x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Katie Trotter: Men start to squeeze their figure

After centuries of forcing our bulges up and in, are men about to feel the squeeze?

Women have been pouring themselves into corsets, girdles and, more recently, magic pants for an eternity. Men on the other hand, apart from superheroes of course, seem to have got away with just looking like an apple on a gatepost. Until now, that is.

Last week the UK high-street chain Marks & Spencer announced the launch of their new hi-tech underwear for men. It promises to suck in the paunch, create false muscle definition and tighten the buttocks. Eureka! Dubbed the "mirdle" (man girdle), this miraculous contraption is made from a compression fabric similar to a wetsuit that creates what looks, from the outside at least, like a six-pack. Priceless.

Spanx, the original women's line of body shapers, was the brainchild of the American entrepreneur Sara Blakely. She cut off the bottom half of her tights one morning because she couldn't find the right underwear to wear under her cream trousers, and decided she was onto a winner.

The "mirdle" is designed to give men a leaner silhouette under a slim suit, and even claims to correct posture. And the business of control underwear is not a laughing matter - last year global sales reached £250 million (Dh1.48 billion).

For the seriously dedicated, there are bodysuits and high-waisted shorts in three strengths: medium, super and super duper. The motto: changing the world one butt at a time.

This is all very well, but the problem is, men don't do uncomfortable. And talking from experience here, these miracle garments are seriously uncomfortable. Think of it much like wearing cling film on a hot day, or spending an afternoon in a compression tank. They say they should fit like a second skin. But what they don't mention is that they barely fit over the first skin. Pockets of flesh ooze out from places such as your love handles, while wrinkles of tough fabric prod at your hipbone like a cactus. Breathing becomes rapid and short and when sitting down. You flirt with asphyxiation.

Am I cool with the modern man wearing control pants? As a friend said, quite rightly, you can't really not be when we wear them all the time. But that is exactly the point: we wear them.

Let us be neurotic, delusional and pathetic, but at least leave us that.