Men’s Underwear Bottoms Growing in Sales, Shrinking in Size: The NPD Group Reports

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Men’s underwear and pants are slimming down, but not in terms of dollar growth.

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“It’s interesting to see how men’s pants and underwear styles have shifted over the last five decades, and how their trends run parallel with one another," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst.

Men’s underwear and pants are slimming down, but not in terms of dollar growth, according to global information company The NPD Group.

The men’s underwear bottoms market reached $2.7 billion and grew 3 percent in the 12 months ending September 2014 (Oct’13 – Sept’14), with boxer briefs, a style that has become quite popular, representing the largest share of the market at nearly 40 percent. Boxer briefs have been gaining over the past two years, as have briefs, the second largest class of underwear bottoms, which grew 23 percent over the past year. Looser-fitting boxers declined 14 percent during the same period.*

The slimmer underwear trend is happening at the same time as the comeback of tighter-fitting pants and jeans, a style that made its mark in the 1960s. Men’s slim/skinny bottoms grew 11 percent combined over the past year, while regular, relaxed, and looser fitting styles all experienced declines.*

“Men now join women in caring about inner wear; it's not just the outside that counts,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group. “It’s interesting to see how men’s pants and underwear styles have shifted over the last five decades, and how their trends run parallel with one another. Today we’re on the other side of the spectrum compared to the 1990s, when the fashion movement was toward boxers with baggier pants. The overarching message for retailers is that they have to look at the entire picture when it comes to men’s fashion because there’s not only a lot of movement but a great deal of overlap, in both expected and unexpected places.”

Let’s Get Physical

Men’s underwear overall has come a long way from basic white cotton. Growth in active underwear bottoms is driving the market, and performance and premium fabrics, as well as celebrity branding, are the most sought-out features for men’s underwear. Products with special features including odor and temperature control are experiencing growth, as are fabrics such as spandex, cotton/poly blend, and cotton/spandex blend.

“With smarter fabrics and more clever technology, the underwear market is evolving. Even if men don’t use any or all of these more advanced features, they still take comfort in the fact that they have them, a mentality that designers and retailers should keep in mind. These features, which bring comfort and confidence, put men's underwear right in line with other fashion products now,” said Cohen. “The increase in celebrity underwear branding is also telling and puts a different, desirable spin on the product. Male celebrities are not only modeling and endorsing the product, but putting their name on it, as they would a line of sneakers or cologne, further demonstrating the growing prominence of this men’s category.”

*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Apparel Consumer Monthly, September 2012-2014

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group provides global information and advisory services to drive better business decisions. By combining unique data assets with unmatched industry expertise, we help our clients track their markets, understand consumers, and drive profitable growth. Sectors covered include automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, entertainment, fashion, food / foodservice, home, luxury, mobile, office supplies, sports, technology, toys, and video games. For more information, visit npd.com and npdgroupblog.com. Follow us on Twitter:@npdgroup and @NPDstyle.

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