FA2L is for anyone who cares about beautiful things–clothing, shoes, accessories, home furnishings–and the interconnected tribes of those who make, sell, market and desire them. If something speaks to you, buy it now or hold your peace: there are links in each story, so the item you want is just a click away. I'd like to hear from you, too: please view my profile, use the email button and send me your comments.MG

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Understated Luxury: Birds of Sausalito's Boxers

Boxers or briefs? For some men, there's no question: boxer shorts literally define masculinity. FA2L doesn't follow such hard-and-fast rules--briefs seem right under jeans, for example, but boxers are nice for lounging around the house. Our main concern is with quality, which means comfortable fabrics, strong construction, discrete labels (if any) and no bunchy, scrunchy elastic waistbands. This makes the Birds of Sausalito custom-fit boxer (shown above), with its near-perfect score, such a great find.

Megan and Michael Papay, Birds of Sausalito's founders, offer a textbook example of matching product to demand. Megan studied costume design at the University of Virginia; worked in New York as a fashion publicist; and ran a made-to-measure company dressing the quietly rich women of Wilmington, Delaware. Michael specialized in entrepreneurship at Babson College. When a job for Michael moved the couple to Sausalito, just north of San Francisco, Megan started thinking about a new venture that would take advantage of her fashion experience and Michael's business savvy. She knew the women's clothing market was over-saturated, so she focused on menswear; and she chose to concentrate on the luxury end of the spectrum, where a good idea could allow her to dominate a niche. Underwear had already seen several decades of remarkable growth, but most new businesses were pushing briefs. Megan and Michael set their sights on luxurious boxer shorts, and launched Birds of Sausalito in 2006.

The casual consumer may ask, what can possibly make one boxer more luxurious than another? For aficionados, the answer is simple: superior fabric, sturdy-yet-elegant construction, and no elastic, anywhere. Custom shirt makers, like Charvet, are one source for perfectly-sized, finely-finished boxers, but only if money is truly no object. At the other end of the scale, Brooks Bros. still makes its tie-back version (with, as the name implies, a string that ties in back, adjusting the waist) and its Frenchback boxer (with a fabric tab and buttons performing the same function). The fabric and details are basic--not bad, not luxurious--but the fit is traditional in every sense of the word, with front pleats and a very generous cut. Comfortable? Yes. Flattering? Not always.

Birds of Sausalito's boxers are more expensive than the Brooks Bros. shorts, but the Papays have upped the luxury quotient considerably, resulting in a product that's similar to a custom-made item (using 448-count Pima cotton, single-needle construction, and mother-of-pearl buttons) at less-than-custom prices. They manage this by working with a Peruvian company that's vertically integrated, meaning it grows, processes, and weaves the cotton, then cuts, sews and finishes the boxers (as well as a new line of pajamas). There are two styles: the classic fit, which combines a smooth front with an elastic back and a generous seat gusset; and, our favorite, the custom fit. This boxer is slim and trim, with a tailored yoke and charmingly large buttons. Its only flaw (we may be in the minority here) is a small section of elastic in the center back for "ease." Boxer enthusiasts will appreciate it as underwear; guys who wear briefs will like it as lounge wear. As Megan says, "Birds of Sausalito boxers are for someone who appreciates quality. He's willing to pay a little more (when something is worth it) because he knows it will last longer." Our feelings exactly.


Photograph: Noël Sutherland www.noelsutherland.com
Grooming: Stacy Beneke for Mark Edward, Inc. www.markedwardinc.com
Model: Jake Madden at Ford Models www.fordmodels.com