Men's underwear sagging — and sales drop

Men's underwear is a typically steady seller regardless of the economy. Women indulge in silky, lacy or racy undergarments when they're feeling flush, not so much when they're mining last winter's coat pockets looking for spare change.

As we told you recently, this is why both Victoria's Secret and Frederick's of Hollywood are rolling out lines of lower-priced skivvies.

Men's underwear is another story, since a guy isn't likely to buy an extra three-pack of Hanes or Fruit of the Loom when he's feeling good about his abs. Without much choice beyond boxers or briefs (or boxer-briefs for you indecisive types) and a handful of neutral colors, it's a much more utilitarian purchase. Economists who study retail view them as a necessity, and necessities are generally recession-proof.

But now, drawers are dropping left and right -- er, sales of them, that is.

Research firm Mintel estimates that men's underwear sales will drop 2.3% this year, according to this article in the Washington Post. While this might not sound like a lot, it's the first recorded decrease since the company began keeping track of these (under)things back in 2003.

Pricey brands are losing ground to cheaper alternatives, according to one underwear exec interviewed. The article also points to an increase of single pairs at the expense of mulit-packs, which analysts say is evidence that men are trying to save money by only buying underwear when they really, really need to.

So are the men of America collectively going commando? Reassuringly, the answer seems to be no. Instead, they're just racking up a few more miles on the drawers already in their drawer, and buying only when they -- or their briefs -- can't stretch anymore.

A research company executive interviewed by the Post called underwear a "prolonged purchase," pointing out that the item's relative invisibility means people can get away with wearing pairs in less-than-pristine condition.

One possible silver lining this blogger can think of: If dudes are reduced to wearing threadbare undies out of economic necessity, maybe this will put an end to the so-called fashion of flashing the top three inches of boxers above a droopy pair of jeans. At least, I hope this will be the case, since the only thing worse than seeing some stranger's underwear would be seeing that stranger's ratty underwear.

One thing is for sure, though -- we'll know the economy is back on track once underwear sales creep up, which is possibly the only way the words "underwear" plus "creep up" could be a good thing.
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