Having always been an ‘ideas man’ and chosen to look at the world as an opportunity and work-in-progress, back in 2005 I found myself on a plane going on a family holiday to the USA and idly flicking through the on-board magazine. I came across a picture of David Beckham promoting some underwear and though I don’t normally dwell on such images, several questions coalesced in my mind at around the same time:
- Why do men’s underwear brands use images of fit celebrities to endorse their products?
- Why hasn’t there been much innovation in men’s underwear since the birth of the Y Front?
- Why doesn’t Victoria Beckham do a deal with Victoria’s Secrets to create a new line in Men’s underwear along with her husband David, under the heading ‘Victoria’s Secret as worn by David’? (BOXJOX-based of course!)
Now I’m sure that these questions didn’t quite arrive in such a neat order, but in essence, all these points arose around this key moment of reflection, somewhere high above the Atlantic. I tend to keep a notebook and pencil handy at such moments; there’s one on my bedside table as I write this, because I’m a great believer in capturing such moments and the physicality of writing and sketching are great jumping off points for even more idle and sometimes useful thoughts. (See my very first sketch of BOXJOX here).
After some reflection between the on-board movies and further day-dreaming, I realised that the use of celebrities was because the designs of lots of men’s underwear was pretty unremarkable and undifferentiated and not really about the garments at all. Women’s underwear on the other hand has benefitted from a series of design innovations; from Howard Hughes with his cantilevered bra design for Jayne Russell in the 40’s, to push-ups, padded and now further developments in sports bras. I have subsequently done many hours of research and there’s about a 60 year gap between the birth of the Y Front and Mark Wahlberg appearing in ads wearing, what was then the next big thing – Boxer Briefs. You could argue that innovation has taken place in between these points, with the addition of elastic and then Lycra, but this is mainly about the base material and less about the design of the garments as such. Yes you do have the option of fitted versus loose underwear, but it still feels like men’s underwear is about utility rather than style. These things are not mutually exclusive; in fact they can positively enhance each other (see Apple Computers).
Somewhere in the mental archives was also the unlovely image of wearing a jock strap for sports, mainly from my time at St Luke’s Exeter, a sports teaching specialist college (though I was not on that particular course). Jock straps always felt somewhat like a slightly embarrassing medical appliance and were a triumph of function over design – they just had to keep your parts out of the way and possibly hold a cup/box when playing hardball sports. They were not lovely to look at and uncomfortable to wear, but necessary. The originators of this design, The Bike Co have sold over 300 million athletic supports apparently, plus there are a host of alternatives which share the same ‘function over design’ approach. Consequently, the jock strap has largely fallen out of fashion and favour unless you need to wear a cup/box, but to my recollection, men are still built the same way, so there’s still a need to ‘lift and aggregate’ as it were, when playing sport – going commando is not an option really.
Because I’m an inveterate information sponge (happy to join you on your quiz night team if it helps), I was also aware of the significant growth and development of compression garments used by sports people. The thinking behind compressing the skin in this way comes from medical applications, where figure hugging compression garments are routinely worn to improve blood flow (e.g. to reduce the risk of blood pooling in the legs and clotting post surgery or on-board planes to minimise the risk of DVT). You might have seen people with skin grafts also wearing compression devices, especially on the face as a mask. In essence, they help to aid the healing process as well as reducing scarring in aesthetic applications.
The use of compression wear by sports people to help improve blood flow and recovery times, plus helping to maintain the temperature of the active muscles, seems to have been more actively experienced since the 90’s when compression sportswear crossed-over to the mainstream. But again, in my estimation, they missed the opportunity to offer enough support across the groin and genitals, though they did provide all the benefits of compression for the major muscles in your legs and buttocks. Jock straps have largely fallen out of fashion now, but as I mentioned, men are still built the same way and so keeping yourself neatly tucked out of the way offers significant security, comfort and confidence benefits. Women have long understood the value of a good compression-based sports bra and the larger and more active you are, the more beneficial they are to you. The same goes for men – hence BOXJOX.
However, our design is more than just a jock strap and compression shorts thrown together – you can buy these types of garment elsewhere. Rather, it is a 21st century update on this combined/hybrid approach and one that we have researched extensively, so now we are proud to say, we await the grant of our patent. We also wanted BOXJOX to be better engineered (using composite materials), be more comfortable to wear (incorporating active suspension and zonal compression) and also great to look at – we hope we have achieved all these things because the feedback that our wearer trials give us, is that they meet all these requirements. We also took the time to engineer our Anti-Ride System into the back, which, not to put too fine a point on it, is our unique system to stop wearers experiencing the discomfort of a ‘wedgie’ – uncomfortable and distracting at anytime, let alone when you are concentrating on making that key pass or crossing the line.
BOXJOX are also consciously aimed at tech-savvy active men – this means that not only will they value great form, function and design in everything from their cars, to their smartphones, their computers and their gym equipment, they also had to be good value. We think they are all these things because they are 2 products in 1 (a hybrid), for the same price as some compression-only competition.
Another way to look at the opportunity that BOXJOX addresses, goes right back to those points on the plane – why hasn’t there been much innovation in this space? Lack of innovation does not mean lack of creativity; just take a look at the wide range of surface graphics and colours that men’s underwear comes in today. But it’s still mostly about utility with value alongside comfort too. Big branding programmes and celebrity endorsements are key tools too, to try and create differentiation, which seems to us to be a way of diverting the focus from the product – maybe?
We have started with a sports oriented support+compression product because we have personal experience of compression wear that does not offer enough support when playing sport. In our experience, finding solutions starts by identifying the problem at source. Our research also found that one of the named majors in this sector cites that around 80% of what they sell each year is less than 12 months old in design terms. This calls for a huge rolling programme of innovation and creativity to feed the sportswear-buying public. We believe that BOXJOX fits into this need to find a better product and we hope you think so too.
Thank you for reading and we look forward to your BOXJOX feedback.
To find out more about BOXJOX Performance please go to the main site;
Postscript. Just a thought – taking a leaf out of another sector’s progress
Microsoft or Apple did not give birth to Google, who in turn did not create YouTube (we know they bought it subsequently), or Facebook, and neither of these created Twitter or Pinterest. In much the same way, Nike or Adidas did not create Under Armour and we too are a new start-up, not related to these established companies. BOXJOX is evolutionary and proud to be so.