The term “unmentionables” used to be used when referring to women’s underwear and pajamas. I believe the term these days is “intimate apparel”. To paraphrase Billy Joel, it’s still underwear to me. I guess the term has changed because the garments have changed and so has our propensity to blush when such things are discussed. It is not unusual to see commercials in the media with women modeling all sorts of dainty things while talking about size and fit.
Men are getting equal attention in this regard. Catalogs were once the only place you would see an ad for men’s underwear. And it's always been called underwear. After all something that most guys leave strewn about the house in plain view hardly qualifies as dainty, intimate, or unmentionable. The styles have changed too. When I was growing up there were boxers and briefs, all of which were white. Nowadays there are boxers, briefs, boxer briefs, and a style I can only describe as “extra brief”. Think Speedo.
The colors and designs have changed as well. White? Well, sometimes. Wild? You bet. You can get everything from your favorite sports team’s logo to cartoon characters and animal prints. I’m all for choices in the marketplace. If someone is willing to buy it, then so be it. But does anyone really need camo boxers? Unless you’re wearing body paint, the rest of you is going to really stand out. I can hear the deer now: “Look Bert, that man’s body and legs aren’t connected. How does he do that?”
What’s really unmentionable about men’s underwear is the price. I was in the store the other day browsing when I strolled through the men’s “intimate apparel” section. Once I got past the vast array of styles, I was taken aback by the prices. These are not durable goods like homes and appliances. The government won’t let me depreciate them for tax purposes. I expect sticker shock when I look at a new car or computer, but not underwear.
I mentioned this to my wife Kate. She had no sympathy. She showed me the price of a quality bra and I quickly understood what she was talking about. But even though someone else’s situation may be a tad worse than yours—or in this case more expensive—it doesn’t lessen the sting. After all, I would expect women’s garments to be a bit more expensive. Things like stylish underwear are important to them. That’s in direct contrast to guys. By and large, we just want a clean pair that fits, but we’re willing to compromise on clean.
Once Kate and I were on a quick weekend trip. We were only gone one night. I had been busy with work just before we skipped town, so she had packed for the both of us. No problem, except she forgot to throw in a pair of undies for me, which I discovered the next morning. She did, however, pack an extra pair for herself which she generously offered to let me wear. Uh…no thanks. I’ll just recycle.
I spent some time trying to figure out when men’s underwear came at such a price that it could be traded as a commodity on the stock exchange. I couldn’t even fathom a guess. I did, however, discover an embarrassing truth.
In flipping through that junk room I call a memory, I realized that I have never bought underwear for myself. Growing up I received new underwear from Santa every year. Santa is a thoughtful guy who apparently has “been there and done that” so he knew that I would likely be in need.
When I got married, my wife kept up with the tradition as Santa had decided if I was old enough to vote and buy beer, then I was old enough to buy my own underwear. According to my wife, that’s one thing Santa got wrong.
Which brings me to this question: why isn’t there a Victor’s Secret?