Most women know what it feels like to squeeze into shapewear. We’ve been doing it since the time of the corset. It’s reviled and it’s uncomfortable, but for many it’s just the price of beauty. This diet-free solution to eliminating panty lines and looking 10 pounds thinner is just too good for most of us to pass up.
Tight zippers and unflattering bulges have had Americans reaching for anything with the words "control top" in the title for years; the industry rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Presumably, it's the women who are dropping the big bucks. Most brand name pieces are somewhat expensive – and, well, they suck your fat in. Far in. It doesn’t feel great. And how many of us know men who are willing to pay to be in pain? (Settle down, "Fifty Shades of Grey" fans, we don’t mean it like that.)
It turns out, the folks at men’s underwear label 2(x)ist have found some who are.
"Definitely within the last three years there’s been an interest in shapewear for men," said Jason Scarlatti, creative director and vice president of 2(x)ist, which offers high-end men’s underwear and has a solid celebrity following. Scarlatti said that Zac Efron, Ben Affleck and Channing Tatum have all been seen sporting the 2(x)ist brand.
But are the celebs going for the shapewear, too?
"We have sent shapewear to celebrities, but they’ve told us not to tell anyone," Scarlatti said.
It makes sense. Ultimately, there is a gender divide when it comes to issues that are perceived as having to do with personal vanity. Fat-controlling undergarments are widely regarded as a feminine solution to a feminine problem.
"Men are less vocal about it. They’re self-conscious," said Scarlatti. "Women are very courageous about it, more willing to try new things."
2(x)ist isn't the only brand to have encouraged men to broaden their horizons while narrowing their backsides. Labels like Spanx and Faja also sell similar pieces. Underworks offers products like "gynecomastia shirts" and "compression girdles."
But it seems that most consumers don't want to be seen buying it.
Milwaukee men can buy 2(x)ist underwear at Macy’s at Mayfair Mall, but to purchase shapewear pieces you’ll have to go online. No retailer near Milwaukee carries it, and the staff at Macy’s men’s underwear department, when asked, was unsure as to what "shapewear" even meant.
So are fashion products with adjectives like "sculpting" and "enhancement" just too much for the Milwaukee consumer? Scarlatti said definitely not.
"I think it’s really the offering of those department stores. It doesn’t have to do with anything about how men feel about themselves in that area of the country.
"Our product and our brand is generally pinpointed to be in more high-traffic, fashion-forward locations," he explained. "But we’ve noticed online sales of that product are very successful and we think that men are just shy about purchasing it. It’s intimidating for men to be seen in it or have a conversation about it."
OnMilwaukee.com was sent samples of the 2(x)ist Shape:Lift Dual Lifting Trunk, the Shape:Form Slimming Contour Pouch Brief and the label’s Shape:Form Slimming Crew Neck Shirt. Our own Andy Tarnoff gamely volunteered to try on the samples.
He reported that the 6-inch waistband on the brief was somewhat "rolly" and said that trying to keep the shirt from coiling up around the waistline was "frustrating."
"Is this what women have to go through?" he asked.
Still, he said, the slimming effect and improved posture was a plus. "It would be good for something temporary – if you had a photo shoot or a wedding, a special event. If you’re going to be standing all day. I don’t know how I would sit in this. I give it a solid C+."
His comments echo Scarlatti’s observation that the shapewear pieces are "occasion underwear." After all, everyone has a wedding or high school reunion coming up that they swore they would lose weight for and then … just didn’t.
"I think it just offers men confidence if they’re wearing a suit or a special occasion to feel a little bit more slim and trim."
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