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lingerie for men

Can men wear women’s lingerie?

Well, yes, but no, but also sometimes; mainly it depends. Frankly, if it fits, then why not. Does that help?

Welcome to Part 3 in this series of articles looking at underwear as a highly gendered product, just like make-up, skirts, etc. In Part 2 we drew the distinction between men who identified as male and just wanted to wear nice underthings; and men who wanted to wear nice underthings to appear and/or feel more feminine. And that leads us to ask the obvious question: do we really need ‘men’s lingerie’, or would women’s lingerie fit just as well?

Short answer is yes with a but,
the long answer is no with an although…


Okay, pack a lunch and let’s get into it.

Yes, of course Hims and Thems can wear women’s lingerie if they want to, but the problem is triangles.

Speaking in generalisations, men’s bodies are an inverted triangle with the point at the bottom. Think of the shoulders as being the horizontal, the testicles being the point.

Women’s bodies are the opposite – the widest point of the hips is the base, the point of the triangle is around the neck somewhere.

Fundamentally, men’s and women’s clothes are cut differently. If you’re on the thinner side and have more of a straight up and down figure then the difference is not going to be so pronounced.

It also stands to reason that different items are affected in greater or lesser degrees by this generalisation, but let’s have a look at specifics.


Bras

You might think that there’s no point Hims and (some) Thems wearing a bra. The bottom line is simply, they can if they want to. Why not? Every gender wears items of clothing purely as an adornment, as an expression of their individuality.

If you’re not sold on that argument, consider this: why do men wear ties?

If you’re new to bras and are mystified as to how the sizing works, and I’m not going to lie – the more I learned about how bras are sized the more confused I actually got – let’s briefly go over the steps, because this is relevant to the question of whether men can wear bras..

  • Measure around the rib cage directly underneath your breast. That’s your band size in inches, just like you’d measure a men’s shirt; for example, 34”.
  • Then you’d measure around the body  again, this time at the fullest part of the breast, usually where the nipple is. Let’s say our hypothetical measurement is 37”.
  • What we’re interested in is the difference between the two measurements – in this case, it’s 3”. That difference is described by a letter, and that letter is the cup size. A means the difference is 1”, B is a difference of 2”, C is 3”, and so on. 
  • So in our example, the bra size would be 34C – meaning a band size of 34” and cup size C (meaning a difference of 3″).
Sister sizing

Now you’re probably thinking that that makes a lot of sense so let’s ruin that by talking about sister sizing. How’s how it works:

  • You can go up a band size if you go down a cup size.
  • You can go down a band size if you go up a cup size.

Even if you have a 34” band size you might find 34C bras don’t feel comfortable. This could be due to body and breast shape, the way fat and muscle is distributed in the body. So, you could go up a band and down a cup (36B) or down a band and up a cup (32D). In terms of sister sizing, 32D = 34C = 36B.

Now, this is important to know because trying to measure yourself for a bra if you have a masc body can be misleading. You could measure yourself as per the above, find that your measurements are 40” and 41” respectively, and decide that a 40A bra would be the right fit.

So you buy one and try it on, and find that the cups look saggy and nasty, like your bra just doesn’t fit. In that case, you’d go down a band size, or maybe even two, and then increase the cup size. Doing that would pull the cups tight against a masc body, so even though it sounds like it shouldn’t fit because the band is too small, the extra tolerance comes from the cup size increasing.

Example: see how the cups are pulled flat against Jake’s chest here? This is likely a smaller band size, which pulls the cup flat to the chest:

Pro tip from someone who tried drag once and was very confused by this: Amazon Try Before You Buy is your friend.

Calculate your ‘true’ bra size, then get a couple of sizes either side. If 34C is your true size, definitely also get 32D and 36B, but maybe also get 30E and 38A; and then send back the ones that don’t fit before you have to pay for them. Don’t get padded ones (unless that’s the effect you’re after) because they have less flexibility in the cup. I normally wear a 38” chest shirt, but a 34B bra fits me best.

In this, as in all things, brands matter. A 34B from Brand A could be a totally different fit from a 34B bra from Brand B.

