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September 21, 2021

What do your underwear say about the economy?

Every guy has that pair of underwear on its last legs.

Whether those gotchies are ripped, skidmarked or no longer quite able to meet in the undercarriage, it takes a lot for a man to part with a tried, trusted carrier of his – um – goods. 

But who knew the way we treat our skivvies was such an economic barometer?

A new study from research firm NPD Group suggests the state of a man’s underwear can actually give a pretty fair insight to the state of the world’s economy.

According to the Washington Post, the theory works like this: since they are seen as a necessity, sales of undies are typically stable.

When the world’s swimming in prosperity, underwear sales respond accordingly. When the economy craps, men will try to stretch the time between buying new pairs.

“It’s a prolonged purchase,” Marshal Cohen, NDP’s senior analyst, told the Post. It’s like trying to drive your car an extra 10,000 miles.”

Don’t believe it? Consider that last year, when the cold recession hit, jockey sales felt their own form of shrinkage, falling 2.3% for the first time since research firm Mintel began collecting such data.

But here’s where the good news kicks in: analysts at Mintel think sales next year will fall by just 0.5% from regular numbers. While normally not call for concern, “a slowing of a decline can be welcomed as a step in the right direction,” notes the Post.

So we’re not quite out of the downturn yet, but maybe boxer short business will be the shining light to lead us free.

Online retailer told the Post that while sales of high-end undies have dipped, they’ve seen double-digit growth for less costly pairs.

“The consumers may be down, but they’re not out,” Cohen said. “If this were a true, deep, long, embedded recession, they wouldn’t even be buying underwear.”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...