Marketers Aim to Man-Up Men

Products aimed at concealing and toning men's imperfections hit the market.

Dec. 2, 2008 — -- It's not just women who buy products that promise to tuck, tighten and conceal their guts, butts and blemishes.

Men have become the latest targets of marketers eager to sell merchandise that purports to improve and enhance everything from their abs to their skin to the shine of their hair.

"The men's market is an untapped market with huge growth potential," said Daniel Billett, the men's fashion and grooming expert at

"All of these companies are popping out of nowhere and targeting men," said Billett. "The pressure has shifted from women to men to look like they belong on a magazine cover."

An Australian company known as Equmen plans to release their "Core Precision Undershirt" in 2009. According to their Web site, the shirt is equipped with engineered compression technology that "energizes the body with essential structure and support."

One British journalist referred to the shirts as a male version of Spanx -- the popular women's control-top pantyhose made famous for their ability to suck in and hide even the pudgiest women. Similarly, the Equmen appears to accentuate its owners' abdominal region.

But marketers don't want to stop at the abs.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, Unilever, the company that makes Axe body sprays for men, is launching a hair care line that pledges to give men "girl-approved hair."

The man vanity craze is even spreading globally -- bras made for cross-dressing men are flying off the shelves in Japan.

The Japanese lingerie store known as Wishroom had sold over 300 men's bras for approximately $30 each as of Nov. 21, according to Reuters. The bras -- or bros, as they were called on the hit sitcom "Seinfeld" -- can be worn discreetly underneath clothes, according to the report.

But as strange as these products may seem at first glance, fashion experts say that with men becoming increasingly conscious of their appearance, it was only a matter of time before clothing makers caught on to an untapped source of revenue.

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Billett said he's recently seen an influx of makeup lines for men, male girdles and even underwear with butt padding.

"Every major men's magazine writes about men's grooming and great picks for products that you'd see in women's magazines," said Billett, who has noticed this shift in the past couple of years. "I can think of half a dozen men's companies that just do men's cosmetics.

"It's a market share that everyone wants a piece of because men are becoming more and more concerned with how they look and how women perceive them," he said.

Andy Gilchrist, author of "The Encyclopedia of Men's Clothes," links the uptick in men's vanity items to the failing economy.

Many men who had previously been sitting comfortable in their jobs are now back on the market looking for employment, spurring them to appear just as polished as the next guy.

"There is a trend now toward more classic clothing and gentlemen trying to understand the rules of dressing that's coming around because of the economy," said Gilchrist.

"All of a sudden, men who had been [more casual] are realizing that they are being judged on their image," he said. "They realize that the guy down the hall who was wearing a tie and a nice shirt got promoted."

Celebrity stylist Philip Bloch also believes that the suffering economy may have something to do with men's increased awareness of their beer belly or 5 o'clock shadow.

"When times are tough, people want to feel better about themselves," said Bloch. "They want a quick little fix like the tummy-tuck tank tops.

"You don't want to be depressed about your financial situation and look down at your waist and see you have a belly hanging out and your hair falling out," he said.

Bloch said that aging male celebrities -- from Brad Pitt to George Clooney -- also gives the average guy a reason to spruce up his appearance.

"We're seeing men take more pride in themselves and realize that it's not just a 20-year-old thing anymore," said Bloch. "They realize that 40 is the new 30 and that 30 is the new 20, and so forth, and that they have to compete."

"The age limit of sexy is just different now," he said. "You have to stay looking good for longer. Bachelor shelf life has increased."