Another pro tip: if you have a masc body and don’t have breasts, you may well find that a non-wired or non-underwired bra is more comfortable. Sometimes they’re described as just that, sometimes they’re described as triangle bras or bralettes, although I think there are subtle differences in reality.

On the left, a non-wired bra from Bluebella. On Vanessa Vanjie Matteo’s bra on the right, you can clearly see the wire shaping the cup.

Ok, good. Let’s move on.


Knickers

Do you know what tucking is and how to do it? No? Good, read on. If you do know, you’re already ignoring this bit anyway.

If you have a penis and testicles, the vast majority of briefs won’t fit you. There are three reasons why and they’ll all drop out of the side of  briefs if you get the wrong ones. If they don’t have a high cut leg and a low rise waist you have a better chance. Compare these from Bluebella’s Sawyer collection, the high waist brief and the thong. Only one of these will keep you undercarriage in check.

Drag the slider left and right to compare.

Styles that look more like jockey shorts will be a better bet, as long as the leg isn’t cut too high. These, from Camille, are cut too high in the leg to comfortably keep everything in place and you might even find things peek over the top because they’re a low-rise waist:

French knickers like these from Bettie Page, on the other hand, are basically boxer shorts:

What you’re looking for is room in the front. Or you can learn how to tuck


Suspender belts

Ignoring all of the different types of garment that might hold stockings up, suspender belts often look like the best bet for wearing lingerie, but it’s not quite that simple. To keep them in place, they often rely on being positioned around a women’s waist and being tight enough not to slip below the waist as they are pulled taut by the stockings.

For men, who have a far less pronounced difference between waist and hip, there’s a good chance you’ll find the belt sliding down and it won’t be comfortable. This is the sort of belt we mean – see how it sits on the waist and is tight enough to not slide over the hips:

Ideally, if you don’t have the hips to fall back on, you’d go for something that sits higher and deeper and has more fastenings, like a waspie, and wear it tighter to the skin like this from Olympia set from Playful Promises. See how Jude, on the right, wears the waspie to hold up their stockings:

Many aficionados recommend something with 6 or 8 straps rather than 4, which gives a very retro look:

And then really it’s just how far you want to go with that look:

Stockings HQ Classic 12-strap plain front suspender belt. Honestly with the size of my bladder I would fear for my life if I tried to wear this.

In general, you want to avoid the ones that look like five pieces of ribbon. Generally they are more, ahem, boudoir wear than for decorating the back porch. No, that isn’t a euphemism.

You can get really plain suspender belts, by which I mean that they’re not adorned with lace and tulle and flowers. This basically becomes underwear then, rather than lingerie. If you were looking for a suspender belt free of such adornments to the point where it was basically gender neutral, this is the sort of thing you’d go for (I love mine).

Lindex Ella M seamless micro suspender belt in black

The other pro tip is to go for a belt that has metal clasps. They’re just easier to fasten than plastic clips and if you get them in a chic contrasting colour, they look the absolute bee’s knees.


Corsets

Going back to the theory of triangles and body shapes will account for why so many corsets won’t fit well.

Of course, if you get a corset with enough tolerance, you can adjust the ribbons at the back to pull the corset snug around your torso. It might look like a badly stuffed turkey from the back if it’s a cheap corset and the boning doesn’t adjust, but you can always wear a blazer over it.

In general though, avoid a corset with gores. Gores are additional inserts at the sides to allow extra room for hips. If you don’t have hips, these gores are just going to gape in a very untidy manner.

Enterprising types have turned corsets upside down so that the gore allows extra width for men’s broader chests, and that will work fine if you have a plain or simply patterned underbust corset like the one below (underbust corset = finishes under the bust; an overbust covers the bust).

You can get men’s corsets but I have never found one that didn’t want to be a steampunk Van Helsing, so if you want to look like a vampire extra from What We Do In The Shadows, go nuts.

The other option is a custom made corset. It won’t be cheap but it will fit beautifully and look the business. Options include Orchid Corsetry, Vollers and Valkyrie Corsets.  


Bodysuits

I guess in men’s underwear parlance we might call it a ‘singlet’, although that’s a term that hasn’t been in common use since Herbert was the most common boy’s name in the UK. You could also think of it as being like a leotard, like the ones you might see on a Mexican wrestler.

