My Innovative Underpants

Here’s a funny story that I bet the fellas in Radical Nation will be able to relate to:  I can STILL remember the day that I got my first pair of boxer shorts.  I was 12, and I’d just discovered that ALL the cool kids were rocking boxers in the locker room before seventh grade gym class.  Me — being half dork and all nerd — felt WAY out of place in my uncomfortably white and uncomfortably tight Fruit-of-the-Looms.

So I talked my mom into taking me to K-Mart.  Lied about needing some poster board for a project.  Made a bee-line for the boxers the minute we walked through the door.  Was completely blown away by the colors and styles and choices and designs available and BEGGED my mom to buy me a pair or two.

I walked out prouder than I probably should have been after buying underpants, but as I’d explained to my mom, this WASN’T ABOUT underpants.  It was about fitting in — and fitting in was impossible for the dorky kids wearing briefs in a boxer world.

The next day was huge.  HUGE.  I rolled out of bed, pulled on a pair of plaid boxers and headed to school feeling like a new man!  By second period, though, I discovered what MOST guys realize:  Boxers are AWFUL.  The wedgies were brutal, my butt was sweating more than I thought possible, and I was limping through the halls with badly chaffed thighs.

(Is that too much information?)

Not wanting to surrender my place among the social elite, I toughed it out in boxers for the better part of a painful decade.  I wasn’t happy about it, but tightie-whities weren’t going to win me any friends and I knew it.

My life changed in a deep and meaningful way in the early 90s, though.  That’s when I discovered Boxer Briefs.  I was in a Target store picking up some new socks when I saw them.  Literally did a double-take.  Had to look at the package a little closer than I was comfortable with to figure out just what a “boxer brief” was.  Bought a package with hope in my heart that my days in uncomfortable underpants were over.

Being a skeptic, I wouldn’t let myself believe until I got home and slipped into what HAVE GOT to be the most comfortable drawers in the world!  Who would have thought that something as simple as pairing the length of the boxer with the comfort fit of the brief could change lives?  The dude that invented them should be granted Sainthood immediately.

And the dude who invented them — let’s call him Boxer Brief Guy — knows how innovation REALLY works.

He started by identifying a VERY real challenge:  Men need to wear underpants, but tightie-whities are completely uncool and boxers are completely uncomfortable.  Instead of dreaming up an entirely new solution to an admittedly strange conundrum, however — instead of dreaming up skin-tight body suits made from the pelts of corn-fed camels raised on corporate farms in the Midwest or spray-on undergear paired with ‘freshly pressed from our can to yours’ as a marketing slogan — he embraced the strengths of the well-established solutions and hit a clothing home run.

Stew in that for a minute would you?  There’s literally NOTHING new or complicated or brilliant or amazing about boxer briefs — the core cuts and fabrics and lengths and fits were borrowed from existing designs — and yet they changed EVERYTHING.

THAT’s the lesson for school leaders:  Innovation is evolutionary, not revolutionary , y’all.  If you want to change your school, STOP thinking outside of the box and START by figuring out what you are already doing well.  Better yet, look to the organizations around you, figure out what THEY are doing well, and create a new product built from strategies and solutions that you know already resonate with parents, teachers and students.

Long and uncomfortable-in-more-ways-than-one story short: You don’t need to be a creative genius to drive meaningful improvements in your community.  You need to be the Boxer Brief Guy.


 Related Radical Reads:

Hitting Home Runs Fifty Feet at a Time

Real Progress DOESN’T Happen in Leaps and Bounds

Our Compulsive Obsession with the Impossible Sexy

Sustainable Change is Evolutionary, NOT Revolutionary

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  • crazed mummy

    and you need to…

    You need to observe the new idea and give it a go. Who knows how long Boxer Briefs laid there before you actually saw them as you sauntered past? If someone else has the idea, not you, you don’t have to invent it, just try it. On the down side, you could have tried banana hammock thongs, too, and been perhaps less happy. That’s the other problem with education – the leadership at the top can’t seem to differentiate between a good idea and a bad one, and we are supposed to use them all equally. That’s why we’re all crocheting our own out of cashmere, and complaining about the time and cost.

  • Diana

    Boxer brief guy

    Thanks for letting me start my morning with a belly laugh and for validating the credibility of copying the heck out of a good idea. I hate reinventing the wheel. So many wonderful things going on in classrooms can be modified for any grade level, subject area, or learning style. 

    • billferriter

      Glad You Dug It!

      Glad you enjoyed this, Pal!  Thanks for stopping by…



  • JB

    You are so wrong.

    You gave up something that worked to jump on a fad.  Then saw an “innovation” and decided that was the solution.  Sorry to say, Bill, the old way was the way that worked.  Yup, I’m still a tighty-whitey guy.  Always have been.  Tried the boxer briefs and decided that they did NOT solve a nonexistent problem.   This analogy fails for education.  There are some tried and true methods that work and will continue to work.  Trouble is, people are afraid to accept that in the face of all of the new fads.  I’m disappointed that you see this as progress.  I see it as giving in to a lame concession between what works and what is perceived as proper.

  • ReneeMoore

    The Gauntlet is Down

    Bill, I think you just set the new high bar for CTQ bloggers. I don’t think I could have come up with this great of an analogy on my best day. Well done.

    • billferriter

      Sure you could, Renee!  

      Sure you could, Renee!  

      I’m just not sure that your Southern Grace and Charm would allow you to write about your underpants!

      That’s the creative license that I get for being a rough-around-the-edges guy.




  • Parry Graham

    Way too much…

    … information.