Men’s Underwear Shows Us the Economy is Rebounding

When it comes to gauging exactly how the economy is faring, the long-held method has been to look towards the bare necessities. Turns out they don’t get much more bare than underwear. A theory first expressed in the spring when the economy was truly spiraling, the recent expansion of the men’s underwear industry could be telling us that the economy is on its way back.

Apparently Alan Greenspan of all people has been looking to this men’s underwear index for some time. In January, 2008, NPR’s Robert Krulwick first reported about how Greenspan would survey men’s underwear sales to see where the economy was going. Greenspan’s wisdom was that underwear was such a necessary expense that their sales remained constant. So the moment men’s underwear sales took a dip, you knew that something troubling was happening on main street. Well guess what happened in 2009?

According to global research company Mintel, American sales of men’s underwear experienced a serious drop of about 2.3%. This after the company had originally forecast 2.6% growth in the industry in 2009. And sooner than the average American male could drop his draws, the U.S. economy was tanking. But recent shifts in the industry demonstrate that America’s troubled, apparently underwear-less economy is back on the upswing.

Perhaps no company better indicates the sudden shift in men’s undergarments than Under Armour. The large sports apparel manufacturer who last year made a huge splash by jumping headfirst into a highly-competitive shoe market, has done it again this year with men’s underwear. The first big news was the signing of UFC champion George St. Pierre to be the face (although more likely the body) of their new underwear brand; the first such apparel endorsement for any mixed martial arts competitor. The multi-million dollar expansion from Under Armour almost immediately changes the face of an industry that traditionally has drawn from a small pool of primary manufacturers.

And just like that, the men’s underwear industry could be seeing a serious rebound from 2009. Industry leader Hanes is already forecasting an impressive 5% sales growth in 2010. And based on what we suddenly know about men’s skivvies and the economy, this could all be very good.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
  • Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
  • Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
  • The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less