Monday, June 12, 2017

Foreign support

There are few topics more controversial for men than choice of underwear. A potential source of anxiety in the changing rooms at the gym, or a source of possible social ostracism in ordinary conversation, it is a topic that many men will avoid—unless it’s to avoid talking about “men’s health” (better known as prostate exams), penis size, and other things men are uncomfortable talking about. My more serious problem was the need for foreign sourcing.

I’ve preferred the same brand of underwear for decades, and it’s a choice akin to publicly stating that one likes Abba or The Carpenters (which I always have…), so I won’t mention the brand, but it’s what the ad up top from the mid 1980s is for (actually, the real reason I’m not mentioning the brand is because they haven’t paid me to do so; that’s a joke, too…).

In all seriousness, I started buying the brand regularly sometime in the 1970s, and my initial reasons were the cost (they’ve always been inexpensive), they were 100% cotton (I could wash them in hot water with bleach to keep them fresh), and they were comfortable. Later, the fact that they were made in the USA made me especially loyal.

By the 1980s, men were switching to colour underwear, but I stuck with my white briefs—and still do. This was a source of amusement to Nigel, who called my underwear “old man undies” or “grandpa undies”. In fact, he still does. That didn’t deter me then or now.

What did cause me problems, however, was the fact that the brand isn’t sold in New Zealand, and sooner or later, a boy needs new underwear. My choice was to try something different (What? CHANGE?!) or to find a substitute. I decided on the latter.

I found some white mostly cotton briefs at The Warehouse (a New Zealand discount store chain) which were okay and were my choice for a couple years—right up until, as is typical for The Warehouse, they abruptly stopped carrying them. I found a different brand at K-Mart (which in New Zealand is a subsidiary of an Australian retail corporation). They, too, dropped the white briefs.

I tried Jockey, which I could get at Farmer’s (NZ department store), and while white, and mostly cotton, were every bit as uncomfortable as I’d remembered: I kept “falling out” of them. ‘Nuff said.

I realised that I had no choice but to order my usual brand from the USA, and there it gets tricky.

There was a NZ online store that I could order them from—at something like $7-$10 per pair (roughly 5 to 7 US dollars each). I like that brand, but not THAT much.

Many US retailers won’t ship overseas, and while there is a way around that (a subject in itself), I decided the easiest way was to order them through Amazon. And that brought me to other barriers.

The NZ dollar has been weaker against the US dollar, so buying products from Amazon USA is more expensive than it used to be. I kept waiting, hoping that the Kiwi dollar would strengthen, and it just hasn’t (mostly because our interest rates are low).

Things began to get critical: The waistbands in my pairs of K-Mart undies were beginning to quit their jobs, opening up holes. In general, they were looking more and more tatty, and I could hear my mother’s voice in my head, “always put on good underwear when you go very far from home in case you’re in an accident.” If I had been, the ambulance crew may have concluded I was derelict, because my undies certainly were.

So, I went ahead and went to Amazon to place my order. I was in luck: The packs had 8 pairs instead of the usual 7—bonus! Since I was ordering from Amazon, and had to pay their high shipping charges, I decided I may as well order a few books that had been on my wishlist for awhile, so I picked three and was ready to place my order—and I paused: How many packs of underwear should I buy? One? More?

I was well aware that the briefs have changed over the years—thinner fabric, changes to the waistband, etc.—so I thought I might not like the current version. But then I thought about how much trouble this has all been, and I ordered two packs, thinking if they were okay I’d order a couple more sooner rather than later.

I placed the order Sunday, May 28 (my time), and the order shipped on May 31. They told me the order, in two parts, would arrive on Friday the 16th and Monday the 19th. They actually arrived Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th. I mention this because I chose the cheapest shipping, which normally takes the longest, and yet it actually took less time than the second-most expensive shipping option I chose last time. I thought that was a reasonable turnaround.

The new underwear are no longer 100% cotton (the package doesn’t even list cotton, actually), and the fabric is thinner, but still better made than what I used to buy from The Warehouse. It’s also now “Hecho en El Salvador”, as a sticker on the package informed me; the brands I bought in New Zealand were made in China or elsewhere in Asia, so country of manufacture no longer matters to me. [UPDATE: The package doesn't say anything, but the sticker that says where they were made does say "100% cotton" in small-ish letters]

Now that the new underwear has arrived, the worst of the old underwear has been binned, because, unlike my mother, I won’t use old underpants as cleaning rags—I didn’t like it when she did it when I was a kid, and nothing’s made me change my mind. I did keep the least awful pairs for my emergency supply, part of my “Get Thru” preparations in case disaster strikes the day before laundry day. Be prepared, and all that.

I’ll probably buy more underwear sooner rather than later, and will probably finish off my book wishlist (most of the others on the list are Kindle books, which I can get at any time). While I don’t actually care what anyone thinks about my underwear preference, I nevertheless do think it’s an interesting challenge to find an overseas source for a product unavailable here, and then finding ways to get that product. Global community, eh?

And finally, a couple more videos to round out this topic. First up, a commercial from the late 1980s, when the “fruit guys” were starting to be phased out:

To finish this off, here’s something completely different: A parody music video making fun of the commercials, and country music video tropes at the same time. Because even a topic like this allows me to find new things.


rogerogreen said...

Y'know, when you actually WRITE stuff, I want to link to almost everything...

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Oh, snap! But, then, I thought titling this blog "Arthur Responds to Stuff Roger Posts" probably wasn't snappy enough…