Clothing of delight, soft clothing

Two ways of looking at lounge shorts (for men) in two ad campaigns. Both touting the softness of the clothing (genuinely desirable in coverings for men’s private parts), but one pushing it as a vehicle for sexual display, the other celebrating it as a vehicle for joy.

The first (from Helsinki Athletica) in a Daily Jocks ad from 3/26, marketed as homowear — the shorts are a very pale pink, whispering I Am Gay — highly sexualized (the model is sitting up on his knees, in bed, and his crotch is the visual focus of the photo); an accompanying photo has him in gray shorts (more macho, less homo), lying on his belly on a sofa with his ass humped up for sexual penetration. In both he displays an impressively muscled body (bulging biceps, massive pecs, rocky abs), a businesslike mustache, no-nonsense hair, and an impassive face with a challenging gaze (conveying: are you man enough to take this, buddy?).

(The title is an allusion to William Blake’s The Lamb.)

(#1) Athletica 1, the pastel pink crotch shot

(#2) Athletica 2, the gym-gray butt shot (that is one fine muscular male ass, one attractive to both straight women and gay men — because it is so clearly a masculine ass)

The ad copy:

The Helsinki Athletica Classic Lounge Shorts are made from the softest jersey marle fabric. With a thick waistband and a whole lot of stretch, you’ll never want to take them off. Available in Pink & Grey.

gnarly marly: a discursion on marl(e). Then there’s the semi-technical term marl(e). The spelling marl is the standard one; marle is an alternative spelling that harks back to Middle English and seems to be used by a few commercial firms to convey pretentiousness — well, piss-elegance. On marl:

NOAD on the noun marl-2: [usually as modifier] a mottled yarn of differently colored threads, or fabric made from this yarn: blue marl leggings. ORIGIN late 19th century: shortening of marbled.

OED3 (Dec. 2000) has its 1st cite from 1892, an ad in Queen (a British society magazine): Ladies write for Patterns of the entirely new designs in .. Marls, Tweeds, .. and Beiges. Then in 1922, in a Daily Mail ad: Knitted sports suit in rich Marl mixtures and plain colours.

The concept is a bit tricky: the word refers to a kind of fabric, but a fabric one of whose most salient characteristics is its coloration (mixed, in this case). In this it’s like the noun tweed (from NOAD: a rough-surfaced woolen cloth, typically of mixed flecked colors, originally produced in Scotland). And this is the way the word seems to used in garment contexts.

Consider the Gymshark men’s blue marl t-shirt (note: the model’s shown here in repose, but in other Gymshark shots he’s leaping about athletically; he’s presented as a hunky jock, not as a sexual object):

(#3) [ad copy:] It’s your favourite t-shirt reworked with a marl design. The Arrival Marl T-Shirt offers a lightweight material, sweat-wicking properties and a slim fit design so you can perform to the max with confidence.

What’s important here is that the fabric, though primarily blue, is indeed mottled or marbled (NOAD on the adj. marbled: having a streaked and patterned appearance like that of variegated marble). There’s nothing contradictory about blue marl (as in the NOAD entry or in the Gymshark ad).

But now, wrenching ourselves back to the high-carnality guy in #1 and #2, the fabric in his pastel pink lounge shorts in #1 looks utterly unmottled / unmarbled to me. I grant that the fabric in his gray lounge shorts in #2 is indeed very lightly mottled, but that’s what the jersey fabric used for almost all athletic shorts is like (I just checked my entire collection of Champion gray jersey gym shorts, to reassure my recollections on this point, and I see the same in ads on the net).

My point is that you if you say gray / grey jersey shorts, you get the very light mottling automatically, so marl(e) would be unnecessary. I guess I’m willing to concede that the pink shorts in #1 might be even more subtly mottled. But in the real world that would be irrelevant; who could care?

But then why do the Helsinki Athletica copywriters insist on using the unfamiliar semi-technical term marl(e)? I suggest that throwing in marl is a lot like using the marle spelling for it: more piss-elegance. In fact, pretentiousness of a sort frequently noted on this blog.

Look at my 6/2/20 posting “Cereal adjectives” on “edible adjectives” (from my 12/22/16 posting with that title ), with a look back at Zwicky & Zwicky on “tasty adjectives” in menus, Mark Liberman on menu modifiers as social anxiety, me on “ornamental adjectives” in ad copy for gay porn, and Dan Jurafsky on “linguistic filler” modifiers (and “exotifying” language) in restaurant menus.

