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.