You might be familiar with the floral Japanese male bra that popped up online last week, leaving people confused and amused. You probably said to yourself, “This has to be a joke. This can’t be real.” Well it can, and there’s a market of men who enjoy wearing feminine-looking undergarments, and not because they want to look more like women (sorry ladies).
“There’s no variety in the men’s lingerie sold in department stores. It’s boxers and briefs, and if you’re really daring, maybe a thong!” says Australian male lingerie designer Brent Krause. “There’s no denying department stores sell good quality, functional underwear, and that’s fine for ninety percent of men. But not me.” These mangerie-wearing men like the fabric and feel of nice lingerie and believe it’s time for men to have a chance at feeling sexy in front of the mirror.
If you’re thinking these guys only exist on the other side of the world you’re wrong. Krause’s male lingerie company Homme Mystere states that most of their customers come from the United States. Krause says the U.S. makes up about 40 percent of its customer base, with Western Europe and the UK making up another 40 percent. They even send merchandise to Russia and Canada.
“I don’t think the male bra industry is any larger in Japan than anywhere else. Certainly our numbers show the USA and Europe to be about the same in terms of size with Japan quite a distance behind,” says Krause. “In saying that, our wholesale sales are very strong into Japan, which suggests guys are buying our lingerie but prefer to buy from a local store that speaks the language.”
So who are the guys buying this mangerie?
We sent a survey to Homme Mystere’s customers last week to get a sense of who these men are, and the replies we got were laced with surprises. For one, there’s a big market for male bras, but an even bigger one for beautifully tailored male undies.
One anonymous customer responds to our survey, “I wear panties daily!” Another says, “I wear lingerie daily, always panties, and a bra maybe three to four times a week. And nightly to bed.” While another customer goes as far to say, “No boxers left in my knicker drawer!”
These men are wearing their sensual skivvies more often than traditional male underwear. They’re wearing them to work, to movies, to meetings, everywhere. For men, it’s the nerve-racking taboo equivalent of a woman wearing crotchless panties to mass. You’re sitting there like, “Ooooh nobody knows what’s going on under these finely ironed dress pants!” What a frilly thrill!
Krause wants to elevate underwear in the daily level of priorities. “Choosing a department store brand of underwear each morning is a no-brainer. Choosing a style of Homme Mystere each morning is a little more fun,” he says. “Busy day with meetings – let’s go with PinStripe. Feeling a bit toey – frill thong. Life’s too short for plain underwear!”
Think about it, right now your male co-workers or peers could be rocking a lace bralette and you’d have no idea.
Some of Homme Mystere’s customers have been sporting female-styled lingerie for decades. “I wear a bra, panties, and pantyhose everyday under my male clothes,” says one very open customer. “I have not worn or owned a pair of men’s underwear for about 32 years.”
Another surprise — that maybe shouldn’t be — is that over 90 percent of the Homme Mystere customers who responded to the survey are in heterosexual relationships. Krause says that their customers are mostly over 40, married, and straight.
The survey showed that most of these men’s wives or girlfriends know about their underwear preferences and are ok with it, but their friends and co-workers remain in the dark. One customer says his wife has known since the day they met. “I was very open and honest with her and told her so that she could decide on her own if she wanted to have a relationship with me. We have been happily married for 13 years now, she has never once complained or felt ashamed of me, she loves me for ‘who’ I am not what I wear.”
Another customer says, “In fact [my significant other] likes her own Homme Mystere bra. She’s small breasted and says it fits her better.” Matching his and hers.
Krause spent around six months researching and designing lingerie before putting anything on the market in May of 2009. “We are definitely seeing very large increases in sales on our two sale days each year on Cyber Monday and our stock take sale each May/June,” he says. Apparently Valentine’s Day has become a big day for HM as well. “Sales from women spiked this year,” he says. “I think that’s probably a reflection of many women coming to the conclusion that just because their husband is into lingerie, it isn’t really that big of a deal.”
One man had less luck opening up to his wife about his undergarments, “I told my wife and she was not impressed and demanded that I stop doing it. She also discovered a stash of my panties at one time or another. I will not stop wearing my lingerie but I have to do it secretly and furtively now.”
The Homme Mystere blog added their two cents on why men wearing feminine lingerie does not mean men want to look or feel more like women:
“For some reason, many people still seem to think that Homme Mystere lingerie for men is a gay thing. Clearly this insinuates that all gay guys are effeminate and love to be the ‘girl’ in the relationship. If that was indeed correct, and all gay guys were actually wannabe girls, wouldn’t that make all gay guy couples lesbians?” Very meta.
Besides Japanese retailer Wishroom, Homme Mystere has designed the nicest male lingerie on the market. As many of the men on the survey exclaimed, once they went to Homme Mystere they never went back to boring bundled white cotton briefs.
“The first experience wearing my bra was a very exciting one,” says an HM customer. “Among other sensations, it gave the feeling, as Emily Master’s describes in her book Brassièred, of being embraced by a hug all day. It was, and still is, a beautiful and sexy feeling.” I wish I felt that way about the wiry constricting strap I have to put on every morning.
Another customer gave us a scene-by-scene description of the first time he bought a male bra. “I rushed out to my car and sitting down inside I furtively tore open the parcel. Inside wrapped in pink tissue was my very own sheer soft cupped bra and matching panty… I could hardly wait to try them on so I rushed home to shower first before trying them on. I lay them on the bed, arranging them nicely so that when I came out of the bathroom I would be presented with the sight of my beautiful and sexy bra… I had never done this before and it took a little time to get the back clip done up… I was extremely pleased, even excited and I could see my nipples pressing against the sheer fabric…” We’ll stop there. You get the picture. These guys love fabric.
But even more than making comfortable sexy male camisoles and underthings, Homme Mystere does one thing exceptionally right: it doesn’t judge. Where other male lingerie sites clearly call their customers cross-dressers or fetish-ers, Homme Mystere just talks about its nice fabric. Krause says, “I purposely tried to avoid any link to a fetish or any specific kind of label. If I had done that, it would have meant immediately labelling our customers by default and I have no idea how my customers view themselves.”
One of HM’s customers agrees. “The first [bra] I bought was actually for cross dressing, in which I wasn’t as interested,” he says. “I’ve much preferred the ones from Homme Mystere which are less concerned with faking the shape of a woman.”
Krause is already designing new styles for 2015 that he says has his seamstress is having a little trouble with. “I’m putting a little more effort into the bras and my seamstress thinks I’m a little crazy with a couple of my ideas, but until you try something different, how do you know if it’ll work?” he says. “Might as well have a go.”
So, if you’re a straight man bored with your Gap boxers, would you have a go?
All images credited to Homme Mystere