Insight into the Rise of Male Intimate Apparel

Cheryl Warner Mens Underwear Insights

by Cheryl Warner,

“Women wear lingerie – men simply put on underwear” – Eugenie Lemoine-Luccioni

Is this statement true in the 21st century? Or is male underwear still a beacon of pure practicality and substance over style?

I may be speaking as a British citizen here, but I’d have to agree with this statement. Take Harrods for example – the male “lingerie” department pales in comparison with the female which hosts an abundance of different brands, styles, shapes, colors, backless, strapless, push up (I could go on).

For instance, after a quick round-robin of some ‘Real Men’ that I know, the results were fairly damning:

When asked about his relationship with underwear: “I can’t say I’ve ever thought about underwear before, it’s just there.”

When asked about his reaction to the Armani adverts with Beckham and Ronaldino: “It simply doesn’t make me want to go buy a pair of pants.”

I may not have valid statistics to back up my claim but I can hand-on-heart say that this is your typical British male.

The difference between “lingerie” and “underwear” is not entirely obsolete – despite both being words to describe undergarments they both insinuate different things. But does this need to remain so?

Without getting too held up on etymology and philology, “lingerie” derives from the Old French word “lingo” which means linen, from Latin “lineus”, made of linen. The female-engendered word could perhaps be the reason for the term ‘lingerie’ being associated with women and femaleness and that the Germanic ‘underwear’ connotes masculinity.

Calvin Klein’s breakthrough “tighty-whities” boxer shorts of the 1980’s saw a vast improvement in men’s under-crackers. Men are encouraged by their idols in the form of footballers-come-lingerie-models from the likes of Beckham and Ronaldo (or soccer players for those of you from the US) which could lead us to think that Eugenie Lemoine-Luccioni’s statement is becoming increasingly out-dated.

Cheryl Warner Ronaldino image

Advertising campaigns targeted at men seem to be becoming increasingly aware of undergarments and self-image; more than ever we see a projection of the “ideal man” (the tongue-in-cheek Old Spice advertisements play on the idea of the inadequacies of the “average man”) and the range of products for men have increased dramatically in the past decade. More than ever men are starting to think about what they wear underneath their clothes, no longer is it acceptable to wear Y-fronts simply as a man “shouldn’t care” about their underwear – instead fashion is extending to under-things for men everywhere, instead, “lingerie” for men has evolved into a “reflection for societal self-description”, diversity and freedom of expression.

“I am very conscious of what I wear and I can understand why women say that wearing a nice set of lingerie makes them feel good and more confident…It’s about creating an overall look and underwear can make the difference. It is a pretty overrated idea for most men.”

Despite our comments from the “average” man, the rise of fashion-conscious men who really care about their appearance and what they wear (including their underwear!) is not completely lost. I found one individual who claimed:

When asked about his relationship with underwear: “I am very conscious of what I wear and I can understand why women say that wearing a nice set of lingerie makes them feel good and more confident, it feels like a bit of a waste of time if you wear a nice suit or trousers but your underwear is baggy and ill-fitting. It’s about creating an overall look and underwear can make the difference. It is a pretty overrated idea for most men.”

When asked about his reaction to the Armani adverts with Beckham and Ronaldino: “I don’t want to ‘sell out’ into the whole marketing campaign but if a pair of Armani briefs will make me look half as good as Beckham I’m all for it!”

Our very own editor Luis Paredes himself claims: “The right pair of underwear makes a big difference in a guy’s life. For my athletic life, Saxx makes some amazing boxer briefs that are perfect for running. They make me feel like a sports star. I also have a collection of silk boxers from Man Silk that are great when I have to suit up for meetings and pitches.”

One significant and major example which reveals how the horizons of the fashion and image-conscious male are ever-increasing is the release of “Man Spanx”. Shapewear giants Spanx showcased their menswear collections at the trade shows in 2011 which demands that men “expect more from their underwear”. Just like a woman uses a bra to lift and support their bust and select appropriate lingerie for their chosen outfit, so can men utilize their undergarments to enhance their look and silhouette. Men need not necessarily ‘simply put on underwear’ but can, like women use it to their advantage to improve their confidence, shape and outward appearance – but much in a much manlier fashion, obviously…Their ‘cotton compression undershirts’, ‘zoned performance undershirts’ and ‘cotton comfort underwear’ use the latest of fabric technology with Breatheasy technology, ‘comfortable cotton, classic styling and powerful shaping’.

Beyond their sex appeal and the perception of women, men are also increasingly under pressure to look slick and trim under their clothing. The “slim fit” culture of men’s fashion does not allow for novelty loose Christmas boxers, and it certainly doesn’t measure up in the bedroom. ‘Man Spanx’ contour and slim the body, creating the silhouette that is so sought after and that so many female Spanx fans can identify with. Plus – who can resist buying into the promise that Armani briefs will make you look like that?

Cheryl Warner Manx image

Ultimately, the rise of the male intimate apparel industry seems to be rising along with the female, however its slower growth suggests that some men might need a bit more persuading – but I would personally like to thank the likes of Calvin Klein, Armani and Spanx for creating the baby steps away from the dreaded old, big off-white boxers and holey socks.

The sooner the concept filters down the better – man up!

One Comment on “Insight into the Rise of Male Intimate Apparel

  1. Avatar Tom says:

    Men need to be “persuaded” that it’s perfectly normal to want to wear soft fabrics with sexy styling. Right now, there’s a massive subculture of men that wear lingerie, and too often they’re called ‘cross dressers’ – a term that implies abnormal. Most people are deathly afraid of being seen as abnormal. In my humble opinion, there’s nothing abnormal about wearing tights instead of bulky long-johns (or under shorts on a cool day, why not?), or stretchy microfiber panties instead of bulky men’s briefs or boxers. Manufacturers are clearly trying to get away from silly-sounding names for lingerie, which is a great place to start.

    girdles, cinchers –> compression wear,
    panties –> briefs, boy shorts,
    pantyhose –> tights.

    But adding an ‘m’ as in ‘meggings’ and ‘mantyhose’ isn’t helping at all.

    Just my thoughts.

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