Everyone knows that celebrity endorsement deals are big money. Sneaker and clothing brands routinely dole out buckets of dough to drape their swag over popular cultural characters. But the real cash cow is underwear.
This is not sexy lingerie, à la Victoria’s Secret, whose signature Angels, while certainly well paid, don’t even come close to the level of balling that modestly named musician / actor / businessman / cultural curiosity 50 Cent just clocked for agreeing to wrap his little rappers in a new-ish brand called RevolutionWear Frigo. How much, you ask? A shrinkage-inducing $78 million.
Yes, we said $78 million. For wearing undies.
Granted, these aren’t your average tighty whities. Rather, we’re talking hand-made, $100-a-piece microfiber athletic boxers, perfectly proportioned and designed whose, to quote their spec sheet, “soft lock pouch” ensures “getting set up is quick and easy, and you only have to do it once.”
As a guy who’s been wearing regular old off-the-shelf TJ Maxx cotton boxers for nearly three decades, I can assure you, this is not a terrible feature. Think of the embarrassing subway platform or mid-office “adjustment” debacles you could avoid! I’d absolutely pay extra—though not $90 extra—to avoid having to avoid eye contact in shame at least three times a day. But will they really sell millions of pairs? Because they’re going to have to.
The numbers don’t lie.
Even if the brand sells 780,000 pairs at full retail via their web store, that’s one hell of a deficit to start with. The reality is that, as a wholesaler, they’re likely only making $20-$40 per pair on the top tier boxers. That means over two million premium man panties need moving to recoup that endorsement fee.
It should be noted that RevolutionWear does have some lower price points, starting at around $25, which is roughly the same as you’d pay for any other designer pair, from Patagonia to Hilfiger. But their focus, and 50 Cent’s focus, based on his schilling, is the premium, black-boxed Frigo 1 Exclusive line.
But paycheck disparity aside—and there is some logic to paying already recognized celebrities more to model underwear than models to model underwear and thus become celebrities—does signing buff dudes to get their flex on in your fancy skivvies actually move units? Or are they all just chasing Marky Mark’s genre-changing Times Square Calvin Klein moves back in the now-nostalgic 90s?
There’s certainly a bulging market. Underwear juggernaut Hanes raked in a reported $1.4 billion in profits in 2010, and the industry has been famously used as an indicator of national economic well being by none other than Alan Greenspan.
Also, 93% of us men wear underwear. Sans the dedicated commandoes, that leaves some 147 million American men in need of undergarments, and that number, combined with profits like Hanes sees, absolutely justifies shelling out Michael Jordan-level endorsement dollars to gain market share.
The question is, do we need, or are we ready for, super high-end designer drawers for dudes?
Industry experts claim an increase in awareness amongst men when it comes to styles, design, and price regarding their underwear. But “awareness” can be tricky… I’m “aware” that Mercedes makes a lux G Wagon, but I’m “content” with my old 4Runner. It’s at the cash register that money talks.
To find out if America really is ready to shell out a Franklin for some premium package packages, especially during this most intense of consumption seasons, I called a couple of the vendors listed on the RevolutionWear site.
“I sold a couple a pairs,” admitted a gentleman reached in a Boston Neiman Marcus menswear department, who asked not to be named, when I inquired about how sales of the expensive style were doing. “I think they’re a little bit much!”
Another preferred-to-be-nameless salesman, this time from Lord & Taylor’s 5th Avenue location in New York, wasn’t sure what the hype was about.
“You know the funny thing was, the (RevolutionWear) rep actually said he preferred the other version over the high end version,” he laughed, adding, “They’re like Spanxx, or your basic compression short. That type of thing.”
When asked if he thought we were ready for an influx of high-end holsters for our manhood, he chuckled again, replying:
“I tell ya, I’ve been pushing ‘em a little bit, and they’re not really [selling]… No. I would say no.”
This was a sentiment echoed by his Bostonian counterpart, who admitted: “According to what we’re selling, no!”
It may well be that RevolutionWear is going to find out the hard way that it takes more than money to start an actual revolution.