Where were you on the last leap day, in 2008? What has changed since then? Your underwear at least, we hope! The underwear industry has certainly been in flux since then, so we took this opportunity to leap back and reflect on the changes.
We spoke with Tom Patterson, who in 2008 founded Tommy John underwear, to see how much he, his brand and the industry have evolved, and what he sees coming up a leap ahead in 2016.
Underwear Expert: How has your brand evolved since 2008?
Tom Patterson: We have moved from San Diego to New York City, a city that I thought I’d never live. We have also been fortunate enough to have Tommy John carried in what I think are the best department stores, specialty stores, and online retailers in the country.
Underwear Expert: How has the underwear industry evolved since 2008?
Tom Patterson: I think the men’s underwear industry has evolved more in the last three years than it has in the last 20. It’s very exciting to see new brands, new designs, performance fabrics, and unique fits hit the market that didn’t exist until recently.
I also think men are learning that wearing fitted and functional underwear under their outerwear is vital to the streamlined appearance they are looking for, especially if they are wearing more modern and tailored clothing.
Underwear Expert: What were you doing in 2008 that you’re not doing now?
Tom Patterson: I was selling medical devices during the day. At night, I was folding undershirts into ziplock bags, slapping a Tommy John sticker on the bag, printing a shipping label, and taking about 15 packages to USPS the next morning on my way to hospitals to sell medical products.
Underwear Expert: What are you doing now that you weren’t doing in 2008?
Tom Patterson: World headquarters for Tommy John has moved out of my wife Erin’s and my apartment and into a real office in the Flatiron area of Manhattan. We are also focusing on solving fit and functionality problems that men have with their underwear.
We just launched our Quick Draw™ Fly Series of men’s everyday and performance underwear that is selling ahead of projections, already.
Underwear Expert: Looking back to 2008, what do you wish your brand had done differently?
Tom Patterson: Aside from having a crystal ball into the future and buying gold, I wouldn’t change a thing. We have been extremely fortunate to have retailers like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus believe in Tommy John and launch us into their stores when no one really knew who we were.
We have made mistakes along the way but have learned a great deal from them. Hindsight’s always 20/20 but starting our company when the economy was tanking has forced us to watch every dollar and think through every decision to make sure we don’t make the same mistake twice.
Underwear Expert: Looking back, what big trend from 2008 now has you scratching your head?
Tom Patterson: I’m not sure if there was a certain trend back then that jumps out to me. I did back then and still do today find it unbelievable that men are wearing boxy tee shirts as undershirts.
Also, looking at how much tailored and modern clothing has evolved in the last 3 years has been great. I look at pictures of myself and others wearing these huge, boxy, and baggy suits, pants, and dress shirts and just laugh at how funny we looked. The fact that men are wearing clothes that actually fit their body today and aren’t two to three sizes oversized is very nice to see. Thank you Mad Men!
I think it’s awesome that there are so many blogs, magazines, and websites now that focus on being industry experts. The Underwear Expert is a perfect example. There are so many tools and resources out there now to educate you on trends, do’s and don’t, styling guides, etc.
Underwear Expert: Looking forward, what trend and design predictions can you make for the next four years?
Tom Patterson: That men’s underwear is going to continue to evolve. In my opinion, the traditional boxer short is going to become a dinosaur. The excess fabric in boxer shorts is just too visible as flat front and slim fit pants have taken over pleated and roomier pants.
The foundation of better fitting clothes starts with wearing the proper fitting undergarments so I’d like to eventually dress men from the inside out. I can’t make exact design predictions but we have many that you will see in the market over the next few years.
Underwear Expert: Where do you see your brand in 2016?
Tom Patterson: Tommy John takes a problem solving approach to every single product we develop, test, and eventually bring to market. You won’t see products from us that don’t have solution components in them.
So by 2016, we will have evolved into a “Solution Focused” menswear brand and expanded into a handful of new categories outside of men’s underwear that I feel that other brands aren’t fulfilling.