Generational Underwear Preferences

Where once there was little available in the way of choice, for males seeking to purchase underwear, males of all ages tended to wear the same styles in underwear. Today, as the underwear choices for men increase with new cuts, styles and designs, the preferences of different age groups now become apparent and play an important role in design, production and marketing of products. Targeting specific wearers is important because differences in age dictate differences in lifestyle and activities, which ultimately affect the choices and fashions for each generation.

Men`s underwear styles, as we know them today have had a progression through long underwear union suits, briefs, boxers, Y fronts and thongs. During the majority of the 20th Century, the “tighty whitey” brief reigned as the comfortable and supportive choice for males everywhere. Both men and boys wore this style with little regard for alternatives. Their use was perpetuated by arbitrary choices – boys wore into adulthood those briefs that their fathers had worn or their mothers had purchased for them throughout their childhood.

New designer underwear producers in the 1970`s and 80`s began a new era for underwear. Briefs became briefer and sported great varieties in colors, fabrics, combinations and designs. Calvin Klein, Sauvage, Ron Chereskin, Tommy Hilfiger, 2(x)ist and Jockey began to use “sex” as the main selling point for major advertising campaigns and customers began to seek out different styles of briefs.

Debate over labeling of fitted boxer briefs and trunks has caused confusion in some circles over the years. True, they are variations on a theme – yet have details particular to each type. Generally the commonalities are their fitted nature in a knit fabric. Differences occur with length of legs (mid-thigh or upper thigh/truncated), fly or no fly, and double vs. single back seams. Perhaps a simpler labeling system could include longer/shorter and fitted/looser wording. At least then buyers could visualize for themselves rather than trying to interpret vocabulary.

Simpler labeling would help to meet the needs of the differing generational choices of underwear styles. Teens in the skateboarding and roller blading crowd tend to favor longer and looser boxers. Whether this is a hold over from the Generation X preference for baggy boxer shorts openly displayed with jeans is unknown. Others believe the attractiveness of the looser boxers for the teen crowd comes with their identification with basketball styles. As the melding of innerwear and outwear design occurs, this trend is likely to continue for this demographic. However, there is a definite shift in preference for the 30`s and 40`s crowd of wearers. This demographic is physically fully developed, and socially, comfortable in their bodies. Shorter, fitted underwear that provides support and coverage, yet also sculpts the lower trunk, as well as defines and flatters the body meet the needs of this group. The appeal of the sleek cut of the fitted boxers is their body-defining look. Guys that have worked out to create impressive abdominals, gluts, quads and hamstrings will be happy to sport this line of underwear to flatter their bodies.

A new underwear competitor, Alenver Inc has identified this pattern in preferences and is adding a new cut to their collection. In February, 2009, Alenver will add a shorter, tighter line of boxer underwear to their longer looser cut already in the market. Being a relatively small entity, means their response time to the major changes and minor trends in preferences is reduced. This enables them to meet the needs of the targeted groups in a much faster time. Other underwear designers have also moved in a similar direction. According to President Michael Kleinmann, low rise “gripper trunks and square cut briefs are doing well in terms of sales for Calvin Klein, 2(x)ist, C-IN2, Ginch Gonch and Andrew Christian.”

Customer choice is a priority in any design category. New designs and additions to collections do not spell the end for previous designs, but rather provide the choice that customers deserve. In the male fashion arena, outerwear clothing choices and lifestyle activities lend themselves to certain underwear styles. For example, depending how tightly trousers are worn will impact the choice of underwear. Relatively loose fitting dress pants may be more compatible with boxers – but others may decide the feeling, support and fit of fitted boxers is preferable. Additionally, hip hugging low-rise pants may favor bikini briefs or boxers with decorative messaged waistbands such as in Alenver`s collection. Sporty active lifestyles may dictate shorter or longer legged boxers, which allow for easy movement for both everyday wear and active sports wear. Personal choice is key. Current and future underwear designers would be wise to consider the lifestyles of their various ages of customers and design for their needs accordingly.

