Male Underwear: Marketing the male package 6 – Cutting the cloth to fit
November 19, 2007
Bikinis, boxers, boxer briefs, boxer shorts, briefs, full cut boxers, g-strings, jock straps, long underwear, low-rise briefs, mid-rise briefs, string bikinis, tangas, thongs, trunks … and whatever else the underwear industry can throw at us.
Would you know the difference if one hit you in the face?
Underwear, “overwear”, “outerwear”, swimwear and just “wear”. Does underwear only make sense if it’s worn under something?
Is overwear or outerwear only the stuff of Superman, or is that just underwear from the Land Down Under?
Has the contemporary post-jail, post-gang sagging style created “peek-a-boo-wear”?, to show off your branded waistband and insane patterns.
How are sportswear and underwear linked? Is swimwear just underwear that doesn’t come off in the water?
Is “underware” metallic like tableware, intimate clothing with a chastity belt shine? As for “unmentionables”, there’s little point in talking about those.
It’s enough to get your knickers in a twist, as the flustered say in the UK.
The bottom line is that what counts as underwear or not depends on various things. For example, clothes with a completely or partially open fly aren’t acceptable in most places, so they’re underwear (or undone outerwear) at the moment – a design factor with social implications or a social factor with design implications.
Some garments start out in one place and end up in another: pants, shirts and t-shirts started out as undergarments, derived from long underwear, particularly in the form of union suits and long johns. Swimwear, beachwear, sportswear and nightwear design are interwoven with the design of undergarments adapting from and to each with function-appropriate materials and cuts. In any case, underwear or at least garments which cover the genitals have a long history back to prehistoric times, Ötzi the Iceman‘s breechcloth, and spread across the world in various forms as the loincloth (the French term cache-sexe – “hide genitals” is more direct that “loincloth”) or the many ways to tie the 2,000-plus year-old Japanese fundoshi.
The reasons behind the designs of male (and similarly female) underwear and the changes to them are seated in a mixture of:
- hygiene – changeable and washable with less effort than larger garments, breathability enabling better wicking (moisture dissipation) to reduce bacterial or fungal growth (e.g. tinea cruris);
- comfort – against rubbing of skin or other clothes, or maintaining warmth or coolness (sports compression shorts are for muscle warmth, not genital protection);
- protection – especially for sport or strenuous activity for example, where crushing or twisting of the genitals may be a risk (e.g. the numerous varieties of jockstrap, and dance belts or thong jock);
- religious significance;
- modesty – not showing things which aren’t socially acceptable, Westeners found the loincloth indecent;
- social – age and gender issues show up in the way shorts are handled in different societies;
- eroticism – showing things for effect, or not showing them in such a way as to achieve the same effect;
- adaptation – changes to other clothes change the way existing ones function, such as the mediaeval codpiece which covered the otherwise open crotch of the hose (leggings) as doublet (upper garment) lengths grew shorter, or the more recent fashion of sagging which reveals the area below the navel and most of the crotch, so underwear adapted to have a lower waistband still or use the now-revealed waistband and fabric to fresh effect;
- innovation – new fabrics or construction methods make new designs possible, such as elastic which could initially replace drawstrings with a band inside the waistband or fly fastenings with a self-closing opening, and then as fully elastic materials emerged could change the shaping of the entire garment;
- fashion – when it becomes cool to talk about design or belong to a cultural brand tribe, or having garments that match in design or pattern another cultural phenomenon becomes cool (army camouflage, for example);
- money – it’s not cynicism rearing its head, surely just good economics;
- fertility – not to forget this! … it’s where these blog entries began, on claims about a suspensor design that “promotes fertility”.
Two fabrics to watch are:
- bamboo fabric – water-absorbent, anti-bacterial, insulating
- soy fabric – also called vegetable cashmere, very smooth texture, uses raw material that would otherwise be wasted.
A Matter of Size
I’d hoped to get to the point of producing a nice little table of garment names with features. There will be one, but first the features to take into account – my list isn’t quite the same as others.
