more commonly found brands. Now I’ve got tweens and they’re tending toward the boyshorts (gap has some good ones, with slightly thicker material, but they shrink a fair amount in the wash–or so my daughter told me this weekend. . .)

  13. I’ve only bought boy underwear, but our favorites have always been from Hanna Andersson. Best quality cotton, comfortable waistband, solids/stripes available, though I don’t know how the boy vs. girl styles compare.

  14. Check Carter’s too! I’ve never bought, or paid attention to, girls underwear there, but they have generic designs for boys (solid, strips, dogs, etc). I find them to be softer than the character ones also. I stopped buying those after a pack or two in the potty training phase for comfort alone!

  15. I boy exclusively boy undies for my daughter (3) because of how terrible the choices are. I love the Old Navy boys briefs and boxer briefs for her and they are nowhere near as gender conforming. Most recently they had a 7 pack and there was a different profession for each day- some silly and some serious things for any kid: doctor, astronaut, firefighter, superhero, pirate. The days of the week ones had a different wild animal on them, and just bright colors for both sets (including some teal and periwinkle tones!). The girl packs are all pinks, and nothing cool about them. Flowers, birds, ballerinas- even the days of the week are written in flowers! Cut is completely different- they are bikini style, because of course potty training girls need all the practice they can get! Back when my boys were training, they had great Yo Gabba Gabba ones at Target, but that has run its course. Had to get some never-fair Star Wars ones for her (of course, boy fit) because the choices were nauseating. The saddest part is that people make bullshit underwear because so many people BUY BULLSHIT UNDERWEAR! (BTW- I live and work in Northampton! Small world…)

  16. Glad to read the comments! We bought Hanes underwear from Target, but my girl complains because the underwear rides up her up butt so she’s frequently pulling at it. Was trying to figure out what brand to try next.

  17. I HATE the character underwear. I never noticed the cut difference (I never bought boy underwear), but I’m not surprised. But, to address the comfort factor, Crazy 8 and Gymboree both sell much high quality (thicker cotton) undies for girls AND they have solid! stripes! polka dots! 🙂

  18. Emily – my son is allergic to whatever is in the waistband of those undies (rubber? Latex?). Anyhow, we buy undies from H&M because they have covered waistband that does not irritate A’s waist. The girls’ underwear is equally soft, and the boys’ version is pretty much just as boring as the girls’. My son complains because it doesn’t have cute prints on it like the ones you get at Wal-Mart! You still have the difference in cut though; although I kind of always attributed that to the fact that the boys have a bundle in their pants, and girls do not.

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