Wait Till You Get Your Hanes Back On You
by Marian Bull
In 1985, Mick Jagger released a solo album titled She’s The Boss. The cover art, all white and soft golden tones, features Jagger laying on the bed pouting out at you, with a woman in the background, bent over in profile, ass casually in the air. She’s lithe and lightly muscular; sunlight dapples her elbows and knees. There are some weird white straps around her ankles and wrists (maybe it’s a sports thing?). She’s wearing a sleeveless cotton shirt, and what I can only assume are Hanes Women’s Ultimate Cotton Comfort Briefs, in white.
In the past year, Calvins have seen a resurgence, thanks mostly to our overwhelming love of athleisure and a Bieber-forward marketing campaign. These fleshy billboards have gently reminded us that our underthings can be comfortable, our underthings can be cotton, and our underthings can be full-coverage — and still be sexyyyyyy. The g-string is all but a memory, thank God. And Calvins are great in theory! They look pragmatic and sturdy but you still want someone to see you in them.
As all great underwear ads do, the brand’s long-running black-and-white (and now, technicolor) ad campaign is mostly just selling bodies and horniness. Look at the Calvin Klein website here and try not to get turned on! I dare you! Classic Calvins offer up an all-American sort of sexuality and an unfussy hotness in the same way that Glossier ads, as one friend recently pointed out, promise unfussy beauty: this look will look excellent on you, if you are already beautiful. Glossier looks great on you if you already have perfect skin and perfectly imperfect brows. Calvins look great on you if you have a flat stomach and a firm tush. But you know what Calvins do to a lot of bodies? They make them look like weird lumpy bags of stuff, because their waistband cuts into our softest parts! They will also run you twenty bucks, roughly the same as a pair* of lace Hanky Pankys, their frilly-but-still-practical counterpart.
The Hanes website, however, is as unsexy as they come. Its red-and-white color scheme, that little swath of “fabric” that stands in as logo: all just one big boner-killer. “America’s First Name in Comfort Since 1901,” it timidly asserts in a soft grey font that looks like it’s been stripped from a PowerPoint presentation that isn’t trying very hard. On product pages, no faces pout at you; you get thighs and lower tummies, more realistically sized than Calvin’s models but free from any offensive lumps. The Ultimate Cotton Comfort Briefs’ product description ends with this line: “Look for comfort features in every detail, including no ride up comfort.” This sentence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it does underline one important fact: these undies sure are comfortable!
They’re also cheap: You can get a 4-pack for $16.50! And while they come from a mostly pragmatic, wholly unsexual brand, they have the potential to be very, very sexy. Just look at the faceless woman bending over behind Mick Jagger! Maybe that’s not the most realistic representation of what full-coverage high-waisted briefs look like on most human bodies (Make Our Tummies Great Again!), but the brief is a generous thing. It won’t dissect the lower half of your abdomen with aggressive waistbands or complicated straps; it will only cut in at your waist because it couldn’t really go any higher and also that’s a natural place for cutting in, so. It’s made of pre-shrunk cotton. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns with which you are free to express yourself. It “hugs your curves,” as they say, inobtrusively letting your body take its shape without fucking with it too much. And a fun bonus: Your gynecologist won’t yell at you for wearing it to the gym.
Of course, there are a wide range of non-Calvin brands looking to make the full-coverage panty appealing again. Last year, the New York Times ran a story about a generation of young women “Saying No To Thongs,” which mostly featured panties with the word “feminist” on them, which, ok, lol.
But there’s something extremely pleasurable about buying your underwear in a four-pack, from the same store where you buy your tampons, your razors, your deodorant, and your chapstick. Underwear, for most of us at least, is a necessity, like paper towels and shampoo. It’s possible to occasionally treat it as such, while also finding the most pragmatic underwear Duane Reade can offer very sexy, the way that a uniform of all-black can feel like a distinct expression of style. Soon you’ll reconsider pantylines, the instigator of so many thong purchases, and look more favorably on them. Long live the VPL and that excellent ass of yours it’s drawing attention to.
*Why do we say a “pair” when a thong is at most just one thing, but really a fraction of a thing? Pantaloons — underwear 1.0 — used to come in a pair that you’d put over each leg, and then tie together.
Marian Bull is a writer wearing Hanes in Brooklyn.