Leave it to the fashion industry to find new and improved ways for instilling fear in consumers. As if it weren't bad enough that women were hooked on products that "enhance," "flatter," and "camouflage" our natural features, now we have men at center stage being sold a new category of clothing -- "men's shapewear."
Reporting in the New York Times, Catherine Saint Louiws tells us that in February, the Spanx line of modern girdle-like garments introduced it's first line for men. Major department stores now carry them and they are expected to fly out of the stores like hot potatoes. Spanx will, of course, sell men on the idea that their products will help them "feel better" about themselves and do so at bargain prices since their clothing is priced well under the cost of the initial compression T-shirt designs of Australian based Equimen.
These "profile enhancement" undergarments are the female equivalent to a push up bra and girdle. Men now get to experience some of the worst that our modern-day culture has to offer us in the way of self-empowerment. They, too, will get sucked into believing that they'll feel more attractive and hold greater confidence when wearing this apparel. Anxiety about men's natural features (in particular their bellies) will grow exponentially. Ah, the insecurity and self-consciousness that ensues is sure to do wonders for intimacy and authenticity in relationships.
Doubtlessly, men are capable of being convinced that these products will help relieve their back pain and support their muscles. That line was used on women for years and it successfully hooked many into wearing all sorts of uncomfortable undergarments.
My mother was one of them. A tall, beautiful woman, I remember her daily use of a girdle. She believed it helped her "aching back," but years later dealing with my own aching back, I know otherwise. Strengthening your abs helps an aching back; being active, physically flexible and core strengthening helps an aching back. Not lycra or any other synthetic fabric.
I hope that boys and men have their eyes wide open and are cautious of stepping into a potential trap. Women need also be alert since many women buy clothing for sons or husbands. Be aware of the slippery slope in which one begins to "feel great" in their new look, followed by a growing sense of self-doubt and worry about appearing flabby. Then comes the natural body sensations that remind you of the ways your body is not firm, activating you to compare your body image to that of the ultra-firm one you have when wearing Spanx.
Suddenly the "F" word creeps into your vocabulary far more often -- that's F for FAT -- and with time, a cycle of body angst sets in. Beware -- beware of the fashion and diet industries who have so much to gain while we have so much to lose.
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