How do you get men to pay $US48 for a pair of boxer briefs?
Tommy John has figured that out.
The men’s undergarment company is solving a problem that many men face on a daily basis, but don’t necessarily talk about — how underwear that doesn’t fit well can be very uncomfortable, as well as distracting.
Tommy John’s premium undershirts broke ground for solving a similar problem.
After all, CEO and founder Tom Patterson was plagued with discomfort for years. Prior to launching Tommy John in 2008, Patterson worked in medical sales, and he hated the way his undershirts and underwear bunched up and rode up every day.
Now, Tommy John proudly boasts that it has solved this eternal masculine woe. “We fixed men’s underwear,” the brand’s Instagram bio reads. “Smart design and fabrics mean no more bunching, squishing, or riding up. Get comfortable with yourself.”
The latest addition to Tommy John’s underwear lineup, Air Underwear, hones in on this. It weighs just 2 ounces for “barely-there” feeling, and it’s advertised as being softer than leading underwear brands’ undergarments. The underwear wards off odours, and it is moisture-wicking to boot.
A recent video campaign called “The Big Adjustment” for Tommy John’s underwear comically shed light on this issue.
“The main goal of the video was to make it as relatable and approachable as possible, but at the same time, we wanted to do the opposite of what you would expect in a video from a premium men’s underwear brand,” Patterson said to Business Insider.
“When you look at the industry, we really couldn’t understand why everyone was doing the same thing, and we really felt underwear advertising hadn’t really changed since Marky Mark since 1992,” he added, referencing the black and white, sexed-up Calvin Klein ads.
Now is the perfect time to be selling premium underwear.
Men have been been setting higher standards for themselves when it comes to undergarments — and possibly because of the rise of active wear. With more and more emerging technology, it only makes sense for underwear to adapt to the trend, as well.
“I think active wear is a big trend — I think men demand more out of their products today [like] performance, durability, breathability — than they have in the past,” Patterson told Business Insider.
Tommy John focuses on what Patterson calls “the three Fs — fit, fabric, and function.”
Patterson considers Tommy John’s competitors to be brands sold alongside Tommy John in stores — like Calvin Klein, Under Armour, and Hugo Boss — but more than anything, Patterson says, “our biggest competitor is the uneducated guy who doesn’t know underwear has evolved tremendously in the last two years than it has in the last twenty five.”
Lululemon is also a competitor, as the brand has been pushing its men’s division despite occasional complaints. Earlier this year, Lululemon completely misfired with its “no boxer boxer,” which, like Tommy John’s boxers, aimed to give men that lighter-than-air feeling.
But Lululemon’s apparel is sold in its own standalone stores, and Tommy John’s undergarments are sold in generally high-end department stores, including Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.
In fact, the brand has yet to launch any standalone brick and mortar stores, and Patterson believes it’s because men might not be as comfortable going to a store specifically for underwear.
Additionally, Tommy John doesn’t want to grow without good cause. “I think the goal is to grow it [the business] as big as we can without sacrificing the product because I think product is key, and customers trust you,” he said.
The brand continues to innovate, and it plans to launch an athleisure line. But no matter how much Tommy John innovates, Patterson told Business Insider that “we still plan to be maniacally focused on comfort and what that means to men.”
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