The Fashion Of Color In Men’s Underwear

In the fashion world the question that has often been asked is: “Why has men’s underwear never been in fashion?” It is an area that has been neglected with very little in the way of changes in the past ten years. Function and comfort have been addressed throughout the evolution of men’s underwear, yet fashion has been relegated to an inferior place in this niche in the industry. The wheels of change however, are slowly starting to turn, with new designers following the lead of the top designers and incorporating their season’s colors into their underwear collections.

Men’s underwear styles, as we know them today have had a progression through long underwear union suits, briefs, boxers, Y fronts and thongs. Today, low rise “gripper trunks and square cut briefs are currently doing well in terms of sales for Calvin Klein, 2(x)ist, C-IN2, Ginch Gonch and Andrew Christian” according to President Michael Kleinmann. Additionally, Alenver Inc., new to the underwear market has also tapped into the low-rise fashion with its messaged waistbands designed to be seen above the jeans waistline.

Beyond cuts and styles, however, color is a critical aspect in fashion design. As Orli Sharaby states in her article regarding New York Fashion week, “It’s fascinating to witness how an entire industry’s color choices can shift and sway with changing times.” Fashion Weeks held around the world, but most prominently in the fashion capitals of Milan, Paris, London and New York, allow fashion designers to present their latest collections, and for buyers to preview the latest trends. The semiannual events must be held several months in advance of the season to allow the press and buyers the opportunity to see the designs for the new season and to allow retailers time to arrange for purchasing or to include the designers in their retail marketing.

The Fall/Winter colors for 2008 that were favored in the shows in the early part of the year featured purples, blues, and greens as the new colors. For example, Pantone Color Institute in New Jersey supplies the top 10 colors for designers for the New York Fashion Week and their top four choices for this year were: Blue Iris, Royal Lilac, Shady Glade and Caribbean Sea. These colors are considered representative of the year as Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman believes people are looking for calm in an economically and politically volatile year. She states: “We need that element of calm, but at the same time, the color has some strength to it.” Kleinman confirms these color choices as he sees “conservative basics such as navy, fatigues and brown, to more daring colors like pink, purple, electric blue and yellow” performing well.

Color is an important feature of the Alenver Inc. collection with their men’s and women’s lines designed to complement the new season’s hottest color trends. Additionally, contrasting waistbands of color with gold and silver messages provide the variety that wearers desire for their boxers and briefs. It is interesting to note that Alenver is the only men’s underwear designer to take the season’s colors recommended by the top designers in Fashion Week and include them in their collection with purple, dark brown and fuscia. Additional warmer colors often associated with Fall were also included in this season’s top ten – shitake, aurora red and withered rose, and Alenver’s collection reflects these colors also in their khaki, pink and fuscia designs.

While these colors can be expected to appear in women’s outer fashions, it is a new concept to see these colors featured in men’s underwear fashions. Men’s fashion has expanded today to the point where men are expecting fashion to meet their sense of style and this extends to underwear. Not only are they seeking contemporary styles and sleek cuts that offer comfort and flatter their bodies, they are also expanding their choices to reflect the changes of fashion. Getting inside the male psyche, one might hear the thoughts: “I coordinate my socks, my ties, my clothes – why wouldn’t I want to coordinate my underwear, even if it’s not seen?”

Colors in men’s underwear have been a relatively new concept appearing only since the 1950’s. Prior to that, white had been the mainstay of underwear for the general public, not to be seen in public, and drab olive the safe coleur du jour for the military since white briefs were considered too conspicuous when hung out to dry. The introduction of color and pattern made underwear more innovative and exciting and underwear slowly began to be gain stature in the fashion industry.

Men’s underwear is being revolutionized with the introduction of new designers and their creative collections to this specialized niche in the fashion arena. Fashion can now take its place alongside fit and function to form the trinity of vital design areas to be addressed by the underwear industry.