Wed, Dec 17, 2008 - Page 13 News List

‘Mirdles’: man’s new weapon in the battle of the bulge

First there were ‘murses,’ then‘guyliner.’Now come‘mirdles,’body-sculpting, flab-corralling undergarments for men

By Shelley Emling  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LONDON

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In the fickle world of fashion, one thing’s for certain: any trend that catches on with women sooner or later will grab men as well.

Guys clutching “man bags,” or “murses,” are a common sight in hip urban centers. Even eyeliner for men — “guyliner” — has found a following.

And now popping up in men’s clothing departments are body-sculpting, flab-corralling undergarments known as men’s girdles, or even “mirdles.”

Starting next month, Australia-based Equmen will sell a body-slimming Core Precision Undershirt designed to squeeze a few centimeters off a man’s beer belly and improve his posture. It will be available in the US and Europe via www.equmen.com.

“This is a garment designed to physiologically and visibly improve men’s bodies,” said Corie Chung, one of the company’s founders. “Men these days are concerned about their appearance, and they also want to feel healthy and supported.”

Atlanta-based Spanx, whose nylon and spandex undergarments for women are worn by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, plans a collection for men next year.

“We have had a tonne of requests for Spanx for men,” said spokesperson Misty Elliott. “After seeing our success with firming women’s butts, men are asking Spanx to help them flatten their guts.

“Today’s men are more style- and image-conscious, and they’re ready to take advantage of the same style tricks that women have,” Elliott said.

In general, retailers say that a younger generation of men is paying more attention than their fathers to fashion necessities like underwear. Market researcher NPD Group reported that sales of men’s underwear in the US jumped 7.8 percent between 2005 and last year to reach 1.1 billion units, while sales of women’s underwear climbed by just 2.3 percent to reach 1.5 billion units.

For men, a growing number of businesses are peddling shape-enhancing undergarments.

Underworks.com, for example, sells a wide range of shapewear for men, including the Ultimate Chest Binder that sells for US$36.99. A Male Support Vest from Enell.com, which also flattens the chest, costs US$75. Compression shorts from Legluxe.com, designed to tone muscles, cost US$39.95.

John Pearce, who set up Brazilian Shapewear to import the leading brands into the UK, said he started selling slimming garments for men just in the past year.

“People were calling us and asking us for these,” he said. “There’s been a real buzz about men’s corsets in particular.”

Pearce emphasized that these products not only flatten the stomach, but also help with posture and even improve one’s golf swing by keeping a player in the right position.

“It’s a lot more complex than just looking good,” he said.

Not everyone in the industry is convinced there’s a broad market for men’s slimming garments.

Atlanta-based www.luxelegwear.com, a Web site offering European brands to buyers in America, carries 13 styles of hosiery specifically for men.

“Men who make these purchases are looking for styles that help them with circulation problems or they simply like the look and feel of the shiny pantyhose,” said managing director Deborah Ashley. “But I have not heard too many concerns about sucking the gut in or smoothing out the thighs.”

David Wolfe, creative director at Doneger Group, a New York fashion industry consultant, said he thinks shapewear for men is destined to appeal only to a small niche market.

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