Widespread gusset anxiety revealed

January 21, 2008

Marks & Spencer’s Diamond Briefs

Underwear gets mainstream exposure as Jeremy Paxman’s private email to Marks & Spencer is slipped to the press.

In interview, Paxman refuses to reveal if he wears boxers or briefs. We wait for comments from “sources close to the seat of power”.

Paxman complained to Sir Stuart Rose, M&S Chairman, that M&S men’s underwear doesn’t provide enough support.

Sir Stuart rose to this by offering to take Jeremy to lunch with a range of M&S underwear. Jeremy declined the underwear. Perhaps lettuce should be the only shreddies for lunch?

Talking with his friends and acquaintances “revealed widespread gusset anxiety”. Perhaps Jeremy should buy a brand which offers a “suspensor design“, claims for which started me writing about underwear marketing a couple of months ago. As he has three children, he probably doesn’t worry much about spermatogenesis.

Will it affect M&S’s business? Reports in the press about M&S’s business may well lead one to wonder if there won’t be a business issue, though it may be an opportunity for M&S to put things right:

In the busy three-month run-up to Christmas, M&S’s share of its core lingerie market fell by 3% when measured by value, according to leaked research.

Ten days ago Rose announced poor Christmas trading with a 2.2% fall in like-for-like sales. “We have to compete with Tesco and Asda on men’s underpants,” he said.

One in four men wears [M&S] pants and we are the largest lingerie and underwear retailer in the UK by a long shot – we sell four times as much as our nearest competitor.

For the frenzied UK press reaction to this story, sources and further dangly bits of news and information:

For those who don’t know their gusset from their gore, Wikipedia’s gusset page provides a definition, but not as much else as you might hope for.

A gusset is a device, often triangular, used to reinforce a connection between two components. Gussets are used in engineering, sewing and armour.

For helpful pictures to understand the construction of clothing with gussets and gores (one’s cup runneth over, perchance), see Tunic/Coat and Pant Construction at the Renaissance Tailor.

This entry is related to the Male Underwear: Marketing the Male Package & Mundo Unico Series.

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4 Responses to “Widespread gusset anxiety revealed”

  1. Dominic Says:

    In answer to all the fuss caused by Jeremy Paxman’s comments to M&S’s Stuart Rose concerning his gusset anxiety around the lack of support and quality of their underwear and the job that they do for him, I would like to make the point that you generally get what you pay for in this world. This has always been the case and remains one of lifes golden rules. If you pay peanuts then… etc.

    I, as joint owner of Sunspel, would challenge anyone to trial a pair of our underwear and not agree that they have recieved the most comfortable underwear you can get. We have been making underwear in Long Eaton, Derbyshire for the last 150 years and therefore know a thing or two about it. We have made it for all sorts including Johnny Depp, Liam Gallagher, Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Craig as James Bond, Levis 501’s Nick Kamen, even Cyril Smith and Prince Charles.

    It is not a simple thing to get right, however years of experience gives our designers a unique, almost boffin-like insight into the essentials of fit and fabric quality. Sunspel’s unique fabrics have been created for softness, lightness and strength – all 100% long staple Egyptian cotton.

    To back up this claim if you follow the link http://www.sunspel.com and use the voucher code paxo-challenge, we will offer you a 50% discount on any of the underwear or t-shirts we sell, including all those made for Casino Royale – try it out and see for yourself what Paxo is missing.

  2. infomancie Says:

    I wondered whether to reject this comment on the grounds of it being commercial, either as a bottom line, or as spam. Or whether I’m opening myself up to advertising hitching a ride.

    However, I’ve checked the site. It’s real, and there are photos of Daniel Craig. Or they’ve done a real stitch-up!

    I will also allow for a brief moment of parochialism: support of a UK company. (A matter of balance, as #10 in my “Male Underwear: Marketing the Male Package & Mundo Unico Series” will be critical of another UK underwear company.)

    Also, I Googled to see whether this challenge appears elsewhere yet. It doesn’t seem so, so I don’t feel spammed.

    But it had an unexpected consequence.

    “Talk about Newsnight” for the programme on Monday, 21 January, 2008. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2008/01/monday_21_january_2008.html

    Under this there’s a comment (#20) on Sunspel shorts. (Jump to text: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2008/01/monday_21_january_2008.html#c5817682 )

    “Although I have not worn M& S pants for years. (I found them to restrictive.) I have seen a similar reduction in quality of Sunspel Boxer shorts, it used to be case that I would wear them out over a few years but now the elastic fails well before the cotton wears thin. Unfortunately my wife cannot replace the elastic whereas she could sew patches over the worn through bits on their older better quality product.”

    Yes, I know, one critic doesn’t mean 150 years of experience has fallen apart at the seams.

    But it does make their “money where their mouth is” challenge all the more interesting.

  3. mindedit Says:

    Just to let you all know that I took Dominic up on his offer and put in an order for a long sleeved Tee-shirt from Sunspel.

    Over the years I have bought a lot of things over the net and consider myself fairly well versed.

    Well the item arrived in just a few short days and I was well impressed. The postage was a couple of pounds which is reasonable, in fact a bonus here for not feeling ripped off on the p&p.

    The documents that came with the t-shirt had a clear returns policy and instruction on what to do, again good as you don’t always get this.

    The garment itself. This came in a sealed protective clear plastic bag with a printed crest type logo on the front. The bag itself was secure but easy to open (I don’t know how many times I’ve had to wrestle with packaging just to get to the goods). Finally the t-shirt was packed with tissue.

    Okay so I finally got it all out, the material was very nice to the feel. Tactile experience is important, especially as I’m going to be wearing it. The cut was what you’d expect and the seams were of good quality.

    Overall, I like my new t-shirt very much. In fact I’m wearing it right now.


  4. […] broadcasting icon Jeremy Paxman has complained about underwear, (inter)national awareness is up and it’s safe for men to come out of the top […]


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