The New York Times' Not-So-Brief Affair With Men's Underwear

The New York Times' Eric Wilson asks a silly question today:  "Are men really ready to shop for underwear the way women do?"  Silly, we say, because if men weren't shopping like women, then what would be the reason The Times and Wilson have pumped out trend story after story for the past few years about men's underwear trends?

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The New York Times' Eric Wilson asks a silly question today:  "Are men really ready to shop for underwear the way women do?"  Silly, we say, because if men weren't shopping like women, then what would be the reason The Times and Wilson have pumped out trend story after story for the past few years about men's underwear trends?

So, yes, we get that Wilson's question may be rhetorical or is simply the product of having to cover The New York Times' men's underwear beat for a few years now, but Wilson of all people should know the answer is a resounding: Yes!  Well, that's what at least eight of trend stories in The New York Times seem to indicate. Here's a look at some of the Times' (and Wilson's) more memorable stories about men and their underwear:

Alternative Title: Did you know there's a wonderbra for penises?

The Gist: Guy Trebay explains the shock, awe, and pleasure of finding new species of men's underwear like "action bikinis" and "sling support."

Perfect for: Someone who clicks on those "masculine enhancement" e-mails.

The Brands: 2(xist), C-in2, Baskit

The Takeaway: ''You know, I don't think any of us ever consciously said, 'We're going to display genitals,' '' said Bob Mazzoli, who has been the chief creative director of Calvin Klein underwear since the product's inception. ''It just seems right for us.''

Alternative Title: Did you know men want their underwear to look childlike?

The Gist: David Colman dives into the world of that regrettable trend of patterned and novelty underwear.  Think cowboys, superheroes, stars, rainbows, fire trucks--all on an adult man's underwear.

Perfect for: Ummm ... theme parties and go-go dancers

The Brands: Justus Boyz, Wax, Play, Kyle, Artificial Flavor and AussieBum.

The Takeaway: "Novelty underwear, for decades the butt of jokes and the joke of butts, has, in the last two to three years, turned into a serious business, capturing a significant share of the $1.1 billion men’s knit-underwear (that is, excluding boxers) market."

August 29, 2008:  Milan-derpants

Alternative Title: Milan-derpants

The Gist: T's Grant Thatcher, as you may have guessed, explores the kind of underwear style Milanese men wear.

Perfect for: Anyone wanting to purchase undergarments like a Milanese male.

The Brands: His Basic Wear, Softwear, Aussie Bum

The Takeaway: "Do Milanese men have a preternatural desire to look at muscular, seminaked men?" asks Thatcher, before adding: "Please remember that if you’re buying underwear for your bloke, rule No.1 is NO BACK SEAM. A back seam in a men’s brief or boxer acts exactly like a thong does for women."

Alternative Title: Did you know men buy boring underwear?

The Gist:  Wilson writes about the growing trend of basic briefs. Yes, the kind you get in a three-pack. No, not the kind that you find in Target.

Perfect for: Bankers, lawyers, people hit by the recession. "A few years ago, brands started coming out with more and more collections and retiring them sooner," an internet underwear seller told Wilson. "But when the economy started changing, they scaled it back."

The Brands: Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein Alfani

The Takeaway: "Anyone who has shopped for men’s underwear in the last decade will understand the significance of this moment." Really Wilson? Really?

August 31, 2009: "‘Green’ Undergarments — For a Premium"

Alternative title: Need an environmental story ... stat.

The Gist:  James Kanter explores bamboo and "green" underwear for the Times' Green blog.

Perfect for:  Environment advocates, Impressing environment advocates

The Brands: Baskit, C-in2

The Takeaway: "Is there really a market for “green” underwear?"

September 26, 2009: "Men’s Underwear as an Economic Indicator"

Alternative Title: Did you know men buy underwear?

The Gist: If there's any indicator of the power of men's underwear, look no further than Jack Healy's piece on how men's underwear sales can predict the ebb and flow of the most powerful country in the world.

Perfect for: Anyone who doesn't believe men's underwear isn't a real thing

The Brands: None really, this is a hard-hitting science/economy piece.

The Takeaway: "It’s simply a bellwether,” said Bill Patterson, a senior analyst at Mintel who examined trends in men’s underwear sales. “When people are feeling confident, they spend more. The last thing you’re going to do when you’re short on cash is go and replace your underwear.”

Alternative Title: Did you know men who play sports buy underwear?

The Gist: Stuart Elliott introduces us to the "boxerjock."

Perfect for: "Athletes"

The Brands: Under Armour

The Takeaway: "The Boxerjock campaign underlines the ferment in the men’s underwear market, once a sleepy corner of the clothing industry dominated by heritage brands like BVD, Fruit of the Loom and Hanes," writes Elliott. "The changes that began with labels like Calvin Klein are accelerating as marketers respond to what Women’s Wear Daily this month described as “surging demand for fashion, color and performance” products among shoppers."

Alternative Title: Hey, just checking, did you know guys buy underwear?

The Gist: Wilson explores the Frigo No.1, which promises to adjust to your manhood.

Perfect for: Someone with lots of money to spend, early tech-adopters

The Brands: Revolution Wear, Naked, Ice Breaker

The Takeaway: 

Behold the Frigo No. 1, as the new design is called, the first underwear with an interior mesh pouch that is suspended from elastic straps, so it can be adjusted to fit different characteristics of the male anatomy. It’s sort of like a bra with one cup. Also, the waistband and leg holes are bonded to resist bunching, and laser-cut vents placed along the lower back allow for aeration.

Photos via:,, Macy's, Under Armour, Revolution Wear and vseb via Shutterstock. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.