Designing Underwear – Pattern Production

NOTE: Picture above is Kiniki Henley Micro Brief

Patterns are making a come back in a big way this year. Countless designers, big and small, are choosing some amazing patterns for their lines this year. Why? Well, patterns are fun. They can bring a sense of whimsy or a pop of color to our wardrobe, even if no one else knows what we are wearing. It can make us feel like a kid again. It is something different from the usual, sometimes boring, drab colors that grace much of men’s underwear.

I’m not really here to talk about why patterns are back though. I’m more interested in why patterns don’t always get made. What makes them tick. What makes patterns wonderful and a pain in the behind. I’m no expert on making underwear but here are a few of the reasons I’ve come up with as to why patterns aren’t especially super common among upscale men’s underwear designers.

First off is the look of patterns themselves. I don’t know about you, but I loved the days when I had cartoon characters on my underwear. Eventually, we grow up and have to move on to less colorful pairs. There is also the mainstream boxer fad of patterned boxers, but that faded quickly and now seems to be pretty much universally ridiculed by all. Mass market brands do have some slight patterns on pairs occasionally, but mostly in the mainstream patterns on your underwear are a girl thing. Patterns just have the stigma of being childish sometimes. Just look at the iconic marketing done by Calvin Klien: plain white, nothing else. Even more modern looks have only really just changed the ideal pair color to black. While mass market may put some simplistic patterns on their pairs, it is nothing like what the upscale brands do. Among the countless upscale brands, you can find all sorts of patterns. From classics to crazy, there pretty much is a pattern for everyone these days.

Another reason why patterns are uncommon is that they are probably more expensive to make than their simply-colored brethren. I’m not an underwear manufacturer, but I’m guessing that brands probably have to buy the colors for their pairs. So with patterns, instead of simply licensing the dye for one or two colors, you have to go out and find the perfect pattern, which might be hard to find and expensive to license. You could also make it yourself, but that would require hiring a graphic designer, another expense that I’m sure many small underwear makers might not have the budget for.

Lastly, not everyone is a patterns type of person. Many guys like the clean look of mono-colored pairs, or are extremely particular to only certain patterns, like tartans, etc. This can have the opposite effect as well, as I know some guys will buy practically anything with leopard print on it. The economics of it though, having to balance out knowing that some of your audience may not buy these pairs makes a designer really have to know their audience, otherwise they might end up with a big loss, another thing that a small company cannot handle very well.

In the end, my basic opinion is that patterned pairs can be a risky proposition, but if done well and marketed to the right people, can be a big seller. The market can also swing in this opinion, as underwear ads from the 70s clearly show. Perhaps this is what’s happening today? While I am not a huge patterned underwear guy, there are some patterned pairs that I love dearly. I will say though, in addition, this lack of patterns is nowhere near the case when it comes to men’s swimwear. You can find plenty of flashy and outrageous patterns in that market very consistently. I wouldn’t be surprised that some of the patterned underwear craze going on right now stems from the swimwear market. What are your favorite patterned pairs?Lets us know in the comments below or on twitter.

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