NEW YORK – For most men, the question of what undergarments to wear consists of a simple decision: boxers or briefs?
But thanks to the efforts of a Southern California retailer, guys can now choose among an assortment of silky-soft skivvies, from pink net thongs to lacy blue panties.
Framm, who goes by one name and owns Hidden Vestments, a Santa Monica-based lingerie shop, said she first realized the need for more sensual men's underwear when she caught boyfriends and husbands copping feels of the silky fabrics she sold at her former store, a bridal shop.
"The men were coming in to look at the lace, to touch the lace and the silk," she said. "And then it hit me."
She began selling items for men, and has since expanded her product line to four categories of lingerie: Luxe, Classics, Essentials and Midnight. Highlights (sold on hiddenvestments.com) include: a lace-edged midriff-baring vest-and-boxer set ($136); a blue floral lace tank-and-brief set trimmed with ivory lace ($40); a pink net thong edged in black lace ($32); a black "boudoir" teddy ($130); a black "cabaret set" lace-up bustier and bicycle pants ($98); and a red silk camisole-and-boxers set ($75).
Framm said she is far from the first person to make luxurious underwear for men.
"In pre-Victorian France, Germany and England, mostly the aristocrats wore lace because it was so costly," she said. "The men wore it on their cuffs and scarves and had it trimmed on their underwear. The women were plainer."
As evidence that the trend has resurfaced, Framm pointed to director Billy Bob Thornton, who admitted in an interview with the Toronto Sun that he occasionally enjoys wearing his wife Angelina Jolie's underwear, and a Rolling Stone cover featuring Brad Pitt wearing a teddy-like dress.
"At first we thought it would just be for gay men. We were very pleasantly surprised," Framm said.
In fact, it was only after a number of engaged couples came to her bridal shop in search of matching wedding-day underwear that she finally decided to create "something more comfortable" for men.
"Sexperts" were not surprised to hear of the trend.
"The new breed of man can get away with this," said Ron Louis, co-author of The Sex Lover's Book of Lists and co-producer of the Web site howtosucceedwithwomen.com. "Most cross-dressers are heterosexual — it's a huge turn-on for guys," he said.
Gay, straight, married or single, Framm said her customers are satisfied. While she declined to reveal the names of any clients, some of whom she said are big-name celebrities, she did divulge the contents of one happy shopper's thank-you letter:
"I'm a married guy that likes to wear this pretty stuff under my business suit. I love the way it feels, and knowing I may have on sexier undies than most of the women in the office. Please send a catalogue so my wife can pick out something nice for my birthday."
Sex therapist Alexandra Myles said a man's connection to lingerie may have its roots in adolescence, when many boys first form "an erotic bond" with women's undergarments. She also said that, among her clients, it is the men who have chosen "macho" professions, such as military careers, who most enjoy cross-dressing.
"These men are in very gender-identified roles. They need to balance by playing out their feminine side," she said.
But not surprisingly, the average Joe Boxer had mixed feelings about the prospect of wearing pretty panties. When asked if he would be interested in experimenting with lingerie, one 24-year-old resident of the Queens borough of New York City seemed horrified.
"I'm shocked and appalled — I'm going to have nightmares of myself running around in hot pink boxers with lace," was his initial response.
But then, after mulling it over for a minute, he reconsidered.
"Give me a year or so going with the same girl ..." he mused.