- waistband position – this can range anywhere from navel (high-rise) down to just above the penis, but hip level (low-rise) to half-way between there and navel (mid-rise) looks to be the “usual position”. Really, as waist size and height aren’t (as far as I know) especially linked, where the waistband sits for any product will depend on how tall you are.
- inseam – the actual distance from the crotch seam to the leg hem. This is at least a consistent measurement, but leg length will still change the position of the leg hem relative to the thigh.
- panels –
- front – ranges from a pouch through a pouched panel to a flat fit, and the panel can be from narrow to broad.
- back – ranges from nothing through cover for the buttocks to cover down the legs; also the seat design can vary from a single panel to two or three, depending on where the seam is placed.
- sides – ranges from nothing through side-vents down to matching the front seam length. The sides are not usually separate panels of materials, but are descriptive of the region.
- waistband thickness – this is important when trying to tell thongs from g-strings. But with styles that have broad waistbands, the waistband might be considered to contribute to the vertical material length above the crotch.
- support structure – some underwear are constructed with support for the front panel (which is the point of men’s underwear!) that wouldn’t be affected by panels being added or removed, or the structure could be strengthened.
- material – elasticated panel material fits snug to the skin, non-elasticated material drops.
- leg hem – elasticated material creates a design that sits still.
- fly – none, mock fly (styled but not working), open, buttons, cloth flap, other fasteners, even a zip.
Now here’s that table, according to me. In the end, much of this is a matter of degree. Designers will find more ways to play with the features. And with only fluffy definitions, designers and the marketeers will call them by any name convenient! Hipsters, for example, they might be low-rise boxer briefs? But getting the perfect image to show each of these? The images are mostly from MaleBasics’ Unico pages, with others from the AsdruMark Unico Gallery and Men’s MICRO Sexy Swimwear by DORE (on eBay). They are matched to an item despite any product name they may be given.
|micro pouch||pouch only, no fly, supported by cord around waist.|
|thong||may cover all of the following or be just one type, none have a fly
|jockstrap||like a thong, also no fly, but with two straps connected from the base of the pouch to the waistband, each passing under one buttock.|
|bikini||full rear coverage, no (or little) side panel material, narrow or triangular front panel, no flytanga – unclear whether there is a general distinction between this and the male bikini (which only has a lower part).|
|brief||full rear coverage, top of the thigh, with or without (working) fly|
|trunks||full rear coverage, mid to top of thigh, tight at leg hem, if there’s a working fly it’s probably doubled material|
|boxer brief||full rear coverage, mid to top of thigh, tight at leg hem, (usually) a working fly|
|boxer||full rear coverage, (just above) mid-thigh, (usually) loose at leg hem (especially if called boxer shorts), (usually) a working fly (often buttons or open)|
Alternatively to all these options – and this might catch on in some places if the climate becomes warmer -, we might see the koteka catch on. Gourds farming would see a boom. Though the koteka is perhaps not best suited to rush hour on the Underground, or being hit in the face with.
The following provided comfort, lift and support: HisRoom write About Men’s Underwear and give some specific details about differences in style, with some more infomation in their Men’s Underwear & Sock Glossary, while Freshpair have more to say about why to choose a particular style of Men’s Underwear. Calvin Klein’s Men’s Style Guide has a measurements guide, but even if the measurements are good for other brands their fit won’t be the same. Wikipedia has several related pages, starting with Undergarment, not all well linked together, and still somewhat incomplete:boardshorts, boxer briefs, boxer shorts, breechcloth, briefs, cache-sexe, chastity belt, codpiece, compression shorts, dance belt, fundoshi, G-string, jockstrap, koteka, loincloth, long underwear, low-rise jeans, sagging, shorts, speedo, swimsuit, tanga,
thong, thong jock, trunks, union suit.
This entry is part of the Male Underwear: Marketing the Male Package & Mundo Unico Series.Package 5 – Showing off in publicPackage 7 – Shooting men in underwear