In Pouchland, where body size is irrelevant

From Ann Burlingham on Facebook yesterday, a heads-up:

I’ve been seeing this [Hanes Every Bod] ad, which it seems came out last year, and enjoyed the men singing about underwear in a way that women in ads usually sing about [here Ann extravagizes] birth control or antidepressants.


(#1) The end of the Every Bod ad: assorted body types (very heavy on variants of the young and fit) on the street, exulting in their underwear, every one of them displaying a notable pouch: Vouch for the Pouch! (see the sign)

Just to note that mass-market men’s underwear is rarely so pouch-conscious; that’s the province of premium brands, many of which are uncomplicatedly hawking homowear. More below.

AdAge: “Men sing about their body confidence: Ad from the Martin Agency aims to address male body anxiety” by Alexandra Jardine on 8/7/19 (a video of the ad is on this site):

It’s not just women who need to be more confident about their body size, as catered to by the likes of Dove. A new campaign from Hanes aims to “celebrate inclusivity and authenticity” as it shows men of all body shapes and sizes singing, Broadway musical-style, about how its underwear gives them body confidence.

Created by The Martin Agency, the campaign has a wide range of different types of guy — from muscular “gym bods” to “dad bods” and “average bro bods” — bursting into song about how Hanes’ underwear suits them just right. Hanes says it wants to address the “culturally driven body anxiety often associated with women but also faced by men.”

John Szalay, associate creative director at The Martin Agency, comments: “We felt that music was the best way to bring this idea to life because if you feel confident enough sing in your underwear in random places, you’ve got to truly be comfortable with yourself. We landed on an idea that establishes a fresh, new voice for Hanes that also feels big and thoughtful with a hint of fun.”

Pouchland. All of that is wonderful, as far as it goes, but the pouches are something of a surprise — not what you normally expect in a Hanes or a Fruit of the Loom ad, which traditionally feature Regular Guy models, whose genitals are downplayed, not prominently, obtrusively celebrated, as in #1. The guys in #1 have various body types (though still within a quite narrow range; they are, after all, fantasy characters in a commercial), but they all look like Underwear Gods, highly sexualized. (This is an observation, not a complaint; I am, after all, a great fan of pouches and their contents, and have no objections to men’s bodies treated as sexual objects.)

From my 10/19/10 posting “Underwear gods”, a quotation from Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis (2003):

Eric watched them cross the street, stunted humans in the shadow of the underwear gods that adorned the soaring billboards. … men immortal in their muscle tone, in the clustered bulge at the crotchline.

Which leads us to Pouchland. From my 7/20/20 posting “Gay couple in Pouchland”:

[The two men] live in Pouchland, where every man’s junk is on display, just barely covered by a thin layer of cloth.

And all the junk is really protrusive.

Regular Guy underwear. First, a peek at a Macy’s ad, providing Regular Guys in underwear (briefs and boxers, respectively) for the 21st century:


(#2) More fashionable and colorful than the RGs of 20th-century newspaper ads, but far from Underwear Gods

Men’s briefs on a model necessarily have a pouch, because every guy has junk (even I, with my small penis, make a pouch in my unremarkable briefs). But only in Pouchland do they assert themselves urgently.

From my 11/20/19 posting “A regular festival of ambiguity”:

[regular guy is] mostly used for males and usually conveys normative masculinity (with all that comes with it: athleticism, competitiveness, emotional restraint, toughness, etc. though all in moderation, plus solid heterosexuality), along with openness, friendliness, fairness, and other likeable qualities, and also sociocultural averageness on a number of dimensions (celebrities, conspicuously rich people, artists and scholars, etc. will have a hard time counting as regular guys).

regular guys as objects of desire. The Regular Guy is a stock character of advertising, where he is especially devoted to selling things directed to men, like tools, sports equipment, shaving accessories, and men’s clothing, in particular swim suits and underwear (both highly gendered). This last category is of special interest to me, because such apparel can be invested with not only gender content but also carnally sexual content: the display of the nearly naked male body is available as a source of pleasurable response from suitably minded viewers (of either gender), no matter how innocently it might be intended.

In brief: underwear ads are always available for service as soft porn (for straight women and gay men) — this is not even slightly a novel observation — and models presented as regular guys have figured in such advertising for a long time.

Looks like Hanes might be willing to take things up a level here, moving into an Age of the Pouch.

 

 

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