Just like men’s outwear, men’s underwear styles follow fashion trends. What colors, styles and feel are the most appealing for today’s lifestyle? Designers and manufacturers explain.
According to Matt Miller at the Jack Adams Group, their line of underwear and action wear focuses on both modern fashion and fitness functionality. Miller says that men are looking for an athletic style that looks sexy as well as masculine.
Guys want a balance of comfort and being sexy. —Matt Miller, Jack Adams Group
“Design fit is important to men, just as it is in the women’s market. Men now want underwear that is flattering when they wear it, in a style that enhances the look of the body. Guys want to feel good whether they’re at the gym, at work or in the bedroom,” Miller asserts. “The feel of the fabric is becoming very important, so we’re seeing a demand for very soft cottons, modal fabrics, and micro-fiber spandex.” Lightweight fabric is also key.
As to colors, Miller finds black, as well as bolder, richer core colors such as royal blue, red and orange to be popular, while neon colors are out. At Jack Adams, styles are popular year-round, he says. He doesn’t find either holiday or seasonal shifts in the market, with one exception, jockstraps, which he says tend to sell more in the spring and summer. “Sexy is an every day business. Men want to feel sexy every day in their underwear.”
Miller describes his customer base as “every man’s man. Just a dude! Doesn’t matter if he’s gay or straight, our sales are about equal.” One recent sales shift that Miller has noted is that more women are purchasing underwear for their boyfriend or Power, vice president Mary Beth Onken agrees with Miller about soft fabrics and bold colors being trendy in men’s underwear fashion. “Our most popular colors are bold solids or color blocking patterns such as black with lime or black with pink. Softer fabrics are big. Wide-banded elastic waists around one and a half to two inches wide are also big. We have softer, more plush elastic in these waist bands. Men like this style. In the past six to 12 months I’ve seen this trend evolving.”
Other changes Onken has witnessed include a resurgence of popularity for white underwear. “It’s coming back in both our mainstream and specialty category. It’s not like Fruit of the Loom white; it’s made of lovely soft modal material with contrast color stitching and plush band elastic. It’s a sexy, special and sporty look that’s extremely versatile,” she reports.
At Male Power, novelty items do strong business around the holidays according to Onken. “We have our novelties in a cartoon box that features fun, cool tag lines. People pick them up as little gifts for men on Valentine’s Day or Christmas. Our costume line also does well, particularly at Halloween and Christmas. We also have a small, holiday-specific line of costumes.” Another big seller is red underwear for Valentine’s Day and Christmas.” In spring and summer, Onken says neon meshes and neon lace are big hits.
While the holiday niches are popular for Male Power, Onken says that menswear items sell consistently year-round. “There are fewer sales spikes for the holidays in menswear, unlike women’s lingerie.”
She notes that Male Power has been around since 1976 and has evolved with the times, along with its buyers. “Today our customer base is widely diverse, from a mainstream demographic ages 20 to 50 to a hipper market that includes gay men. Whether a man is looking for our white underwear, our bamboo line, or something a little wilder, we have what they’re looking for.”
One change that is particularly noticeable to Onken is that there is not a lot of separation between gay and straight men in terms of overall underwear styles. “Both gay and straight men like comfy mainstream underwear with colors like orange and turquoise, or black paired with pink. I’ve been in the business 28 years, and today there isn’t a big gap in terms of underwear styles between straight men and gay men. Straight men are wearing underwear with style, class and a sleek look just like gay men. They also like low-cut body accentuating styles.” Some specialty lines hold more appeal for the gay demographic, however. Rings and rip offs such as those in Male Power’s Extreme line plus their fetish line, are more popular with gay men. “Lycra, shiny leather-look fabric, rip off/bondage styles, these do tend to appeal more to the gay market,” Onken says. “Trims, sexy underwear that is half open on the side, a ripped look, those styles are also popular for gay men.”
As to Male Power’s latest collections, features include bold colors and prints, soft and wide elastic waist bands, contrast stitching, and mainstream classy styles along the lines of Calvin Klein. “On the more daring side of the fence, you’ll find half moon shorts with lace and lycra among our offerings. Lycra pouch underwear is one cool new style.
Men’s lace is extremely popular ever since it came out about a year and a half ago, and it is booming. Both gay and straight men like and wear classic low-cut men’s stretch lace,” she concludes.
Drew LeQuang, assistant marketing manager of Andrew Christian Inc., says he sees the current trend in men’s underwear style as going back to the basics — like black. “We just introduced our new Black Collection underwear. It’s a sleek and sophisticated look that’s very popular.” According to LeQuang, the holidays influence what people buy for themselves or as a gift. “For holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas, I always try to design limited edition underwear that’s a little bit different or has a special touch that the rest of the collection doesn’t have.”
LeQuang says Andrew Christian’s customer base is very diverse. “It’s not just one type of person who buys our men’s underwear, but there is one thing I think all our customers have in common — confidence. When you wear a pair of Andrew Christian underwear it makes you feel a little more sexy and confident.”
For the gay market, LeQuang sees the brief cut as the most popular style, and notes that underwear choices for both straight and gay men are really driven by self-preference and comfort. “People wear what makes them feel happy,” he explains. With that in mind, LeQuang describes his latest release, the Vibe collection. “It’s my sports active underwear design. The new collection is very functional, and has moisture-wicking fabric, but it also looks great and is comfortable.”
Overall, the differences between straight and gay men’s preferences in underwear are shrinking, fabrics are getting softer, colors brighter, and lace is making a statement. And the most pronounced trend in menswear? Underwear that’s both sexy and functional, attractive and comfortable.