Sexy marketing, shrinking pants, and changing shopping habits created the nation’s dominant underwear
Seismic shifts rarely happen in men’s underwear. Many guys spend a lifetime donning the same kind of drawers, day after day, with little interest in switching to some newfangled design. For generations, starting in the 1940s, the American man has focused on two basic options: boxers or briefs. Yet both of these classic undergarments have today been eclipsed by a style that didn’t exist 25 years ago.
But baring skin isn’t everything. Adam Dinkes, chief executive of premium underwear maker Tani, believes sexy advertising serves only to capture initial attention. Men stick with boxer brief because they weigh options for themselves and make their own purchases. “There’s a lot more information,” he says. “It’s a more self-educated customer or a more curious customer.” Men have taken a heightened interest in activewear and a recent offshoot dubbed athleisure, which are clothes that can be worn to the gym and in everyday life.
The popularity of figure-hugging undergarments is now prompting an explosion of experimentation with fabrics as underwear gets a high-performance makeover. Premium brands have introduced more ambitious designs, while athletic-wear stalwarts such as Lululemon, Under Armour, Nike, and Adidas made moves to slice off the upper-end of the market by promising robust masculinity alongside unmatched functionality. At the top of the underwear market, such companies as Frigo sell $100 micro polyamide and Lycra elastane boxer briefs that feature a netted pouch and a cooling barrier.Another high-priced brand, Tani, sells $50 performance boxer brief made from Superfine Cupro, Japanese polyester, and Spandex. The brand claims the fabric has “almost magical qualities,” with a built-in moisture management system and drying abilities.