It seems like innerwear is no longer a thing only women care about, as latest data from yStats.com show how the men's underwear sector is boosting sales growth in the overall underwear industry in the United States, together with lingerie for women aged 45 and up. Men are even more conscious of their options, as many of them indicated a willingness to pay more for underwear made of natural fabrics rather than synthetics.
In the global sphere, emerging markets continue to pave the way for the expansion of the underwear industry, as consumers with growing incomes increase their spending on this clothing category. Luxury underwear is one of the fastest growing segments in Europe, while functional underwear is what sells in China and Japan.
But together with the expansion of the industry is the shrinking of what is considered as fashionable men's underwear. "We're seeing a movement away from the wear-your-pants-down-to-your-knees look, and that's also changing the way in which guys are looking at what they're wearing, so they're starting to wear slimmer, trimmer undergarments," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for The NPD Group.
One of the most popular style these days is the boxer brief — an underwear that has the length of traditional boxers but fits snugly like briefs — which represents nearly 40 percent of the whole men's underwear market. It has steadily gained over the past couple of years, followed by briefs, which grew 23 percent from 2013 to 2014. Though still considered as the most popular style, loose-fitting boxer shorts declined 14 percent over the same period.
The tighter and slimmer underwear trend pretty much follows the comeback of the tighter-fitting pants and jeans for men, which made their mark in the 1960s. Men's skinny bottoms grew 11 percent, while looser and more relaxed fitting styles reminiscent of the '90s all experienced declines.
One of the possible reasons for this shift towards snug-fitting bottoms is the fact that men are now buying their own undergarments. In the '70s, only 25 percent of all men's underwear was purchased by men, as majority of their underwear was bought for them by their wives, mothers, or girlfriends. Fast forward to the 21st century, and 75 percent of all men's underwear is now bought by men. "They're no longer just accepting what was bought for them, but they are actually making choices," Cohen said.
Apparel brands are quick to notice how men have become savvy underwear shoppers over the years. For instance, Levi Strauss & Co. and Lacoste both successfully launched their men's underwear line last year to be able to corner a share of the market. Germany-based Otto Group launched underwear brand a year earlier online in November 2013, according to yStats.com.
Choices for men's underwear are more varied than ever, not just in terms of style but even in terms of fabrics and colors used. For instance, Canadian luxury underwear company Naked Brand Group Inc. offers a wide variety of product lines geared towards the varied lifestyles of its users. One product line from the company, the Active Collection, makes use of moisture-wicking microfiber fabric, enabling the user to stay dry and comfortable even while doing physical and athletic activities. Those who don't want to depart from the basic cotton underwear can choose the Essential Collection, which is made from ultra-soft cotton stretch fabric designed for ultimate comfort. Available in four colors, Naked Brand's underwear also comes in three styles—briefs, boxer briefs, and trunks.
Similarly, there are many underwear businesses that offer products with special features, including odor and temperature control. According to Cohen, "With smarter fabrics and more clever technology, the underwear market is evolving. Even if men any or all of these more advanced features, they still take comfort in the fact that they have them, a mentality that designers and retailers should keep in mind. These features, which bring comfort and confidence, put men's underwear right in line with other fashion products now."
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