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Cheeky underwear vs. bikini: 5 key differences

Cheeky or bikini? If you’re not sure what the difference is between these women’s underwear styles, you’re not alone. At first glance these cuts might seem similar - the bikini and the cheeky are both versatile options that are great for everyday wear. 

However, there are some distinctions that make each of these styles unique and might lead you to prefer one over the other for different outfits, occasions, or moods. If this sounds complex, don’t sweat it! As experts in all things underwear, we’re here to break it down.

Here are the five key differences between the cheeky and bikini cuts to help you ensure perfect panty precision for any situation.

1. Rear coverage

Bikini panties offer slightly less coverage in the rear than a brief. In other words, they keep your tush tucked away pretty thoroughly. Cheeky panties earn their name thanks to their cheekiness in both attitude and cut. They feature narrower fabric across your bum than a typical bikini cut, but significantly more coverage than a thong. The cheeky cut creates a flirty, playful look that still offers moderate coverage. 

For many women the cheeky is a happy medium between the full rear exposure of a thong and the full coverage of a bikini or brief, adding up to practical, versatile comfort with a splash of sexy sophistication. A perfect panty balancing act, in other words. 

2. Rise 

The bikini cut is known for its minimalism in the front, with a low rise that places the waistband closer to the hips than the waist. Cheekies, meanwhile, do their flirting from the other direction, leaving more of your cheeks exposed than a bikini cut but providing more modest coverage in the front. 

You can find cheeky cut undies in special high-waisted or lower-cut styles - but a mid-rise waistband is typical, since it compliments the overall balanced look, medium coverage, and versatility of this underwear style. 

3. Side coverage

The bikini cut is most famous for its skinny side panels - or in the most extreme version, strings - that show maximum skin around the hips. The cheeky cut tends to have wider side panels for more coverage at the hips. This can help these panties better stay put without digging into your sides, since the wider fabric band distributes the pressure to a larger area of your body. 

4. VPL potential

If you’re self-conscious about Visible Panty Lines - VPL - but don’t like to wear thongs, the cheeky might be just what you’re looking for. Because the back panel is narrower across your bum this cut is more likely to disappear under pants and skirts susceptible to VPL than a bikini cut panty. 

Even if you do break out a thong from time to time to avoid VPL, the cheeky cut offers an option that’s more comfortable and practical in situations where you need to move more. Either way, if you’re concerned about VPL, the cheeky cut is a useful addition to your underwear inventory.

5. Fashion-forward style

Bikini panties - especially string bikinis - were all the rage in the 1990s, when the definition of chic jeans seemed to  be, “How low can you go?” Bikini cuts were a natural match for super-low-cut pants styles. 

While bikini cut underwear have endured, most women seem to appreciate a bit more hip coverage than the string style offered, since wider side panels (much like wider bra straps) tend to cause less pinching and bulging and help the whole garment stay in place better. (Anyone who’s worn super low-cut jeans and undies knows the annoyance of constantly yanking up your drawers - so much for a chic look in that case).

Cheekies are a more fashion-forward option these days if you want to add a little flirtation to your underwear drawer. And fortunately for many women they’re a cozier choice over bikinis, too. 

The Bottom Line

Despite the five key differences we just outlined, the cheeky and bikini actually do share something in common. Both of these cuts offer a medium-coverage option between the brief and the thong. Both styles have a flirtatious attitude but express their playfulness from (literally) different directions, with the bikini baring more flesh in the front and sides and the cheeky offering a cute glimpse of your buns from behind.

The mid-rise waistband, medium hip coverage, and moderate cheek peek combine to make the standard cheeky cut an overall balanced, go-to style for everyday wear - and a fun choice, too. If this underwear cut is new to you, we think you won’t be disappointed in the slightest.

Choose from Tommy John’s breathable Cool Cotton, our exceptionally soft Second Skin micro-modal, or our ultralight Air mesh fabrics. And of course, all Tommy John Cheeky panties are covered by our “Best Pair You’ll Ever Wear or It’s Free” guarantee.