Fundamentally, it’s an all-in-one item that comes in both underwear and outerwear varieties. In women’s fashion that line is blurred by both the design of items and generally by the whole underwear as outerwear trend.

On the left, a regular bodysuit. On the right, a lingerie bodysuit worn as outerwear.

Bodysuits are a much newer phenomenon in men’s outerwear. Asos and places like that sell them. You can buy the underwear type from a few places online, but as lingerie they’re a very limited commodity.

Here are the things you need to know.

Like briefs, you need to make sure there’s room in the front to keep everything in place, like the example from Exterface on the left. It’s very high cut on the legs, but sufficient room in the front for your meat (or your pea protein based equivalent if you’re a vegan) and two veg.

If you’re looking at women’s bodysuits (often shortened just to ‘body’), you’re going to need to take dress size into account. You might find that a body that is wide enough for a man’s chest is too baggy in the groin (triangles again). However, if you got one like the example on the right above from Moot, which has shoulder straps and very little fabric across the chest, you can get one tighter downstairs.


Hosiery

Is hosiery lingerie? Probably not, but it’s often worn with lingerie so let’s include it. By hosiery we mean tights, stockings and hold-ups.

Pro tip from someone who has stood at a football ground in Wigan for three hours in winter: tights. That’s it, that’s the tip.

Tights are great. You can wear them under trousers or jeans, especially ripped jeans, for a contrast effect. Don’t wear them too thick if you do because you still need to bend your legs.

Thickness/sheerness is measured in denier – the higher the number, the thicker the tights. 200 denier is basically Smaug’s skin; 3 denier will be disintegrated by harsh language. I wear tartan and argyle pattern printed tights under my black wool kilt with my DM boots and they look amazing.

Hold-ups are super convenient. As the name suggests they hold up by means of a stretchy elastic band at the top. By finishing short of the groin, they’re really convenient to wear under jeans and trousers and you won’t end up adjusting them or taking them down when you go to the loo, as you will with tights.

I find – maybe it’s because I have skinny thighs – that if I don’t get the sizing exactly right, or if I buy a cheap brand, that they don’t stay up during the course of the day. You really don’t want them suddenly slipping down your shins while you’re wearing trousers and flopping around your ankles unbeknownst to you whilst you’re traipsing round the frozen food aisle in Tesco.

I honestly think that when straight cis men think about lingerie, 99% of the time they think about stockings and suspenders. The key is choosing a good quality belt so that your stockings stay up. After that, get a decent quality pair and they will last longer (you can spend three-digit amounts on a single pair but I don’t advise that). Don’t try to wear holdups with a suspender belt – the band will be too thick to fasten properly. 

The last thing to think about is whether to wear the suspender belt under or over your underwear. If you wear the belt under your briefs, ie put your belt and stockings on and then your briefs, you won’t have to undo your stockings every time you need to pee, which is important if you work at Amazon and the amount of time you spend in the loo is measured to the femtosecond.

On the left, the strap goes over the briefs; on the right, that strap goes under. Some people think that straps going over the underwear looks better but honestly, having the underwear over the straps is just far less faffing.

Some people just prefer the look of the belt over the briefs, but it’s an entirely personal choice, there’s no right or wrong way unless the belt is designed to go over matching briefs, like with the Bluebella Sutton set seen above.. If you wear something larger than briefs, like shorts or French knickers, sartorially speaking you night not even have the option to wear the belt over them – the leg might be longer than the strap. 


So in summary: yes, men can wear some women’s lingerie, as long as it fits. Some items will fit fine, some you’ll have to really shop around. The main reason you might think about wearing women’s instead of men’s is basically choice. The number of brands producing men’s lingerie is vanishingly small at present, but the flip side is that their ranges are never going to grow until men start buying it. Catch-22.

Men wearing lingerie – men’s or women’s – are at some point going to draw insults from small minded bigots. At some point you will be called ‘gay’, it’s pretty inevitable. You can point out that being gay means something really rather different and suggest they ask whatever school they attended for their money back if they think that “being gay” means “wearing lingerie”.

But still, it would be informative to look at different types of men who wear lingerie and why, to understand the terminology.

Shall we meet in Part 4?

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