September 2009 Column Winner

The Question Isn't Boxers or Briefs - Life Lessons
Patti Marshall - Countywide & Sun,  September 2009

I was reading an article from The Washington Post that expressed the use of men’s underwear as a leading economic indicator. And I quote, “Sales of men’s underwear typically are stable because they rank as a necessity. But during times of severe financial strain, men will try to stretch the time between buying new pairs, causing underwear sales to dip.”

It seems men’s underwear sales sagged last year as the economy took a nosedive. To add insult to injury, the expectation is that this is not a brief interlude. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

But take heart; the men’s underwear index (MUI) indicates a rise is forthcoming. It seems some major retailers are seeing a rebound in sales, especially with multi-pair packs. Does that mean it’s an elastic market? Another mea culpa; I just can’t help myself.

There seems to be a flaw in the theory — why are they asking men about their underwear when the amount of women in the men’s underwear aisles always seems far greater than the amount of men? No, really, think about it. It may seem like a silly question, and I realize single men most probably shop for their own underwear, but as women, we see all the dirty little secrets as we wash, dry and fold our husbands’ and sons’ underwear. We know just how long each pair will hold up or when it’s time for replacements. My conclusion is that wives and mothers do most of the buying; therefore, women, as I’ve suspected all along, control the economic standard in this country.

In doing research on this subject, I found more than eight million web sites, not including 713,985 blogs, where men’s underwear was explored, and that some people, men actually, pay up to $30 for a single pair. Why? I mean, why to both statements. Why discuss men’s underwear at all, and why pay so much for it? First, there is nothing special about men’s underwear, especially after dealing with it for the past 23 years of marriage. And second, there are plenty of sales at retail stores on six-packs (with an extra pair thrown in free) for $10 and under. Discussion closed.

Well, maybe not. The Men’s Underwear Guy blog site rated men’s underwear in such categories as All-day wear, Office wear, Sleep wear, Athletic wear and Lounge wear. This really surprised me because I didn’t know men purchased their underwear to coincide with their activities. Oh please, I know jock straps are active wear, but the accompanying web site photos displayed a surprisingly diverse field of uncomfortable looking garments, each one seemingly more painful than the next. How do those boys breathe? I tried not to look, but it’s like a train wreck wrapped in 100 percent cotton.

As a necessity, I suppose underwear is counterintuitive to the fact that during dire economic straits not wearing underwear could save a person a certain amount of money. But when it comes to the country’s fiscal growth, buying knickers keeps factories, salespeople, and even underwear models working, which in the long run helps the economy rise above a “bare” market.

So ladies, the question that now begs to be asked is no longer, “Boxers or briefs?” but “Underwear or no underwear?” Try and get that image out of your head anytime soon.