Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Men's Unmentionables

Warning: this blog post contains descriptions and links to images that should not be found on America's most popular retail site (but unfortunately are). I have refrained from showing you any highly offensive pictures. But if you want a good laugh, clink on the links or, better yet, do a search of men's undergarments on Amazon.com.

After a few weeks of nagging (no, not from me, from my other half), I found myself in the position of having to buy some male undergarments. Easy enough, right? After six-and-a-half years of practically-wedded bliss, I had literally built up my hubby's entire wardrobe. You see, it all started when the object of my affection dressed more like a construction worker than a suave young stud. Somehow, by the grace of God (or more likely, generous portions of alcohol), my knight in shining armour managed to woo me in nothing more than a tattered, faded, paint-splattered polo shirt -- mind you, that he didn't even buy, but that was delegated to him by his previous job to wear at work -- and a pair of extremely loose, threadbare pair of khaki pants. That shirt, along with a torn, paper-thin gray tee and some holey socks, was the full extent of his attire. Talk about opposites attracting! You can see the gargantuan task that had lay before me. Over the years, I brought home piece after piece, from socks to trousers to boxers to new hole-less tee shirts. I added to the collection polo shirts, jeans, long-sleeved tees, sweatshirts, coats, shoes, pants in colors other than khaki, then eventually suits and button-down shirts. Through my patience and persistent efforts, I slowly but surely turned him from a shabby (not chic) specimen to a respectable-looking professional.

The problem was, his closet was now bursting at the seams and threatening to invade my carefully carved-out closet space that I had tenaciously fought for. What began as a small section that he shared in my closet and a simple set of drawers that contained all his underthings had grown to a veritable closet in its own right. I was not surprised, therefore, when he demanded his own closet in our soon-to-be master bedroom in the new house that we had bought. "Fine," I contended (or rather, hissed), but under one condition: he could have his very own closet if I was allowed to annex 6 feet of wall space in the bedroom, enclose it, and build a laundry closet. I mean, the new master bedroom had not only a small walk-in closet but a second closet, so it was only fair to share. Little did I know the mousetrap I had walked into. Now that he had his own closet, he continued to expand his clothing collection, sometimes even buying pieces himself! Yes, he actually walked into the store and bought himself a few pairs of pants and a pair of shoes. I was shocked and worried at the same time. What if he stopped listening to me and started buying clothes that he liked instead of clothes that I liked? It was unthinkable.

But then I realized that, the more clothes he had, the lower my dry cleaning bill would be (assuming he would actually wear more of the clothes) and the less laundry I would have to do. And I already do laundry twice a week! You'd think a guy with 3 weeks worth of shirts and pants would be easier to care for. Not so. Turns out, he wears the same 4 polos and pants all week long, then the same 3 tee shirts, jeans, and shorts Friday through Sunday. The rest of his overflowing wardrobe just sits in his closet, for which he claims various excuses. Too short, too tight, too faded, to underarm-stained, too this, too that. So why doesn't he give the things he doesn't need away, like I do every 3 months? Oh no, because what would he do if he gained a few pounds/lost a few pounds/needed some shabby clothes to do chores in, or just decided that he liked hunter green again? And to make matters worse, the small group of "acceptable" articles that he wore sometimes only lasted for half the day, then he would decide to change into something "more comfortable" or more suited to whichever mood he was in. Yes, my friends, my husband has become a girl (at least in the wardrobe department). Don't ask me why I do all the laundry in the first place. It's another mousetrap that I walked into when I insisted on building a laundry closet in the bedroom.

Anyway, I grudgingly agreed to buy more stupid gray undershirts. Being the lazy bargain shopper that I am, I immediately went online to find the best deal possible so I wouldn’t have to go to the store. Before you give me the benefit of the doubt and allege that I have a certain discomfort level with buying men's unmentionables -- the female version of "male tampon buying syndrome" so to speak -- I appreciate the thought. But let me assure you that I have no qualms whatsoever with buying any unmentionables, male or female. I could care less if I'm in the grocery store buying maxi-pads and the checkout clerk yells for a price check. No, I'm not embarrased to buy "personal" stuff. Just plain lazy. My snookums' entire boxer collection has arrived by mail from Old Navy. If I can buy something without leaving the house, I will.

I set to work, typing in “men’s gray undershirts” to start my search. Logically, Google led me to Amazon. Not so logically, Amazon then commenced to spit out 4 pages of decidedly "gay undershirts." And so much more. A little too much, I'd say. Picture after picture came up of underthings that I didn't know men wanted to buy. I can understand jock straps, but next to the jock straps were images of males donning thongs, slings, strategic padding devices, completely inappropriate-looking workout garments, and other inexplicable inventions. The ridiculous poses and facial expressions that the models bore made it even more laughable. The wort part was having to look at the huge bulging male anatomy shrinkwrapped in various constricting materials. I simply could not imagine any male actually putting these contraptions on.