As with food, now with clothing. The modifier marl isn’t there to be informative and useful, it’s there to sound attractive and desirable. And note Mark Liberman’s invocation of social anxiety and Dan Jurafsky’s development of that theme.

Yes, I know, you just wanted to know what the hell marle means, and now we’re onto social anxiety. We go where the data takes us.

lounge shorts. You probably need a reminder about the term, because it’s another semi-technical term from the world of commerce, in this case the marketing of apparel. From my 7/7/21 posting “Lounge shorts”:

I didn’t recall having previously experienced lounge as a modifier naming a type of short(s) before … The larger category embracing lounge short(s) is labeled loungewear, and is defined in the NOAD entry by in the NOAD entry:

noun loungewear: casual, comfortable clothing [specifically, outerwear] suitable for wearing at home.

… As for function, loungewear is designed for particular occasions of use (informal occasions, especially at home, alone or in the company of others); and to afford properties desired by wearers (providing comfort, via light weight and freedom from restriction, while protecting the wearer’s modesty: the fabric is opaque, and loungewear bottoms for men — lounge shorts and lounge pants — have no flies).

Like athletic / running / fitness / exercise / gym shorts — see my 6/29 posting “Rainbows and penguins at the gym” — lounge shorts (and lounge pants) are beltless, supplied instead with elastic waistbands or drawstrings (more formal shorts, with belts, are streetwear). Unlike gym shorts (which are customarily worn with briefs or a jockstrap as underwear, however, it seems that lounge shorts are worn without (constricting and bulky) underwear: to get the advantages of lounge shorts, guys sacrifice the advantages of underwear (protecting their private parts from the world and the world from their private parts) and go commando. (Or so it seems; underwear is neither mentioned nor depicted in material on lounge shorts. Since the item is unfamiliar to me — I lounge at home in gym shorts, and wear them as informal streetwear in warm weather as well — I could use some first-hand reports on the customs of men’s lounge shorts from users.)

With three examples, from Nice Laundry, Patagonia, and Land’s End (with the shorts in many colors and patterns).

Now we turn from lounge shorts as homowear, invitations to man-on-man sex, and embrace lounge shorts as engines of (unisex) joy. Out with the glowering, in with the smiling. Welcome to lounge shorts that are fun: playful, handsome, pretty.

Jamby Joy. The user-friendly ad copy:

Introducing Jambys, the boxers with pockets. Meet the perfect hybrid of your favorite boxers, briefs, and basketball shorts. Jambys are super-soft unisex house shorts you can wear all on their own around other people.

Stick your stuff in the stretchy pockets and they won’t fall out. Roam freely around your house guests and the delivery guy — there’s no button fly, which means no accidental flashings. (We’ve all been there.)  Wear them in your bed, on your couch, on your roof, however you want to hang and do your thang.

They were originally designed for men — see the notes on flies — but they suit women equally well, and they come in unisex sizes. Also, as with the Helsinki Athletica lounge shorts, their softness is a major selling point. (They’re fashioned from modal (fabric), which is made by spinning beech tree cellulose — so, essentially, beech-based rayon — and is known for its softness.)

They come in 16 colors: solid; bicolor (body in one color, waistband in the other — e.g., lavender / mint, black / hibiscus); plus two kicky patterns, confetti and ice cream. Happy happy joy joy Ice Cream:

(#4) Easy-going stance, wonderful smile, and a fabulous pattern for the clothes; plus, extra points, the model is unthreateningly counter-cultural (and of course has a nicely toned, but not extravagantly developed, body; well, he’s a model, not some random guy off the street)

I think he’s just adorable, in a way that’s orthogonal to sexual attraction but invites physical contact. At least a touch on the shoulder, maybe an arm around his shoulders, or even a full buddy-hug. (In these pandemic years, I’ve been starved for physical contact, achingly.)

(Note: he’s wearing Jambys — “boxers with pockets” — plus a JamTee — “looks like a tee, feels like a robe”. The company also offers long Jambys –“Jambys, but pants” — and more.)

Alas, I stocked up on Ultras gym shorts (in polyester rather than cotton or modal) a while back — last week in the Swiss flag, this week in Rainbow Pride — so I’m not in the market for shorts. But I really like those Ice Cream Jambys and would happily wear them (with briefs underneath, I’m not a commando guy) around Palo Alto as well as around the house.


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