A Men's Underwear Brand Comparison: Bonds vs Calvin Klein vs Step One

September 25, 2018

The fashion industry is full of signature pieces, or items that completely changed how the world viewed style.

Many brands are renowned for making a certain item, like Burberry and their iconic trench coat or Louboutin with their striking red soles. It’s these brands that have defined what we wear and how we wear it for decades.

However, it isn’t just the clothing we have on full show that has significant meaning, it can also be our underwear. As with any garment, you can easily buy cheap underwear, so why is it that people still keep going back to brands like Step One, Bonds and Calvin Klein?

The answer is simple, the premium quality offers added comfort, and for many people, branded underwear is another way to express themselves. When you are looking to buy a pair of premium underwear, it can be difficult to choose which brand to go for, unless you have a particular personal preference.

So how do you choose?

Keep reading for comparisons between the top brands in the luxury men’s underwear market: Calvin Klein, Bonds and Step One.

 

Calvin Klein

Arguably one of the most well known brands in the underwear industry is Calvin Klein; it’s almost impossible to flick through a magazine or scroll the internet without coming across some form of advertisement for the brand.

In recent years many celebrities have been promoting the brand through the ‘My Calvin’s’ campaign. However, the company hasn’t always been known for their now signature branded waistband underwear. Interestingly, Calvin Klein shot to success in the fashion industry in 1968 not through underwear, but through coats.

The New York department store Bonwit Teller was the first to purchase and sell Klein’s designs with many other department stores quickly following suit. As more people began to recognise the name, the brand expanded into ready to wear items, that offered a sporty feel; this was also one of the first times a high end brand came at a slightly more affordable luxury price. The fact that these items were high quality, fashionable and at an attainable price lead to huge success for the brand, which in turn inspired their first licensing deal to make jeans in 1977.

It was these campaigns in 1977 that began the brand’s ongoing sex sells ideology. Clearly the provocative promotion method worked, because it was what really put the brand on the map, as it continues to do so today. The simple, yet sexy black and white images of beautiful models is recognisable by almost anyone; it could be suggested that this clever branding technique is what has kept the company at the height of fashion for many years.

It wasn’t until 1982 that Calvin Klein branched out into underwear, this began with men’s underwear and was first sold in Bloomingdales. It was this underwear that really put the brand on the map with $65,000 worth of Calvin Klein’s briefs being sold in the first two weeks, with the first year’s sales forecast was predicted at about $4 million.

Due to this extraordinary success, women’s underwear was added to the line. At this stage the women’s underwear designs were almost identical to the men’s, even including the fly front opening. After this launch 80,000 pairs were sold in just 90 days. From this point onwards, the brand went from strength to strength, releasing a fragrance and continuing to design both clothing and underwear.

With the simplistic, yet comfortable designs and recognisable, sexy branding and ad campaigns, it’s no surprise that Calvin Klein is one of the most well known underwear brand’s in the fashion industry today. 

 

Bonds 

If you were to ask any Australian to name an Aussie underwear brand, the answer would undoubtedly be Bonds underwear.

This iconic company is a clear success story in the Australian fashion industry; these days there are plenty of well known, accomplished Australian fashion brands, but back when Bonds started?

Not so much.

It may come as a surprise that the company has been around for much longer than you may have first thought. Bonds first formed in 1915 when it’s founder George Allan Bond migrated to Australia with a vision to import women’s hosiery.

The market for the product was so great, that by 1917 Bond decided to begin manufacturing his own designs rather than just importing and selling.  The manufacturing process created a need for the company to own a factory, it was in the same year that their Redfern (Sydney) location was opened.

Bonds were determined not to lose momentum and moved again in 1918 to Mallett Street, Camperdown in Sydney. This was a pivotal moment for the company, as this was when they began designing and making underwear. The Bonds that all Australians know today really began with their first dabble in underwear manufacturing.

Up until this point Bonds were primarily focused on items for women, however, in 1920 the first singlet for men was released, today we know this piece as the iconic Chesty. This basic singlet became a must have for many men in the 20’s, and as a result put Bonds on the map as a brand that catered for both men and women.

One of the company’s greatest achievements came about in 1932, when George Allan Bond created the first cotton spinning mill in Australia. This was not only an enormous triumph for a business that began in the importing industry, but also a huge step for Australia’s industrial development. Growing and milling cotton allowed the company to be self sufficient and not have to rely on suppliers for their fabric.

On top of this, Bonds were also able to ensure their fabric was of high quality, ensuring it was soft and comfortable for the wearer; it is potentially this quality control that has kept the brand around for so many years.

From 1932, Bonds went from strength to strength, making different products for men, women and children, including the first baby suit in 1962. In 1964 the company became an official Olympic sponsor, which helped them become an international brand rather than just an Australian known brand.

With the growth of the entertainment industry came the iconic ‘It’s Gotta Be Bonds’ campaign which drew in new customers and reinforced the brand’s image. Throughout the years Bonds has introduced new items as well as revamping old favorites.

