The XX Factor

The Mystery of the Soldier in the Pink Boxers

On May 12, the New York Times ran a photograph featuring a soldier in his underpants . The photo was eye-catching-I know it caught my eye-and appeared above the fold on the front page. The photo was taken by David Guttenfelder for the Associated Press , and its subject was Spc. Zachary Boyd of Fort Worth, Texas. But what made it a standout was that it was taken in Afghanistan, and Boyd was in his Army gear and brandishing a weapon but doing so in pink underwear. A few days later, an IT guy at the Times noticed that site visitors were searching for the usual subjects-“Obama,” “India,” and “cancer” among them-but there was something new, too: “pink boxers.” As it turned out, they were looking for Boyd.

Lens , a wonderful new photojournalism blog the Times launched recently, has the story behind the photo that spawned the pink boxers searches .

“It had an impact on me immediately,” [ Times editor Michele McNally] said. “Your first reaction is: ‘What? What’s going on?’ Because you are smiling-and then you realize its meaning. War never stops, look how intense it could get. You understand then that he is fighting out of uniform, in underwear which reads “I Love NY,” in the midst of really rough terrain in a remote region so very far from home. And New York.

“And yet again, it calls up what mom said, ‘Always wear clean underwear, you never know.’ ”