Greek Gods in strategically draped togas, Michelangelo’s David: we have always treasured the male form. In fact, the male body has been celebrated and idolized throughout history – that is, until now. Or so it seems.
When it comes to Men’s underwear, or even the male body, we are decades behind the acceptance level appropriated to the female body. I see advertisements of completely naked women selling merchandise on a daily basis (Paris Hilton hawking a Carl’s Jr. cheeseburger in a string bikini… anyone?), but the image of a man in his underwear, selling underwear, is still considered risqué. What ARE we afraid of?
Earlier this month, I woke up bright and early to watch a major network’s popular morning news show. This was the day that the new 2(x)ist Valentine’s Day designs would be featured on the show. My pride and joy, the 2(x)ist LOVE collection, was to be broadcast to millions of viewers and as the creator of this line, I was filled to the brim with excitement.
I anxiously sat sipping my coffee, and then: “Coming up next! Our extreme savings segment featuring a variety of amazing Valentine’s Day products as well as… (chuckle, chuckle) …men’s unmentionables.”
As well as? Unmentionables? Chuckle, chuckle? “It’s just a teaser,” I told myself: I quickly forgot about their hesitant acceptance of the new 2(x)ist collection into their Valentine’s Day savings segment and excitedly stirred my coffee and waited for the break to end.
The segment aired, and then came the time for the LOVE collection: the co-hosts slowly approached a table of neatly folded red and black underwear and took a deep breath. “And here’s something else guys will love…. suggestive underwear?” “We are allowed to be a little racy” the Fashion expert replied, “It’s Valentines Day.” They discussed the briefs (not G-strings, thongs, or backless chaps – briefs) and then breathed a collective, heavy sigh of relief. “Moving away from these unmentionables…”
Unmentionables? I was shocked. I sat with my now empty coffee and wondered: why IS the topic of men’s underwear so taboo in today’s society?
I’ll tell you now that this article does not have an answer for the question I posed that morning, and continue to ask myself today. So I ask you: what’s the deal?
Why do we have to dress men’s underwear up with false descriptions and words that fail to describe the underwear for what it really is: a complex and varied staple that comprises a large portion of most men’s wardrobes. Sometimes even a whole drawer!
As a Creative Director for an international Men’s underwear brand, I’ve hit bumps in the road – major detours – when marketing, advertising and selling Men’s underwear. I’ve heard quips like, “This man is too scantily clad,” or “We can NOT talk about the package.”
Women, however, have push up bra’s and chicken cutlets and corsets and countless lingerie items to enhance their breasts and flatten their stomachs and these things are discussed just about everywhere. But men? When it comes to men, we are silenced. Just what sets the male anatomy so off topic?
My goal as a designer is to make the best fitting underwear that moves with you and supports the male anatomy. Mention a “contoured pouch that supports and enhances the male anatomy” to a laymen, however, and you’re greeted with flushed faces and giggles. I’ve now realized it isn’t the way I describe Men’s underwear, or what adjectives I use, it’s a lingering and unfounded perception of Men and their anatomy (and anything pertaining to that region, really) that causes a stir – a frantic move – to a more comfortable topic. Why is this all so embarrassing? I just don’t understand.
I hope we evolve as humans, and that we grow to enhance our bodies and our minds (and the wardrobe items that cover them.) Perhaps Michelangelo would agree: his David, by the way, has been rewarded a strategically placed leaf in some depictions. He too has been silenced.
It’s a slow process, but the more we embrace men’s underwear and the variations and attributes that make it so great – the sooner it will leave its taboo status behind and take it’s position next to Victoria and her secrets. In the meantime men, women, anyone who wishes they could speak freely about Men’s underwear: for support, you have me, you have The Underwear Expert, you have your coffee, and you have your contoured pouch.
Jason Scarlatti is a graduate of the renowned Parsons School of Design, and has designed for Joseph Abboud Worldwide. He was a senior designer at Tommy Hilfiger for five years before taking over as the Creative Director at 2(x)ist in 2004.