Men’s lingerie is having a moment.
And not the traditional assortment of basic boxer shorts or men’s briefs, but lacey, sexy thongs, garter belts and satin robes designed with men in mind.
The category — which was relatively nonexistent in the mainstream fashion world until recently — has been served up by some women’s lingerie brands in the era of diversity and inclusion as a supplement to the core collections. But abrupt growth in men’s lingerie has caused some brands to see the category in a new light — and other brands to reassess their relationship with men’s unmentionables.
“We were super surprised,” Christiane Pendarvis, copresident and chief merchandising and design officer for Savage x Fenty, told WWD at this summer’s Femmy Awards, regarding the unexpected interest in Savage’s men’s business. “When we launched our men’s capsule collection for our fashion show in 2020, we thought, ‘OK, we’ll see how it does. It’s a novel idea, something fun to do for the show.’ And men [then] showed up and bought it and bought it for themselves.”
Other brands are chasing men too. ABG-owned lingerie brand Frederick’s of Hollywood reintroduced a men’s capsule collection in 2020. Cosabella launched a men’s lingerie collection the following year. Cosabella and boutique lingerie business Journelle — both of which are operated by Guido Campello and his wife Sapna Palep — hired Roman Sipe as creative director of the men’s division for both Cosabella and Journelle in early 2022.
“It’s about to be huge,” Campello said, regarding the men’s lingerie category. (Cosabella has since been acquired by Swiss holding company Calida Group. Campello, Palep and Sipe all remained with the firm.)
Lingerie brands that don’t typically serve men have male customers too. Sabrina Cherubini, senior vice president, digital at Hanky Panky, said about a third of the Hanky Panky’s customers are already men, even without a dedicated men’s category.
“We have a lot of male body dancers [that are customers] because they already wear our thongs,” she said. “The first lace thong for men was like 10 years ago at Hanky Panky.”
As for whether the brand will continue to expand in the men’s market, Cherubini said Hanky Panky is still collecting customer feedback, but added, “it’s pretty possible that by 2023 or 2024 we’ll play there.”
The rise in gender-neutral apparel — including innerwear — has also brought attention to the category. Lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret launched gender-neutral tween brand Happy Nation in April. The same month, Victoria’s Secret’s Pink named Darren Barnet the brand’s first male ambassador and debuted a gender-neutral collection.
The “Never Have I Ever” star, who recently spoke with WWD, said he’d “have to see” men’s lingerie before he decided if he would wear it.
“But, I’m a pretty open-minded person,” Barnet said. “If I saw something and it looked comfortable, you know, and I thought it was cool, then yeah….clothes are clothes. And what you’re told to wear is definitely a construct of your environment and what you grow up with, and, you know, I think you should just wear what makes you comfortable.”
But will this newfound interest in men’s lingerie last? And how will new consumers — both men and women — react to the assortment as awareness of the category grows?
“We do want our world to go toward inclusivity. We don’t want to go backward. We knew we were going to be pioneering this area. And we knew there was going to be some kickback on it. But the kickback is slowing down and [the men’s lingerie category] is starting to gain momentum.”Sapna Palep, of Cosabella and Journelle
Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty will “continue to push the envelope,” Pendarvis said, “and say, where else is the customer going to give us permission to play and, sort of, redefine those categories the Savage way?”
Sipe of Cosabella and Journelle, who is also founder of Menagerie Intimates, told WWD in March: “I knew starting my brand, the gays were going to love it; the fashion men and women were going to love it. But as my brand grew, I started getting contacted by all different men. And [that experience] has been so much fun. Because all it takes is for people to see [men’s lingerie], to accept it.”
But not all of the feedback has been positive. Palep admitted that there was some backlash following the launch of Cosabella’s men’s lingerie.
“I was a little shocked by some of the negative responses from women,” she explained. “Some women were just not having it, men in lace and whatnot. But that’s going to be like that with anything that’s a new concept, in bringing it to the public eye. You have to process it. But we do want our world to go toward inclusivity. We don’t want to go backward. We knew we were going to be pioneering this area. And we knew there was going to be some kickback on it. But the kickback is slowing down and [the men’s lingerie category] is starting to gain momentum.
“We don’t only do lace,” Palep added. “There’s a lot of certain fits that we do in really nice fabrics, as opposed to their traditional boxers. So there’s also [increasing] brand awareness. So far every person that we gave a sample to was like, ‘Oh, how can I get more?’”