I was horrified enough when I was contently watching one of my favorite shows one evening, "What Not to Wear", and the male co-host, Clinton Kelly, made me do a double-take. It was a special episode about strategic undergarments that made a woman's not-so-best assets look much more flattering, and thus allowed her to wear ensembles that she previously wouldn't have dreamed of wearing. Well, towards the end of the episode, after all 3 guinea pigs had completed their transformation and were modeling their new looks, Clinton Kelly beckoned them all to come close and peer down his backside. He then proceeded to do a self-wedgie and produced a thin strap of support fabric from inside his jeans, proudly demonstrating a male thong. I almost fell out of my chair. The 3 poor girls were at a loss for words -- their facial expressions ranged from pity to sheer horror. Even Stacy London's mouth fell open.

Look, I own a large collection of thongs. They have excellent uses in a female's wardrobe. They're practically a staple in the summer, when a girl wears a lot of thin materials. Personally, I don't feel the need to wear thongs under jeans, but then, I don't generally wear skintight jeans. I also figure that denim generally has enough thickness to allow for a pair of sheer silk bikini briefs or at least some gossamer lace panties. However, I'll give a girl her thong if she wants to wear it under everything. But please tell me, what would compel a guy to wear a thong under a regular pair of jeans? Clinton Kelly, being an exceptionally well-dressed man, knows better than to squeeze his behind into a pair of tight trousers. Plus, we all expect to find some briefs or boxes under a man's pants. There's no need to eliminate the male panty line. Unless you're a male stripper and your work outfit consists of a single G-string, what possible reason could a man have to wear undoubtedly uncomfortable underwear? (More perplexing, what possessed Clinton Kelly to show his thong on national television?) Yet, there is a plethora of male "speciality" undergarments.

Lest you think Amazon.com is a family-friendly site, think again. You'll find row after row of bulging full-frontals and enhanced profiles of men squeezed into rather cramped quarters, so to speak. Some of the garb made me reconsider my lunch. Now, if more of these men looked like Mark Wahlberg or Matt Damon (after the "The Bourne" trilogy makeover), it would be a different story. Heck, I'd give up my lunch hour to ogle Mark Wahlberg in his Calvins. In fact, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger for providing some of the least unpleasant images of men in underwear (except for Calvin Klein's inopportune body thong) as well as for showcasing some of the best-built bods around. Not that they were any more family-friendly, but at least they were friendlier on the stomach. Unfortunately, some of the men in the other ads looked like Deuce Bigalow or, on the other extreme, a gay version of Ricky Martin with strapping quads. Not a pretty picture. I have nothing against gay and lesbian individuals, but I don't want to see gay porn stars on steroids modeling underwear on Amazon.com. And while I concede that there is definitely a place for novelty undergarments, I'm completely clueless as to why a search for "men's gray undershirts" would yield both a lime-green Classic Silk Knit Thong (classic, you say?) and a Male Power Posing Strap (warning: this image is highly unsavory).

I mentioned this to my friend Anna and sent her some of the most disturbing images. She was equally puzzled. Here are some of my favorites. This outfit (right) does nothing to flatter a man's ego. In fact, the first thing I thought of was, did this guy wet his pants? How about the derriere-enhancing Padded Boxer Butt Brief? You reach out to give his cheeks a squeeze, only to discover that they're not his real cheeks. Or this Male Power Super Sock with a “contoured pouch for profile enhancement,” which also comes in a fetching leopard print for your wearing enjoyment. I mean, how inadequate must a guy feel to buy extra bulge? Try to imagine the embarrassment when the poor guy has to take it off and show his real size. I know, I know, women have their push-up bras. But that's because women's bosoms have traditionally been acceptable to display throughout the course of history. Besides, men are always clammoring to see more of them. Women, on the other hand, do not want to see male enhancement in public.

I was practically rolling on the floor when I read this product name and description (below image): "Balls In One Brief - Finally a brief that holds everything in place and doesn't squish your balls! Designed to fit a mans anatomy perfectly with a cool mesh pouch for your sack and a unique fit that helps your shaft to point up... Also available in thong and Erector Brief styles." I have cropped the bottom out of the image but you can see it in all its glory and read the helpful product review by clicking on the image. The poor model looks like he is about to be strip-searched in prison. That, or a female dominatrix is forcing him to take his shirt off. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for this dreadful image. Whoever invented the Undergear Big Rib Bodysuit should be forced to wash women's underwear in public and hang them outisde his window. Men should not be allowed to wear this contraption! I'm not even going to ask how the black spandex Padded Hip And Butt Panty Shaper For Crossdressing, Transgender And Transvestite Men made it into the search results.

