Men’s Underwear Sales Predict the Economy?

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Some experts say they can measure economic performance by the purchase of briefs, boxers and men's socks.

We’ve heard our share of weird economic indicators — from the Tooth Fairy to Christmas lights — and now the men’s underwear indicator has been cited again.

A new MarketWatch article says the size of a man’s underwear supply may be linked to consumer spending.

The evidence comes from industry analysts, marketing professors and a consumer psychologist.

Men’s clothing sales were essentially flat last year, rising just 1 percent to $57 billion. But two submarkets stood out: underwear (up 13 percent) and socks (up 12 percent). Since those are the parts of the male wardrobe men can put off updating longer than anything else, experts reason, things must be looking up.

It’s also encouraging that dating sites are making more money, up 4 percent from a year ago. “When men start to gain confidence, they do go out more and date more,” a marketing professor told MarketWatch. Presumably they ditch the holey underwear for those dates.

One twist to the underwear and sock boom is that men are seeking out “off-price retailers” and online sources, rather than national chains. Experts say men may be drawn to “newer moisture-resistant and easy-stretch fabrics” online. One of Amazon’s bestsellers in men’s underwear is ExOfficio quick-drying boxer-briefs with Aegis Microbe Shield. Exciting, I guess.

Stacy Johnson

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