When travelling abroad, one of the most noticeable differences between the USA and other countries is how they perceive and market male underwear. In the United States, male underwear is utilitarian, and frankly, unimaginative. American men hide their tackle, while European men proudly accentuate it. Male underwear that is readily available in the USA at places like Walmart, Target, or even Nordstrom’s, is made from very heavy fabrics that will mask any telltale bulges. The construction of these undergarments is reinforced, with pouches that squash the goods, making them uncomfortable for the average man. European male underwear is shaped to fit the masculine physique and uses fabrics that are softer, lighter weight and feels better against intimate parts of the male body.
The difference in the treatment of male underwear doesn’t stop there. Male underwear that is sold in the USA is usually relegated to the back of the store, and is almost always boxed so it is quite impossible to see or feel the fabric and design. In Europe, especially France, the Netherlands, and Germany, many shops exist that specialize just in men’s undergarments. These shops tend to be very well designed and visually attractive. There will be at least one or two male models wearing the underwear so that patrons can see the fit of the product. These shops are found in mainstream areas of the bigger cities. In the USA, if a man is interested in his underwear, it is often assumed that he is not masculine enough. Not so in other parts of the world, specifically Europe. The great majority of European men take pride in what’s under their clothes and will spend time and money to look good.
There are a handful of stores throughout the US that follow the European model for selling men’s underwear. I’ve been to several, including ones in Portland, Seattle, and New York. Many of them are struggling financially as they fight against the mainstream ideology that it is somehow wrong for men to buy pleasing underwear. I think that the majority of men (and their girlfriends/wives) are stuck in the historically puritanical realm that men’s underwear = naughty sex, impure thoughts, and possibly illegal thoughts as well. And, no, I don’t think that will change anytime soon.
Here at BodyAware, we know we cannot change the world, but we can change men’s underwear, one pair at a time.