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 FreshPair.com 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.