Beneath our puffy jackets, knit and hooded sweaters, boots, pants, and beanies, we should all be fortunate enough to possess a decent pair of comfortable and functional undies. As the article of clothing we first put on and as the garment which manages our most sensitive areas, the design of underwear is crucial. For decades, contemporary American men were forced to choose between either of two iconic designs: the boxer and the brief. While the option to choose between these options helped to ensure that most consumers could find something compatible for them, neither design was without its problems. The former was often plagued with a disappointing lack of support while the latter was conversely rejected for feeling quite the opposite.
Fortunately, fashion designer John Varvatos designed a boxer-brief hybrid in 1992 for Calvin Klein, aptly named the “boxer brief.” Extending to the mid-thigh like boxers but secured to the body like briefs, the garment snuggly provides support without sacrificing movement or comfortability. Though Varvatos originally “just cut off a pair of long johns and thought, ‘This could be cool,’” his design would soon become the image of sex-appeal, comfort, and desirability thanks to a racy advertisement campaign featuring a topless “Marky Mark” Walhberg and a similarly topless Kate Moss. “If I wear regular briefs they just get stretched out,” Mark insists, “I’ve had lipstick stains on my underwear a few times.” The famous crotch-grabbing campaign elevated the social status of the already supremely comfortable boxer brief into a covetous symbol of sexual prowess and desirability, solidifying the now 16-year-old design as a thriving modern-day classic.
The tale of the boxer-brief illustrates how something as fundamental and simple as underwear is never too late to revisit while at the same time reiterating how important a product’s perceived image is for it to achieve commercial success.