As we enter into the High Shopping Season, I return to the vocabulary and semiotics of men’s underwear, using material from catalogs aimed primarily at gay men (Undergear and 10Percent, on-line as undergear.com and 10percent.com). (See earlier discussions here and here, with links to earlier postings.)
These catalogs perform a double function: as enticements to buy (the men viewing the photos should want to be like the models) and as soft porn (these men should desire the models). As I sometimes put it, gay men are supposed to want to be the guy in the photo and also to want to do the guy.
Towards the second goal, the garments are designed to display the desirable features of the male body, in particular, dick, balls, and ass, and the models often appear in sexualized poses and with facial expressions that are intended to be seductive. (There will be examples.)
The basic category distinctions include the following:
boxers, or boxer shorts
trunks, or trunk briefs
jocks, or jockstraps
A number of these come in subtypes. There are fly-front briefs and bikini briefs, but for the gay-oriented underwear catalogs, briefs is essentially just a truncation of bikini briefs, fly-front briefs being extraordinarily rare in these catalogs. And briefs range from very low-rise briefs (which from the front look like thongs, but have a back panel) to full-rise briefs.
Each style has its virtues, both for the way they feel to the wearer and for the appeal they have to the viewer. Particular styles often appeal to certain men for their associations and connotations: jockstraps with athletes, athletics, and locker rooms, for instance.
In addition to these basic styles, there are hybrid styles, which are apparently intended to combine the virtues of the basic styles. You might think of trunk briefs this way, as combining the virtues of briefs and swimming trunks. Then there are boxer briefs (some looser, some tighter, and some very close to trunk briefs) and jock briefs, of two types. Your basic jockstrap has three components: an elastic waistband, a pouch in front, and two straps in the back. You can then add features of briefs by adding either a back panel or a front panel.
In another set of variants, sheer fabrics or loose mesh are used, so as to reveal as much as they conceal.
In still another set of variants, the underwear can be designed so as to exaggerate the wearer’s equipment, in “shock jocks” and “enhancement briefs” and the like (one step above stuffing a sock in your underwear, and roughly analogous to push-up bras).
Finally, all of these items can be produced in a palette of colors (pale pink briefs!) and a variety of patterns. The catalogs are very heavy in such extravagances.
Now for a few examples, chosen from many.
First, trunk briefs:
and a display of a number of styles:
and some briefs and a thong:
On to some extraordinarily hi-def briefs (in lime green):
and two images of enhancement underwear, the second heavily sexualized):
There’s a lot more, of course. This is just a sample for your weekend enjoyment.