One of the common complaints that men have about their underwear is that good underwear are expensive. Many brands charge north of $40 per underwear, and sometimes even more than that. For that same price you can do a lot of things, like buying movie tickets for two, or treat yourself to a takeout dinner for one, or even better, some drinks at a bar with some change left for tips.
So why is men’s underwear so pricey? For something so essential and commonplace, it seems that it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg just to keep your balls protected in a comfortable and functional way. For this reason, many men will either leave the buying to their spouses, opt for cheap boxers that break down easily and are uncomfortable, or just forego it altogether and go commando.
As underwear connoisseurs and enthusiasts, we intimately know what drives the price of men’s underwear. Here are some main culprits that lead your undies to drain your bank account.
1. Cost of Retail Channels
Part of the price tag is not a fault of the brands themselves. Many underwear sellers rely heavily on various retail channels such as brick and mortar stores or other prominent e-commerce stores, which can mark up the sale price anywhere from 40 to 60%. Large retailers often force the hand on pricing the product.
This is where direct to consumer brands have an advantage. Without having to give up a margin toward retail giants, brands suddenly have a room to work with in terms of profit margins. They can adjust their pricing models without concerns about pissing off retail partners.
2. Brand value
Branding is hands down one of the biggest reasons why underwear is sometimes so expensive. You can take an average pair of underwear that was made in a factory in Bangladesh, put a designer logo on it, and suddenly the profit margin jumps.
You might think that this is fair game because people obviously are willing to pay for brand value. If people see Justin Bieber endorsing a well-known brand, and think that that’s what they want, that’s their business. However, there is a big downside to this.
Brands have the ability to charge higher prices for subpar products. In the eyes of the consumer, price is a reflection of quality and it may drive purchasing behavior, but that is certainly not the case when it comes to men’s underwear. It creates a distorted reality between quality and price. Combine that with a population that isn’t adequately educated about the product, you essentially have pricing schemes that are bordering on deception.
3. Packaging fluff
Unlike many clothing products, which are sold as they are without being wrapped up, underwear is one of the few clothing items that are sold packaged. This makes underwear suffer from the classic problem of overly done product packaging. Because a lot of what influences a consumer’s decision, at least in the minds of marketers and brands, is how nice the box around the product is, many underwear will come with luxury product packaging that easily could have been skipped. Much of the fluff in the packaging ends up in your recycling or waste bin, like tags, boxes, wrappers, among other things.
And this is compounded by the fact that you can’t return underwear once it’s worn. Even if you don’t like it after having paid for it, you can’t send it back. So investing in packaging and making it look nice in order to encourage customers to pick it up makes business sense for many manufacturers.
Unfortunately, this increases the price of the boxers themselves, and you end up paying for expensive packaging that you have no use for.
4. Unnecessary manufacturing elements
Underwear should be simple. It should support the balls, cover your ass, and be flexible enough that you would be comfortable in it. But a lot of brands like to add a ton of unnecessary features into the boxer in an attempt to justify their high price tags.
For instance, many brands like to place their logos in a very specific position on the elastic band. But this actually costs a lot more than if the band is just a recurring pattern with no specific placement requirements. Such things are far from necessary.
5. Over-the-top Quality in Material
Sometimes, it is worth paying the extra dollars in order to get the nicer material. Indeed, there’s a significant difference in quality between cotton and modal, and most of all you can feel the difference. That’s the number one thing about underwear. You have to be able to feel that the material is better.
However, sometimes manufacturers go completely overboard. One such cost problem comes from micromodal. Micromodal is a form of modal that has finer fibers, and it is more expensive than modal. Now manufacturers say that the finer fabrics actually make it softer and more durable, but none of this is enough to be felt.
We have in fact carried out blindfold tests many times between micromodal and modal to see if the difference was strong enough for people to feel. The results showed that people can’t tell which is which. So at the end of the day, micromodal might be the more expensive material, but for the consumer it is completely unnecessary. It’s at most a marketing ploy by manufacturers to mark up the product as ‘extreme luxury’.
Inexpensive but Quality underwear is possible
We’ve listed the various ways through which underwear becomes expensive. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Underwear is an essential good and people should not have to sacrifice affordability for quality.
Fortunately, this is possible. It can start with skipping out retailers who charge a hefty margin. Materials can be selected based on a compromise between quality and price. Designs can be simplified and kept minimal. Packaging can be streamlined to be less costly for everyone.
At the end of the day, all that men want are good boxers that feel comfortable and last long. Nothing about this has to be expensive, and it certainly doesn’t have to involve hiring Justin Bieber to wear it in front of the camera. By looking at why underwear is expensive, and assessing whether those costs are justified, will bring us closer to providing good quality underwear at the right price.