NEW YORK (MainStreet) —An uptick in men’s underwear sales bodes well for the economy at large—given the suggestion that men have enough disposable income to buy an item they don’t often update. Though 2012 men’s apparel sales rose a meager 1% to $57 billion, underwear sales shot up 13%, according to NPD group. Even former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan has used this economic indicator to take the temperature of the economy.
“Around the recession in 2008, things were more basic oriented, not fashion oriented,” said Michael Kleinmann, editor-in-chief of The Underwear Expert. “Underwear was more multi-pack-oriented, more about value items.”
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From August 2007 to August 2008, underwear sales fell 27% at online retailers, 8% at department stores, and 6% at national retail chains, according to DNR. Sales at discount retailers increased 8% over the same period in an indication that men were penny-pinching on their briefs. A May 2008 Kelton Research survey of 1,001 adults found that 26% of respondents wear underwear that is five or more years old, with 11% wearing underwear that is 10 or more years old. These are inevitably the jankity boxers, those that have lost their elasticity or no longer fit.
Now with the economy plumped up, companies are being more adventurous with their undies to meet the purchasing demand.
“The brands that are launching now are not launching black, white and gray underwear,” Kleinmann said. “They're launching in color or have some special style.”
Though Hanes, Fruit of the Loom and Jockey have dominated the market, there are more options than a famous Seinfeld episode would suggest. Fabrication has become more advanced, as well, with performance materials like in C-In2’s Grip featuring moisture-wicking properties to absorb sweat from the body and transfer it to the side of the fabric away from the skin. The emergence of more fashion-forward brands like 2-xist also indicates the available variety in briefs for men.
Emporio Armani’s selection of David Beckham as a spokesperson has heralded in the fashionable appeal of fitted men’s briefs beyond the standard Hanes Michael Jordan hawked. The mainstream appeal of fashionable briefs reached further heights in February when model Matthew Terry did a Super Bowl underwear ad for Calvin Klein.
Whereas women have long had elaborate lingerie and alternative undergarment options, men have had a much smaller list of options that has only expanded in recent years with the economic rebound.
“There weren't a lot of other options or other fabrications that other guys would wear,” Kleinmann said. “Now Calvin Klein or Hugo Boss, all of these brands have colorful underwear groups. I hate the word 'metrosexual,' but it's the guy who is more fashion conscious … who is buying stuff that is not black or white. Men’s underwear is becoming more of a fashion statement.”