In the mid-1970s, a former ad salesman Gene Buckard (yes, Buckard) opened a store in San Diego whose name, Brawn of California but it wasn’t until he began mailing catalogs that Buckard’s company took off under the name International Male. By 1993, IM had moved into the mainstream as a pop culture punchline with their pirate look “Puffy Shirt”, inspiring a classic Seinfeld episode.
Gay men just MAY have been waiting for those quarterly mailings, specifically for the “UnderGear” section in the back. In 2009 International Male became known officially as UnderGear, but they never make the leap to a big online business the way so many other catalogues did. Michael Kleinman, editor of The Underwear Expert says,
“Years ago, brands didn’t sell direct to consumer online. As the years went on, if you had to choose, you’d buy from a discounter. Amazon does a huge underwear business.”
UnderGear suffered the death of a thousand corporate cuts and today they are reduced to just discount items and a mere ghost of their former image on Facebook. It’s a sad-face ending to an iconic brand. But if you saved your vintage catalogues they can be auctioned on eBay for upwards of 2 figures (like $11). Former Olympic star, FKA, Bruce Jenner was once a cover guy, so take a look to see if you’ve still got that one. Cha-Ching!