Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's Electric! - A Review

Mid-priced underwear is dominated by names associated with ubiquitous American designers: Polo/Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, and Donna Karan New York (DKNY). A stroll into mid to high end department stores will yield aisles of socks, T’s, boxers, briefs, and even boxer briefs from these venerable design houses. One such dalliance through a store’s underwear aisle yielded the “electric” hip brief by DKNY.

Donna Karan’s design house is the essence of New York city. Her designs are inspired by it: the architectural forms, its chic sense of style, and the go-go lifestyle of a city that never sleeps. I would describe DKNY’s overall design aesthetic as modern and minimalist. There’s a “safe” aspect to the brand, one that appeals more to the mass market but doesn’t do enough to differentiate it from peers. While my own personal tastes have evolved to include the more off-beat labels, it’s not lost upon me that a sizable portion of the male population gravitates toward the aforementioned brands when they go shopping for their underwear.

If you’re like me, you impulsively go through the underwear aisle of stores that sell it to see if they have any good sales. On a lark, I dropped into “the Basement” (Filene’s Basement) a couple of weeks ago in the Loop and saw a pair of blue “electric” hip briefs by DKNY that were marked down. I knew I didn’t own any of those so I asked myself “why not?” and picked them up on my way out.

So what happened? The answer: you guys get a review.

They’re not revolutionary in any way, design or construction—just a pair of briefs with a designer label. At least they’re masculine, though.

The blue is moderately saturated and is not dissimilar to royal blue. A soft, pewter colored waistband, measuring about four centimeters, crowns the brief. The company’s word mark defaces the front of the garment in bold, yellow letters. I guess that’s a nod to the name of the style. A close inspection of the garment revealed it to be well made with clean seams and no loose threads or pulls anywhere.

In terms of fabric, the brief is about 48% cotton and 52% soft man made material (modal and lyrca). I’m a natural fiber kind of guy, and when you get below a certain percentage of cotton, the material starts feeling synthetic. These briefs are no exception. You won’t ever mistake these for being all or close to all cotton briefs. I do understand that synthetics make colors more vibrant, but for me, the blue isn’t vibrant enough to warrant a trade-off for less cotton.

I will say that they are comfortable. I put them on to go to work in and I haven’t had to pull or adjust the briefs. They stayed put and felt good and dependable, like the one good friend that won’t let your plants die when you’re on vacation. One super annoying thing is that the briefs aren’t as brief as they seem on the picture on the box. That always makes me monkey crazy when something isn’t like it appeared in a picture. The picture on the box makes it seem like the garment is much more low-rise, perhaps like the low-rise cut of 2xist or C-in2 brief. It is, in fact, much fuller cut than the picture would suggest. They fit true to size.

And talk about ubiquitous! You can get these at many different stores and sites that sell undies, but I’d highly recommend International Jock because the way they look on the model is the most accurate representation of how they really fit. (Plus, you get to check out all of the other spectacular pictures on the site).

Would I suggest the brief? Well, it depends. If you’re currently rockin’ the CKs (the original tighty whitie style), sure. It’s a great lateral step that will let you branch out and experiment a little bit. If you’re looking for a true low rise brief, I probably wouldn’t recommend it.

OVERALL, I give the DKNY “electric” brief a score of 6.6 based on the following criteria:

COOL FACTOR -- 5 (out of 10) – masculine, but not unique
WEARABILITY -- 7 (out of 10) – good in between coverage; not too skimpy, not too full. The material was a little too synthetic feeling for me.
QUALITY -- 8 (out of 10) - very well made garment with great attention to detail
HOTNESS -- 6 (out of 10) – the word mark in yellow is an attention getter, but the blue is a little subdued
VALUE -- 7 (out of 10) – a little more costly then CKs, which I consider a similar brand in terms of aesthetic and exclusivity
********** 6.6

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