The comfortable, sporty and simple items have withstood the test of time and it doesn’t appear like Bonds will be disappearing from the Australian or international market anytime soon.

 

 Step One

Compared to Bonds and Calvin Klein, Step One is a relatively new brand to the underwear market and is the only one of the three brands that began with the intent of making men’s underwear.

Step One was founded in 2016 by brothers Tim and Greg Taylor, and although Step One was their first venture in the fashion industry, Tim and Greg have worked together over the past ten years on projects such as eCoffeeCard and Clipp.

After noticing major flaws in the men’s underwear market, they realised that a change had to be made, through this thought process Step One was born. One issue Step One founders discovered was that unlike most items of clothing, men’s underwear was not evolving or changing, despite the discovery of new fabrics.

Many of the styles available were the same standard boxers, trunks or briefs that have been around for decades. However, on holiday in New Zealand a simple conversation about the struggles of finding good, comfortable underwear uncovered even more problems with the current products on the market.

Despite no major changes being made, small changes are constantly happening, meaning that as soon as you find a pair of undies you like, they are discontinued or 'out of season' and no longer available to buy.

The brothers came to the conclusion that shopping for underwear is a lot harder than it needs to be; there is no reason for it to be such a challenge. A complete underwear overhaul needed to be made and Tim and Greg were just the men to redesign and innovate the market.

The idea was to eliminate all of the confusion surrounding men’s underwear through creating comfortable designs that stay the same, so you know exactly what underwear is comfortable for you, and where you can buy it from.

Step One make it simple for you, 

  1. choose a style, either boxer brief or trunk, then
  2. choose your size
  3. choose your colour.

With Step One it really is a simple, pain free process. 

It is often a bit of a mystery in terms of where a particular brand originated from, where its headquarters is and where their products are made. But, it’s no secret that these often play a part in decision making. For the sake of clarity, the table compares these factors in regards to Bonds, Calvin Klein and Step One.

 

 Overview

Brand

 

Who owns them?

Where are they based?

Where are the products made?

 

Step One

 

Australian owned

Based in Australia

Made in China

 

Bonds

 

Pacific Brands

Based in Australia

Made in China

 

Calvin Klein

 

Owned by PVH Corp- an American company.

Based in New York USA.

Made in Italy, America and China.

 

Types of Men's Underwear

There are several underwear styles for men that have withstood the test of time: briefs, boxers, boxer briefs and trunks. The shape you choose is entirely personal preference, there is no right or wrong style, it just depends on what is most comfortable for you.

Most underwear retailers offer a variety of styles to cater to every man that walks in, however some brands are more selective with the shapes they choose to create. The table below compares which styles are offered by Step One, Bonds and Calvin Klein.

 

Brand

Boxers

Briefs

Trunks

Boxer Briefs

Step One

Bonds

Calvin Klein

 

As demonstrated in the table, Calvin Klein offer all shapes of men's underwear, whereas Bonds focus on briefs, trunks and boxer briefs. Step One however, opts for a more streamlined approach by supplying the two most popular styles.

Offering all styles may give a brand a larger market as it caters to everyone, however, it also means that the design of each shape will not have had as much thought put into it. And it also makes finding the right pair for you much harder.

Step One focus on the two most popular styles at the moment, men's boxer briefs and men's trunks. There is only a slight difference between the two shapes, boxers are a bit longer in the leg than trunks- in the case of Step One, there is an extra 3cm length on their boxers. However, both shapes offer the required coverage and support for maximum comfort throughout the day. 

Underwear Fabric

The fabric an item of clothing is made out of can be an important factor when it comes to choosing one brand over another. This is especially true with underwear, let’s not forget that this garment is directly against a sensitive area of the body.

Because of this, the softer the fabric, the better. As mentioned above, Bonds opened the first cotton mill in Australia, to this day they still use their own cotton.

Calvin Klein also makes most of their underwear from cotton, but will occasionally use a cotton and lycra blend.

The reason cotton is most commonly used in clothing is because it is relatively cheap and easy to manufacture.

However, Step One understand that the most affordable option isn’t always the best and decided to do something a little different. Instead of making their underwear out of cotton, Step One use bamboo; the fabric created from bamboo is much softer than cotton and has a more luxurious feel.

On top of this, the bamboo fabric used by Step One is integrated with moisture wicking technology, which basically means any sweat is moved away from your body and to the exterior of your clothing- this results in you feeling dryer and fresher for longer. 

Colours

Although for the majority of the time your undies are beneath your clothes, it can end up feeling a bit boring if you just have a draw full of white undies. Brands also use their patterns and designs to set them apart from their competitors.

Calvin Klein is renowned for their minimalistic designs with a wide branded waistband. It is this waistband that distinguishes Calvin Klein from other brands and many of their designs are relatively simple. However, the brand will occasionally produce patterns that offer a more extreme pattern; one example of this is their recent Andy Warhol collection. 

Bonds generally use dark and primary colours for their designs, however they will also offer the occasional leafy pattern or stripe to add some variety.

