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The Skinny on Men’s Underwear

As men’s jeans slim down, so too are their underwear preferences. The NPD Group reported that boxer briefs represented 40 percent of the $2.7 billion in sales the men’s underwear bottom market achieved during the year ended Sept. 2014. Boxer briefs have been gaining market share over the past two years, as have briefs, which increased 23 percent over the past year.

With men’s skinny and slim jeans and pants on the up and up—combined, the styles grew 11 percent over the last year—and the demise of regular, relaxed and looser fitting silhouettes ongoing, The NPD Group chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen said it makes sense that men have joined women in caring about inner wear.

“It’s interesting to see how men’s pants and underwear styles have shifted over the last five decades, and how their trends run parallel with one another. Today we’re on the other side of the spectrum compared to the 1990s, when the fashion movement was toward boxers with baggier pants. The overarching message for retailers is that they have to look at the entire picture when it comes to men’s fashion because there’s not only a lot of movement but a great deal of overlap, in both expected and unexpected places,” Cohen said.

And as with their apparel, footwear and accessories, men are seeking underwear bottoms made with performance and premium fabrics, including spandex, cotton/poly blends and cotton/spandex blends, The NPD Group reported. Shoppers also expect performance benefits, like odor and temperature control, even if they have no intention of making use of the features, Cohen noted.

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He added, “With smarter fabrics and more clever technology, the underwear market is evolving. Even if men don’t use 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.”

While fabrications are becoming more advanced, the category is also finding success with tried-and-true celebrity endorsements. In particular, soccer stars have been moonlighting as underwear models, including David Beckham for H&M and Cristiano Ronaldo, who posed for his own line of undies called CR7.

Cohen said, “The increase in celebrity underwear branding is also telling and puts a different, desirable spin on the product. Male celebrities are not only modeling and endorsing the product, but putting their name on it, as they would a line of sneakers or cologne, further demonstrating the growing prominence of this men’s category.”