Sexy lingerie for men is here

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As a multidisciplinary artist who explores black and queer identity, 27-year-old LaQuann Dawson often takes self-portraits from her home and studio in Brooklyn while wearing women’s lingerie. But he found the jumpsuits and stockings didn’t go well.

“Either it would be very small or I would find something that would look good from the back,” Mr Dawson said.

As a workaround, he would wear the lingerie inside out or buy larger sizes. Then one day, while browsing Instagram, he came across a company called Leak NYC, a men’s lingerie brand that makes sexy bodysuits in fishnet and other sheer materials, with plenty of room in the front. It was a revelation.

“The leak was felt to be a godsend,” Mr Dawson said. “They’re actually thinking about a more masculine body, with complements to femininity.”

Men’s lingerie is taking off among a segment of male consumers looking for sexy underwear that’s more sexist than a jockstrap.

Many are from upstart brands with names like Menagerie, candyman fashion and Ciciful , often marketed with body and sex positive messages. “Your gender expression is all that matters,” reads the website for naughty mmma lingerie brand in Montreal.

Consumer brands are also getting in on the action.

Cosabelle, an Italian lingerie brand founded by a husband and wife in 1983, began selling men’s lace briefs, semi-sheer thongs and colorful thongs on its website last November. “That’s half the world’s population just in terms of market size,” said Guido Campello, 41, the company’s co-chief executive.

Mr. Campello knows that not everyone is ready. “There’s a segment of the population that says ‘Absolutely,'” he said, referring to what he calls forward-thinking customers, including gay men and non-binary people. “But can I convert guys?”

It remains to be seen, but he won over one of his toughest clients. “I converted my dad,” Mr. Campello said, referring to company co-founder Ugo Campello.

Savage x Fenty, the lingerie brand launched by Rihanna, released its first men’s collection in 2020. “It sold out in 12 hours, the whole thing,” said Christiane Pendarvis, the brand’s merchandising director. “We were blown away.” A racy collection with cherry red harnesses and mesh crop tops came out this year for Valentine’s Day.

Many customers, Ms Pendarvis added, were not the girlfriends, partners or wives, but the male shoppers themselves. “It’s about self-expression,” she said. “Do you want to wear lace thong underwear?” Go for it.”

And Fleur du Mal, a high-end lingerie line with stores in New York and Los Angeles, recently launched a Flower For Man collection, including sheer lace boxer. The boxers sold out in two days and have a waiting list of more than 500 people, according to brand founder Jennifer Zuccarini.

Lingerie sales have been strong during the pandemic, and many lingerie makers see an untapped market for men that follows another apparel trend: the rise of gender-specific clothing.

“Men’s lingerie is just a small part of a larger movement,” said Francesca Muston, vice president of fashion content at WGSN, a trend forecasting firm. “You have a whole generation that’s just very supportive of inclusivity and diversity within the genre. And for the fashion industry, for our clients at WGSN, that’s a huge deal.

“Huge” is a relative term, since gender-neutral clothing still accounts for less than 1% of all clothing sold in the United States, according to WSGN.

Male lingerie is not entirely new. Valerie Steele, museum director at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and author of “Fetish: Fashion, Sex & Power.” traces men’s lingerie back to at least the 1920s.

During her research, Ms. Steele came across a collection of men’s underwear from Soviet Russia. She was surprised by details like the embroidered hammers and sickles, but also by the delicacy of its fabric. “During the 20th century, elite men’s underwear was often made from what we think of as feminine fabrics like silk,” Ms Steele said.

In the 1970s there was a big change in the way men’s underwear was marketed. “That’s when the sexual revolution really went mainstream,” Ms Steele said. “That’s when you start to find Jockey ads and then Calvin Klein ads showing men as sex objects.”

Credit…Retro AdArchives/Alamy

She also cited International Male, a catalog first published in 1974 and often referred to as Victoria’s Secret for guys, which featured page after page of male models in thong bikini bottoms. Ms Steele saw it as a harbinger of underwear that overtly sexualized male bodies. “It mostly comes from gay culture, but it also comes from sexual liberation in general,” she said.

Louis Dorantes, 30, founder Leak NYC in 2016, think we’re in the middle of another moment like this. “We’re entering a new era where male bodies feel comfortable wearing girlish shapes, girlish fabrics that didn’t exist when I was growing up,” Dorantes said. “It feels like a very brave new world. We really try to explore, push and challenge the binary that has limited us for so long.

Queer nightlife has long been a place where binary gender stereotypes have been challenged, subverted, ignored or otherwise played out, and where edgy lingerie made of stretchy lace, mesh and cutouts has found its way.

“It was born on the dance floor,” said Mr. Dorantes, who frequented clubs when he was a designer at Rag & Bone in the 2010s. Leak was inspired by New York parties like Papi Juice and Inferno, where hypersexual gay culture has merged with a fluid fashion aesthetic. Her lingerie is meant to be worn in the bedroom or the club.

“Everything was so organized, wonderful and beautiful,” Mr. Dorantes said. “I had to step up what I had to wear, whether it was a soft harness instead of all the leather or metal on the market, or a tight bodysuit that would accentuate my features as someone with a male.”

Leak’s fans include Bowen Yang, 31, a “Saturday Night Live” player. “It looks like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but for all queer people,” said Mr. Yang, who was considering wearing a mesh bodysuit when he attended the Critics Choice Awards last month. “Men’s lingerie is just a really nice way to take power for yourself, if you want to.”

Kennie Mas, a namesake men’s lingerie and fetish clothing brand founded in 2018 in Toronto, is also from the LGBT world. Recent items include a shirtless tank top in shiny purpleand a floral stretch polyester thong.

“The more feminine the pieces, the more they sell,” said Mr. Mas, 28. “Men’s lingerie or whatever you want to call it is definitely exploding right now.”

Some men with more traditional tastes are also turning to the new lingerie.

Steven Green, 28, a photographer and plus-size model who lives in Kansas City, Mo., was hired to appear in the Savage x Fenty fashion show in 2020. “I had never thought of men’s lingerie until I work with them,” says Green. Before, he only wore Calvin Klein or Polo Ralph Lauren briefs, but he has since expanded his underwear wardrobe.

Now, for what he calls “special occasions” with his wife, he’ll opt for a red satin Savage x Fenty boxer. “If I want to make it a little sexier, I’ll go for those, just because the material is high,” Mr. Green said. “For men, we now have our Victoria’s Secret.”

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