Step One also keeps things simple with classic colours; the brand offers understated blacks and greys, as well as bright oranges and purples for those who feel a bit more adventurous. The aim for Step One is to create comfortable, wearable men’s underwear that isn’t fussy but still allows the wearer to flaunt a bit of colour.

 

Features

Many brands offer specific features in the products they manufacture, this is to give them a unique selling point and often because they believe their design is the most comfortable or fashionable.

Calvin Klein underwear will always focus on their wide elasticated logo waistband as this is their primary selling feature. The undies made by this brand are generally low rise and claim to have a contoured pouch for added comfort.

Most men’s underwear manufactured by Bonds is now seam-free to prevent chafing, they also claim to have a functional fly and an elasticated waistband.

Similar to Calvin Klein and Bonds, Step One undies provide a comfortable waistband, however this is where the similarities end.

Step One have many features that other brands do not, although Bonds have tried to solve chafing issues through seamfree fabric, Step One has come up with their own (more effective) solution. This is in the form of lycra panels on the inner thigh of their boxer briefs and trunks; not only does this stop chafing, but it also prevents your undies from riding up.

You’ll really see the benefit in this if you’re active or doing any kind of sport! Another distinctive feature Step One undies offer is their 3D Comfort Pouch, an elastic strip is hidden in the pouch, to create a cup. A pouch like this surrounds your manhood, without squashing you or making you feel crushed. This will help you feel more secure, and prevent you from feeling like your junk is being pressed against your leg, which promotes sweat. 

 

Brand

Comfortable Waistband

Lycra Panels

3D Comfort Pouch

Calvin Klein

Bonds

Step One

 

If you look at the table, it is quite clear that although both Bonds and Calvin Klein are fine options when it comes to men’s underwear, they do not offer as many features as Step One.

Step One is the newest company out of the three, and as a result of this they have come up with innovative ideas that will hopefully change men’s underwear for the better.

Other Products

When comparing the three brands, it is also interesting to consider if they make other products. Step One purely focus on men’s underwear, because that’s what they are passionate about making and it’s what they are good at making! Ever heard of the saying jack of all trades, master of none? Well, that is often the case…

 

Brand

Sleepwear

Women’s

Child & Baby

Step One

Bonds

Calvin Klein

 

Sizes

People come in all different shapes and sizes, it’s just common knowledge, so why is it that brands often forget this and only offer a couple of different sizing options? It can be quite frustrating when you can’t find the perfect size for you anywhere.

 

Brand

S

M

L

XL

2XL

3XL

Calvin Klein

Bonds

Step One

 

Step One understand that not everybody is the same size, and that is not only fine, but celebrated. Sizes from small (75cm-80cm) range up to 3XL (125cm-130cm) so there is a size to suit all men. This is a something that many brands forget about, with Bonds offering small to 2XL and Calvin Klein only catering to the smaller sizes with small to XL.

 

 Price

When on that dreaded hunt for new undies, price does play a part in decision making. Who wants to spend all their money on something that is hidden beneath their clothes most of the time?

Calvin Klein are by far one of the more expensive brands on the market, with their cheapest pair of trunks costing a painful $45, these prices can easily go up to $87 if you are set on that branded waistband.

Bonds, however are much more affordable, starting at roughly $15 for a simple trunk and going up to $30 for printed or microfiber designs.

Step One likes to keep things simple and pain free, for any single pair of undies (either trunks or boxer briefs) it will cost you $29, this is regardless of colour. But, you can’t survive with just one pair of undies, so the more you buy, the cheaper they get per pair; buy 15 pairs (that would last you two weeks without needing to wash any) and the price per pair goes down to $15. Which, compared to other products in the high end underwear market is a steal!

 

First Pair Guarantee

Buyers remorse is a real thing, and its not uncommon to buy something, try it on and regret it straight away. Unfortunately, many brands don’t care as long as they have your money, so, especially with underwear, if you don’t like it, you’re stuck with the item.

Step One strive to be different and not only want to provide the best product, but the best experience. Look at the table below for comparisons between Step One’s customer policy against other brands.

 

Brand

Free Shipping

Warranty

Guarantee

 

Step One

 

Free shipping on all Australian orders. NZ and rest of the world get free shipping on orders $75 or over.

Offer a one-year warranty on all manufacturer defects as long you have purchased your garments directly from Step One

 

First pair guarantee: if you don’t like the first pair you try, Step One will send you a different size or style or even refund you without you needing to return the pair you’ve tried on.

 

Bonds

 

Free shipping on Australian orders over $49

No warranty

No guarantee

 

Calvin Klein

 

No free shipping

No warranty

No guarantee

 

The best made decisions are well informed ones, so having all the information before choosing an underwear brand can only be a good thing. Hopefully you can see how Step One holds up against some other big names in the underwear market; despite Step One being a young company, they are pushing to make big changes for the sake of comfort for all men!

 

 



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Sizing Chart
Size Waist
Small
75-80cm
Medium
85-90cm
Large
95-100cm
Extra Large
105-110cm
2XL 115-120cm
3XL 125-130cm

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