By  on April 21, 2011

Forget simple white briefs: Men’s underwear has discovered fashion and technology.

The sector has been growing rapidly on the back of those two trends, which is part of the overall boom the men’s wear market has seen across all categories following the depths of the recession. A plethora of bold colorblocking and oversize logos and advances in high-tech temperature-regulating applications that keep the wearer cool and comfortable are expected to continue to propel sales this fall.

In the three months ending February 2011, the men’s underwear market generated sales of $1.24 billion, up 13 percent from the three months ending February 2010. In the 12 months ending February 2011, men’s underwear sales generated $3.9 billion, up 8.6 percent from the same year-ago period, according to The NPD Group.

The influx of color, graphic prints and stripes and in-your-face logos is projected to have strong appeal to a younger generation of consumers who want hip, colorful designs and styling by brands such as 2(x)ist, Diesel, Papi, and newcomers like Pull-In, a surf-inspired French brand. Short trunks currently are the number-one selling style, said industry executives.

But while the European men’s underwear market is filled with an abundance of fashion, colors and prints, best-selling styles in the U.S. remain basic, commodity items by megabrands such as Hanes, Fruit of the Loom and Jockey. To some degree, black and gray also are top-selling shades in the basic arena. Calvin Klein Underwear continues to be a major resource of men’s underwear that bridges the gap between fashion, fit and sex appeal in basic product that has a look of fashion.

But when it involves using breakthrough technology in men’s underwear, executives said the category is slow to adapt to innovation and new ideas compared to the men’s apparel market. A number of underwear brands are reportedly working on new concepts and strategies similar to athletic and performance labels like Under Armour, Puma and Nike, which are using methods such as wicking applications, fibers that are encapsulated to improve breathability, softness and fabric retention, and engineered deniers of spandex that give support and control in key areas.

While industry executives privately acknowledge that temperature-regulating underwear is the next big idea, a number of companies declined to discuss the topic, either because a project is in the works or the company has yet to address it.

“It’s just too competitive,” explained one executive who requested anonymity.

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