More bewildering to me was that real men actually left reviews for these products, using their full names in some cases and in stunning detail. I don’t even want to imagine that men wear these things, and I sure as hell don’t want to know their names and what they do for a living! For example, when reviewing the Male Power Super Sock, Joe Average "Joe" (yes, this is his real Amazon username) from Florida writes, "Unfortunately, my experience with this product is less than stellar. For one, I am a very hairy man. A VERY HAIRY MAN. The look was completely different from the picture. Secondly, upon closer inspection of the product pictured, it appears that the model has a SOCK stuffed in the front! That must be what they mean by super sock. Anyway, when I crammed my package in there, it looked a prairie dog popping up out of its hole. Lastly, watch out for the string...it gets stinky." Whoa!!! That's way more information than a girl or even another guy ever needed to know. It's one thing to review shoes on Zappos.com, but quite another to enlighten the general population about your no-so-fresh feeling. I can safely predict that Joe's dating adventures are about as stellar as his experience with the Super Sock.

Then there is perfectly practical gear that looks anything but normal in the picture. When I first saw this Under Armour Men's Long Sleeve Turf Gear, I mistook it for a Halloween costume. Luckily, Anna was quick to enlighten me on the virtues of Under Armour. Apparently, it is not an undershirt at all, but a moisture-wicking fabric. She also threw in the all-important factoid that it was invented by a former University of Maryland football player and has really become the gold standard for athletic wear. Football players love them. Of course, I dig football players! By all means, wick on, wick off... But you might want to consider modifying your print ads. Right now, they probably scare the pants off young children (no pun intended). The ad shows an imposing maroon (or red) Incredible Hulk torso with no head, just an open neck, and no sign of a man’s body underneath. My immediate thought when I saw it was, does it pop out of the box that way, all brawny and muscle-toned, flexing both bicepts? My next thought was, boy, I'd hate to be the skinny teenage nerd or the middle-aged man with serious love handles taking this out of the box for the first time. It would make me feel a teensy bit inadequate. And my third thought was, I’d be afraid, very afraid, that as soon as I put it on, that it would turn me into the maroon (or bright red) Incredible Hulk.

By the end of my browsing experience, I was so disturbed by the frightening images I had viewed, I was effectively curtailed from purchasing men's undergarments online ever again. Alas, I was forced to leave the house. Anna suggested that I hit Target or the Gap outlet instead. A few days later, I found myself sifting through piles of undergarments alongside males of all stripes. To their credit, they didn't bat an eyelash as I turned over the entire stock of undershirts. I have witnessed, on the other hand, plenty of men stared down by women as they sorted through racks of bras and panties in the lingerie department. The notable exception is Victoria's Secret, which goes out of their way to make men feel welcome and even helps them purchase the right attire. One can only hope that these men are buying it for someone other than themselves (and preferably a female).

Surprisingly, it wasn't that easy to find multi-packs of simple, gray undershirts. I kept running into multi-packs that had assorted colors, or undershirts that had pockets. Or, undershirts that had banded collars and sleeves. I found two separate packages of potential shirts but neither were in the size I was looking for. Naturally, I found plenty printed gray tee shirts, "hefty" tees, and v-necks, none of which I needed. Target had some eligible options, but they were either the right size and wrong color, or vice versa. The only acceptable combination came with extra details I didn't want, or cost more than $10-15 each -- way more than my budget. I almost broke down and bought designer undershirts at Macy's that cost $20 per shirt, but then I remembered that I was on an unusually tight budget. Fortunately, I had much better luck at TJ Maxx, where I managed to find a tee that was gray, lightweight, unprinted, unbanded, and came in all different sizes. There were even multiples so I could get 2 or 3 in the same size. The best part? It cost only $4.99. Perfect for my slim budget. I took home 2 and figured I could come back for more if my picky man liked them.


I'm glad to report the he liked the tee shirts and is already wearing them. Thanks for saving the day, TJ Maxx! And, my eyes. Sorry Amazon, but I won't be visiting again anytime soon. Who knows what could happen? I might be searching for an innocent pair of "tennis socks" and be accosted by an enigmatic mime in an electric blue Complete Body Unitard (right) who appears to be performing a scene from "Cats." Or a lovely pair of shag carpet-like ruffled Petipants (undies?), which look alarmingly like they were spun from Dolly the sheep. How, exactly, do these two items fall under the category of "socks and hosiery"? (Though I am pleasantly surprised to have come across a rather useful and appropriately-classified item, toe-less pantyhose -- for those who insist on wearing peep-toe pumps in the dead of winter and need some leg coverage.) Next time I want to buy men's undergarments, I'll stick to Old Navy for boxers and TJ Maxx for the rest.


Vintage Vixen said...

You are totally accurate about the "unmentionables"! That picture gives me a whole different perspective when I hear the word now!
I am actually horrified to realize that it was found on Amazon!!!

Anonymous said...

The only place I can get a good price on men's thong underwear IS Amazon. I've ordered 10 pair and love them all! (yes I'm a guy) I wouldn't wear any other underwear!