I’ll never forget the moment: I was flipping through a back issue of some magazine at the public library, doing research for a school project, and there he was. Baseball star Jim Palmer, wearing just a pair of Jockey Briefs.
This was in the late 1990s, when hirsute was out and everyone was chiseled. More importantly, in the intervening decade boxer briefs had become the de facto underwear in which men posed, but here was inarguably a real man wearing a pair of rather small, rather tight, briefs.
I’d noticed men in that way before, but something about these ads undid me. It was the casualness of his near nudity; it was the cocky flaunting of what was then a rockin’ bod. Jim Palmer became a sexual ideal in a moment; in that same moment, I became a defacer of library property and a small-time thief, because I tore that page out, neatly folded it, and kept it.
Thus began a years-long obsession with mainstream men posting thirst trap photos or cheekily submitting to revealing photo shoots and a lifetime obsession with briefs. Jim Palmer’s Jockey ads look laughably unsexy now, in a post Marky Mark-Calvin Klein world. But for a closeted gay boy in small-town Texas, Jim Palmer will always mean sex.