So it turns out that we are completely surrounded by men walking around wearing Spanx and Spanx-like foundation garments, at least according to the New York Times. What does this mean for our (giggle) culture?
While we've had clues that this was happening before, never have man-girdles had their moment like they are this holiday weekend, when no less than the paper of record has declared that men's foundation garments ("shapewear") are flying off the shelves. Calling Spanx for men "a huge retail hit," the Times goes on to quote some men they found who did a cost/benefit analysis and decided that being mentioned in the New York Times for wearing Spanx was better than not being mentioned at all. Like this guy:
"While women tend to gush about what has been called the "flesh-compressing miracle of Spanx," men are more likely to point to how super-tight tees relieve their back pain. Robert Hytner, a 51-year-old former defense contracting executive in New York, turned to Equmen shirts after a back injury, and then got hooked because they improved his silhouette. "Whatever garment I put on top, I had a tight look," he said of his 10 Equmen undershirts. He says his back pain is gone, too."
"Lower back pain!" LOL! Lower back pain would be the reason a former defense contractor would cite for owning ten man-girdles! (You know, because they lie?)
It is legitimately fascinating whenever marketers prey on men for their body insecurities in order to sell them expensive "problem solvers" (which is how the article says men's shapewear is being spun to consumers.) It's totally something to think about in this completely academic and serious way. Like: are marketers actually running out of things they can make us women feel bad about, so they're moving to the semi-untapped market that is dudes? Will we one day live in a world where both genders can loathe their own bodies with complete equality? And what does that mean for our culture? Totally JK! This is all about making fun of men who wear Spanx, natch.
I'm not foundation-garment-snarking. I own a Spanx-like thing, and before they were invented I, like everyone else, figured out how to cut a pair of control top tights above the knee when forced to attend an event that required a dress of dubious fabric-heft or looseness. Spanx for women are already such a Thing that there's no stigma involved. On 30 Rock a few weeks ago, Liz Lemon lamented having to go to three weddings in one day by saying "I'm gonna be in Spanx for fifteen hours!" And even the inventor of Spanx, Sara Blakley, was quoted in the Times' man-Spanx article protesting too much about who exactly Spanx were for:
"Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, said that her products weren't aimed at men with beer bellies and women with muffin tops. Stars as lean as Gwyneth Paltrow wear Spanx, said Ms. Blakely, who says she was a Size 2 when she invented it. The brand was never for "the hugely overweight," she said."
I think we should give Sara Blakely a pass on this even though she sounds like a total c-word here, not so much because she invented Spanx but because she really sounds like she has her own issues going on that she needs to deal with. I mean, for real. Get it together, Sara Blakely, Size 2! (Though she does sound like she would get along swimmingly with Gwynnie Paltrow.)
Anyway, the other funny thing was a guy who said he wore his shapewear (which are so expensive, like $109! Suckers!) because regular undershirts bunch up too much. You know what, men? Buy Spanx. Wear Spanx. Do whatever makes you feel better about yourself. But don't say it's for your lower back pain or because you're allergic to non-slimming fabrics or whatever. Just take a clue from women and just fucking own your Spanx, pussies.
Men's Shapewear is a Retail Hit [NYT]