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Marketing to Men (Or How to Help Your Husband Buy a Thong)

Let me begin by saying I was given permission to write about this. Considering it’s about men’s underwear, you may or may not be interested in the topic. However, how men and women shop for men’s clothing fascinates me and here’s my story.

Ever since reading “The Soccer Mom Myth” by Holly Buchanan and Michele Miller and The Female Brain
by Louann Md Brizendine, I’ve been silently observing how my family shops. My husband and sons will willingly think nothing of plunking down big bucks on expensive video games, new TV, upgrade cell phones, or to upgrade other devices. The key appears to be “BIGGER. NEWER. COOLER. NOW.”

My daughter and I love to shop together. It’s a battle of how smart we are vs. how stupid marketers expect us to be. We clip coupons and compare the savings with whatever sale price is on the store shelf. We read ingredients. We don’t always try on clothes because we figure, “It’ll fit” (I tend to be wrong.) She works in a womens clothing store and has developed an eye for what she wants me to wear but waits to get her discount to get it. She’ll drive to different stores before making a purchase or research online. We get excited over things like the $2.00 wall clock for her room and the men justify their video game purchases by trading in old ones for new ones at a store that lets them do that.

For very large purchases my husband, Eric, won’t leave the house until he’s researched it to death for brand reputation, customer feedback, and consumer reports studies. Typically, he’ll enter a store knowing more than the salesperson and it becomes a battle of who knows more about what and then Eric hands over the money once he’s proven how brilliant he is in front of his wife.

In the Soccer Mom Myth, men are said to be competitive and hierarchical, wanting to establish rank and status. Women are cooperative. They look for similarities. The authors trace it to our tribal roots where men stayed alive by fighting and women stayed alive by avoiding fights.

Which is why I shut the hell up in Sears when Eric was buying the most expensive new dishwasher for the kitchen.

The Guy Underwear Problem

Eric has been looking for a certain type of men’s underwear for MONTHS now. I’d listen to him mumble about not finding what he wanted. He’s drive to the big department stores at the Mall, or discount stores like Target or Wal-Mart and come home with nothing. I wasn’t paying much attention to him.

Until last Saturday night when we went on one of my favorite “Dates”. It’s an outdoor village mall set at the foot of a mountain range north of us filled with music, stores and ice cream. The kids were all elsewhere so we escaped to this place. We had no destination other than ice cream, so I asked him if he wanted to find his underwear. Isn’t this what married people do on dates?

Every store we entered that was targeted to men either hid their undergarments in a basement or didn’t sell them. One store had some decent looking stuff but Eric said no. We went back outside and strolled more. Finally, I asked him, “I get the no briefs and no boxers. What else is there?”

It’s a certain style I like,” he replied.

Okay. I live with him. I have an idea, so I started asking more questions. Turns out he hates waistbands. Every manufacturer puts a waistband on their briefs and he hates them. Suddenly I had an image in my mind of what the “Chip and Dale” stripper guys wear and so I piped up with, “Should we do some research online for what porn star guys wear? They have to get their supplies from somewhere!”

Aren’t I clever? He kinda mumbled and teased me but I didn’t think he took me seriously, so I made a mental note to do some research at home later.

Which is how we solved the underwear problem.

I ran searches on “no waistband men’s underwear” which Eric swears he had run before, but by page three of the search results I was in the eye candy section where rippling muscled bronzed men were posing in thongs and no waistband style jokey style things. Some were see-through. I bypassed Hanes and Fruit of the Loom because he hates their stuff, until I found one of them had “comfort waistband” items. I emailed Eric, who was playing video games downstairs, the links I’d found for him. (Like you think I’d walk downstairs? Heck no!)

He was impressed, came upstairs to his desktop with the big monitor, and spent an hour or so looking at what I’d found for him on my laptop and checking out every possible detail on material, price, comfort and god knows what else. In fact, as it turned out, some of the products I located could be found at a store not far from us.

I’ve longed complained that men have all the fun shopping for women online if they’re feeling romantic, sexy or experimental. They go to Victoria’s Secret and pretend we look like those models wearing all the lacy stuff. They even come home and try to persuade us that in no uncertain terms we do indeed look far more voluptuous than the model they saw on the Web wearing the garment they just bought for us.

Holly wrote an article called Can An Image of a Pretty Woman Boost Conversion?.

Male brains are still hardwired to facilitate their role as the hunter/gatherer. They’re still programmed to compete to “get the girl.” I don’t mean this to make men sound like cavemen. But I suspect the subliminal message these direct mail pieces may be sending is:

‘Here’s a way to get more money – and the prize is going to be this attractive woman.

However, I don’t want someone to buy me something they THINK will look good on me because it looks good on the perfect body that never had babies and is still 24. You don’t GET anything different. You still GET me. The prize is still ME.

According to eMarketer, in the USA alone for 2008, women will account for 52.6 percent of Internet users, outnumbering males by 10 million. The heck with pretty women in pictures to increase conversions. I vote for change. I’m looking forward to more men’s clothing research and how to sell men’s clothing to women.

Our last stop that night was the bookstore, which is my weak spot. We’re going to a big wedding next month and Eric has only a mild interest in what he’ll wear. It’s a “black tie” event and since I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him in a suit. So, I bought GQ’s “Big Style Issue” (with pages and pages of male models) that leaped out at me from the magazine section and I proudly presented it to Eric.

He kinda gave me a look. You know that one? “What!” I said. “You and I have no idea what you should wear.”

I took the magazine from his hands and decided I’d do the research myself.

It’s what women do, to cooperate and help the tribe and all.


  1. August 19, 2008    

    This is hysterical! That is great that you finally found the underwear your husband so desperately longed for. Leave it up to the woman to do the dirty work!

    Great article… definitely had me laughing and there’s certainly truth to it! :)

  2. August 20, 2008    

    Thanks Nick! I was hoping the humor would come through :)

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