By 2025, the female lingerie industry is expected to be worth near 60 billion dollars. The market for men, however, remains an afterthought. Why is that, you ask?
Well, the demand among men is perceptively smaller. In 2016, underwear purveyor Tommy John found that 14 percent of men don’t care what’s under their clothes, allowing their partners to purchase their underwear for them. The survey also found that 33 percent of men between ages 18 to 29 wait until their underwear starts sagging — yes, sagging — to replace them, and it only gets worse with age.
But what actually constitutes male lingerie? A quick glance in the male undergarment aisle or an average online men’s store will feature boxers, briefs, trunks, thongs, g-strings, jockstraps, singlets, harnesses and so on in varying degrees of color, sparkle and material.
Recently, purveyors have discovered a piqued interest in more traditionally feminine aesthetics, and with that, a chance to explore the world of male lingerie. “Lace is starting to show up a lot more in underwear styles for men, which I love,” says Melanie Pollock, product knowledge expert at sex toy and lingerie outlet Pink Cherry. “I think that the world would be a much better place if everything was less binary – lingerie included.”
Pollack adds that the majority of men who dress in what’s traditionally considered women’s lingerie identify as heterosexual, opting to wear these items to help show off their softer, more submissive side. In fact, there are retailers (like Homme Mystere and Wicked MMM) that design female lingerie specifically for the male body.
Steven Spatola, vice president of operations at specialty lingerie retailer 3 Wishes, said that only 20 percent of sales are in the male vertical. Most of the market identified as gay, reasoning that gay men “are more confident with their bodies and sexuality.”
While gay men are more versatile in their preferences, Spatola found straight men have a proclivity for novelty pieces, chalking up an influence by male strippers that dress up like policemen or sailors.
Gay men, on the other hand, are exposed to gear like harnesses and jockstraps rather frequently. In fact, gay men are largely responsible for the resurgence of the jockstap after athletes ditched these traditional duds for compression fit underwear, instead opting to wear the cheeky undergarment in less of an athletic setting.
Basically, it’s the overall lack of exposure that’s preventing straight men from digging a little deeper when it comes to lingerie. “In the not-too distant past, and into now, even, sexy men’s underwear (bright colors, butt-baring straps, bulge-boosting designs) were marketed strongly to gay men,” says Pollock. “That’s not to say that straight guys weren’t buying and wearing fun undies (they were and are), but the fact that they tended to be marketed to gay men could be a really simple reason why queer men might be more likely to be able to source, and in turn wear, lingerie.”
Women definitely want to see their men put in the effort. Not long ago, a Twitter poll of over 100 heterosexual and bisexual women showed that more than three quarters of those surveyed would be into their man sporting some male lingerie.
“For me, my partner’s pleasure is critical,” one voter responded. “So they would have to want to wear the outfit, and not just as a favor to me. I love it when my partner feels sexy!”
Michael Kleinmann, CEO of subscription service UnderwearExpert.com, believes men want to feel sexy in their undies, but also seek function. Meaning, they just want a nice pair of classic underwear – be it trunks, briefs, boxers, thongs, etc. – that can also be considered lingerie.
“There has always been a lack of education on men’s underwear … people are not aware of the options, and are also not confident about what will fit them correctly. We set out to fix that,” says Kleinmann.
Thankfully, the male lingerie industry is growing. That demand for sexy garments among women is growing to be just as strong for men, and with more options available than ever before, this means that there is no excuse for you to be sporting saggy garments riddled with holes.
These days, most men take pride in their underwear. Do you?