If you’ve been anywhere near a UK high street lately you will have found it hard to avoid bumping into David Gandy in his undercrackers. British institution Marks and spencer, traditionally known for middle aged women and twin sets and pearls, is tapping into the metrosexual market. Its new range of not *too* frumpy men’s underwear, and associated ad campaign is definitely a departure for the respectable department store. I’m not a fully fledged connoisseur of men’s knickers but I think Gandy’s range – and his adverts – are an improvement on David-Beckham‘s pants for H and M. Maybe there’s a slightly overdone attempt to look ‘manly’ on Gandy’s part, with his pecs, frown and stubble. How manly does anyone look in nice white cotton boxers?
The Daily Mail decided to interview a slightly odd selection of people about M and S’s new undies. Jenni Murray from R4’s Woman’s Hour was suitably disapproving, saying M and S are ‘misguided’ to think that ‘sex sells’. Um… But at least she applied her conservative views on women’s ‘objectification’ to men too when she said: ‘Body fascism has become a real problem for a generation of girls and, now, boys are beginning to feel the same anxieties about diet and exercise.’ It is progress of sorts.
Andrew Clover (no I don’t know who he is either) was also sceptical about the move, saying:
‘This whole campaign seems the opposite of M&S underwear: it’s a bad fit. Gentlemen M&S shoppers are homely types. We don’t show off, though we’re quietly proud of our taste in wine. If M&S must advertise men’s underwear, they should have Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville in his dressing gown, or that nice chap Alexander Armstrong from Classic FM in his pants.
But then he went on to admit spending 20 minutes eyeing up Gandy in his pants before finally buying a pair, then parading his new outfit to his wife and kids when he got home! Glover rather challenges the myth, supported by Claudia Connell (nope! not a clue) that women buy men’s clothes for them these days. She thinks that ‘Gandy is a cold and calculating, Christian Grey character, sending subliminal messages to middle-aged, Middle England housewives to go and buy these pants for their husbands’ According to market research, fashion counts for about 83% of young men’s spending. I think M and S are not appealing to middle aged women but are aiming Gandy’s crotch at younger men. And whether or not the men want to *be* David Gandy or *do* him is probably immaterial to the high st chain, who are just interested in the – um – bottom line.
I welcome M and S embracing metrosexuality and I tend to agree with Ann Diamond who said a b arely clothed David Gandy is an improvement on ‘the recent M&S women’s clothing ads, with all those stuck-up high achievers [like Annie Lennox and Emma Thompson!]’. And who knows, maybe some young men will venture into the shop looking for some boxer shorts and they’ll come out with a middle aged woman in twin set and pearls on their arm…