top of page

International Male Shoutout: Sexy Lingerie for Men Is Here

Lacy thongs and sheer undergarments designed for men’s bodies are shaking up the traditional lingerie market.

By Shane O’Neill, Published April 13, 2022

As a multidisciplinary artist who explores Black and queer identity, LaQuann Dawson, 27, often takes self-portraits from his home and studio in Brooklyn wearing women’s lingerie. But he found that the bodysuits and bottoms didn’t fit well.

“Either it would be very small or I would find something that would look good from the back,” Mr. Dawson said.

As a workaround, he would wear the lingerie backward or buy larger sizes. Then one day, while scrolling through Instagram, he came across a company called Leak NYC, a men’s lingerie brand that makes sexy bodysuits from fishnet and other see-through materials, with ample room up front. It was a revelation.

“Leak felt like a godsend,” Mr. Dawson said. “They actually are being thoughtful to a more masculine body, with complements to femininity.”

Men’s lingerie is taking off among a self-possessed segment of male consumers looking for sexy undergarments that are more gender expansive than a jockstrap.

Many are by upstart brands with names like Menagerié, Candyman Fashion and Ciciful , often marketed with body- and sex-positive messages. “Your gender expression is all that matters,” reads the website for Wicked Mmm, a lingerie brand in Montreal.

Mainstream brands are getting in on the action, too.

Cosabella, an Italian lingerie brand founded by a husband and wife in 1983, began selling lacy men’s briefs, semi-sheer thongs and colorful G-strings on its website last November. “It’s half the world’s population just in terms of market size,” said Guido Campello, 41, the company’s co-chief executive.

Mr. Campello knows not everyone is ready. “There’s a segment of the population that’s like, ‘Absolutely,’” he said, referring to what he calls fashion-forward customers including gay men and nonbinary people. “But can I convert the dudes?”

That remains to be seen, but he did convince one of his toughest customers. “I converted my father,” Mr. Campello said, referring to the company’s co-founder, Ugo Campello.

Savage x Fenty, the lingerie brand started by Rihanna, released its first men’s collection in 2020. “It sold out in 12 hours, the entire thing,” said Christiane Pendarvis, the brand’s chief merchant. “We were blown away.” A racy collection with cherry-red harnesses and mesh crop tops was released this year for Valentine’s Day.

Many of the customers, Ms. Pendarvis added, were not the girlfriends, partners or spouses, but the male buyers themselves. “It’s about self-expression,” she said. “You want to wear some lace thong underwear? Go right ahead.”

And Fleur du Mal, an upscale lingerie line with stores in New York and Los Angeles, recently introduced a Fleur Pour Homme collection, including boxers made from sheer lace. The boxers sold out in two days and have a wait list of more than 500 people, according to Jennifer Zuccarini, the brand’s founder.

Lingerie sales have been strong during the pandemic, and many lingerie makers see an untapped market for men that tracks another apparel trend: the rise of gender-expansive clothing.

“Men’s lingerie is one small part of a bigger movement,” said Francesca Muston, the vice president of fashion content at WGSN, a trend forecasting company. “You’ve got a whole generation who is just very embracing of the inclusivity and diversity within gender. And for the fashion industry, for our clients at WGSN, this is a huge deal.”

“Huge” is a relative term, since gender-inclusive clothing still represents less than 1 percent of all clothes sold in the United States, according to WGSN.

Men’s lingerie is not entirely new. Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and the author of “Fetish: Fashion, Sex & Power,” traces men’s lingerie to at least the 1920s.

In the course of her research, Ms. Steele came across a collection of men’s underwear from Soviet Russia. She was surprised by details like embroidered hammers and sickles, but also by the delicacy of its fabric. “Elite men’s underwear over the course of the 20th century was often made out of what we think of as women’s fabrics like silk,” Ms. Steele said.

In the 1970s there was a big change in the way men’s underwear was marketed. “That’s when the sexual revolution really went mainstream,” Ms. Steele said. “So that’s when you start finding Jockey ads and then Calvin Klein ads showing men as sexual objects.”

She also cited International Male, a catalog first published in 1974 and often called Victoria’s Secret for guys, which featured page after page of male models in thong bikini bottoms. Ms. Steele viewed it as a harbinger of underwear that overtly sexualizes male bodies. “It comes primarily from gay culture, but it’s also coming out of just sexual liberation in general,” she said.

Louis Dorantes, 30, who founded Leak NYC in 2016, thinks that we are in the midst of another moment like that. “We’re entering a new age where male-presenting bodies are feeling comfortable wearing effeminate shapes, effeminate fabrics that did not exist when I was growing up,” Mr. Dorantes said. “It feels like a very brave new world. We’re really trying to explore and push and question the binary that has limited us for so long.”

Queer nightlife has long been a place where gender binary stereotypes have been challenged, subverted, ignored or otherwise toyed with, and where fashion-forward lingerie made with stretch lace, mesh and cutouts found a home.

“This was born on the dance floor,” said Mr. Dorantes, who was a frequent clubgoer when he was a designer at Rag & Bone in the 2010s. Leak was inspired by parties in New York City like Papi Juice and Inferno, where hypersexual gay culture fused with a gender-fluid fashion aesthetic. His lingerie is meant to be worn in either the bedroom or club.

“Everything was so curated and wonderful and beautiful,” Mr. Dorantes said. “I needed to step up what I needed to wear, whether it was a soft harness instead of all the leather, or the metal on the market, or a body-con bodysuit that would accentuate my features as a male-presenting person.”

Fans of Leak include Bowen Yang, 31, a player on “Saturday Night Live.” “It feels like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but for all queer people,” said Mr. Yang, who considered wearing a mesh bodysuit when he attended the Critics Choice Awards last month. “Men’s lingerie is just a really beautiful way to take power for yourself, if you want it.”

Kennie Mas, a namesake men’s lingerie and fetish-wear brand founded in 2018 in Toronto, also came out of the L.G.B.T. world. Recent items include a bare-chested singlet in shiny purple, and a floral thong made of stretchy Polyester. “The more feminine the pieces are, I find the more they sell,” Mr. Mas, 28, said. “Men’s lingerie or whatever you want to call it is definitely blowing up at the moment.”

Some men with more traditional tastes are also warming to new lingerie.

Steven Green, 28, a photographer and plus-size model who lives in Kansas City, Mo., was hired to walk in the Savage x Fenty runway show in 2020. “I never thought of lingerie for men at all until I worked with them,” Mr. Green said. Before, he only wore briefs by Calvin Klein or Polo Ralph Lauren, but he has since expanded his undergarment wardrobe.

Now, for what he calls “special occasions” with his wife, he’ll opt for red satin boxers by Savage x Fenty. “If I want to make it a little bit more sexy I will go to those, just because the material’s elevated,” Mr. Green said. “For men, we now have our Victoria’s Secret.”


bottom of page