Briefs encounter: Sales of men's 'wonder pants' are booming - Features - Fashion - The Independent

Briefs encounter: Sales of men's 'wonder pants' are booming

It helps posture, eases back pain – and makes your beergut vanish. No wonder sales of fitwear for men are booming. Josh Sims puts the latest pair of 'wonder pants' through its paces

Fresh out of the box, the first impression is that no grown man can get into them. These are exceptionally small smalls – and with them an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny polyester and spandex undershirt. But, despite the pants' suggesting escapees from the babywear department, the label says "men's XL". So contortion follows.

Indeed, getting into them is not for those late for work: heaving and squeezing, it is like forcing yourself into a rubber glove. Once on, panic ascends. Can I move? Can I breathe? But then another thought. Hey, where did the paunch go?

Welcome to the world of fitwear. It is the big thing in men's underwear, designed to cajole and compress your flesh into more streamlined form – a man's girdle, or "mirdle" if you like – while also assisting better posture and, through that, easing the back strain that 80 per cent of men suffer at some time in their lives. It has been pioneered by Gavin Jones, an affable Australian with a long career in community health promotion who – and this is surely no coincidence – woke up 40 one day and decided to live it up in America for a few months while he pondered what to do with the rest of his life.

That turned out to be to help other men facing the abyss of middle age to stand tall and look trim. Some £700,000 later – after a year of research into physiotherapy and exoskeleton design, and a development programme that included Jones standing in his old pants and being wrapped with duct tape – last year his brand, Equmen, was born. Following its launch in the UK, this year sales of the undershirts, vests and boxers are expected to double to around £6m.

"I just wanted something to make me feel more like a premiership footballer than a geriatric," explains Jones. "I knew there was tummy-tucking underwear for women but I was more intrigued by the specialist underwear worn by pro athletes, which supports and warms the musculature. But it's a bit full-on and the average bloke looks pretty silly in it. So I decided to make a more everyday alternative. Now it's the first thing I put on the morning and I feel and look a better man for it."

It seems that other men are sharing the same thought. King of status undies Calvin Klein has its close-fitting XT line, using what it calls "compression features" to abate that unsightly flesh tsunami. Marks & Spencer this month also launches its own advanced take on fitwear, Bodymax Plus, which promises to "battle the bulge" and "instantly reduce up to 3.5 inches from your torso".

"It can look a bit daunting but it does work," argues Lyndsay Yeates, Marks & Spencer's menswear technologist. "You can eat well and slog your guts out in the gym but this kind of underwear still provides a finishing touch."

In fact, fitwear for men may not be as niche as we first imagined. There's definitely a growing demand for it.

The new fitwear category may the boost the flagging, if not sagging men's underwear market need – the research company Mintel's latest figures show that the UK market may be worth £679m but saw growth of just 0.9 per cent over the year to 2008. And with a third of men's underwear still bought not by men but their partners, men should perhaps show little surprise when the new delivery appears to look as though it has already gone through an exceptionally hot wash. In every carton, the hope of a David Beckham ad campaign, or a buff Daniel Craig emerging from the surf...

"But it's the men who are getting vainer. What am I saying? Men have always been vain," notes Jones, who is launching a women's line this September. "Yet this is definitely not about fostering paranoia or a sense of inadequacy. That's something women have had to contend with for decades. This is about saying to men, 'You're OK – now let's put something on your body that can diminish those aspects you're sensitive about'. Any man will look at himself in the shower and want to meet his own self-image."

Exercise and diet would be the best response, Jones concedes. But for those after a superficial fix, fitwear may fit the bill, "even if it does look as though it's made for a small pubescent boy," Jones adds. It would certainly play to the male love of gadgetry: far from being a gimmick, Equmen has so far racked up 67 global patents for its "helix body-mapping technology". This uses different tensions throughout the garments' seamless, engineered construction to create a second skin that supports the body in much the same way as a physiotherapist would strap it to help an injury.

Keeping one's gut on a leash may be one benefit, but by bolstering one's core, it also claims to promote blood flow and take the strain off the lower back and shoulders. "It stands you upright, which is good for those of us who spend our lives in front of screens – that your muffin-top then also disappears is a bonus," as Jones puts it. And, indeed, it does, almost as quickly as the edible variety tends to.

But, ah, if only the illusion lasted. Sadly, like some cut-price Superman, peeling off one's super-hero underwear lets it all hang out and that familiar figure, Joe Portly, appears in front of the mirror once again.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Energy Markets Analyst

    £400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

    Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    Nursery Manager

    £22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

    Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week