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Girdles for men? Beer-bellied guys are taking a cue from the ladies.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Further signs of the impending apocalypse: Men's girdles are now all the rage.

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They call it "men's shapewear," true, but ladies, we know that you know from long and tummy-tucking experience what that really means.

Spanx for Men -- undershirts that fit and feel like a wet suit -- debuted to such testosterone-fueled success this year that the company is coming out with a line of (gulp) bottoms for the fall. The cotton compression undershirt "helps with the love handles and beer belly and man boobs -- or 'moobs,' as we call them," says Maggie Adams, public relations manager for Spanx.

An Australian company, Equmen, started up last year and will sell you a male-model-worthy "core precision undershirt" for a cool $99 (the company's products are touted by manly man and Washington Redskins punter Josh Bidwell. "I tried one of their shirts earlier this year to help with back issues I had from playing golf, and it works just great. Really holds your core in place, supports the upper shoulders, particularly when you're working out.")

On Amazon, you can find the "Mens Belly Buster Athletic Supporter Girdle," the sound of which makes us squirm in our seats, but why go online? There are at least two companies using late-night infomercials to offer gentlemen of discerning taste "compression shirts" for their "problem areas." You can see how they work from the comfort of your own couch, then get up for another beer!

For the low, low price of $19.95 (plus $7.95 shipping and handling), you can get SlimTs, which use "special spandex-blend fibers" to make you (or the man in your life) "look firmer" with "no diets, no exercise" and "no gym memberships!"

But wait! There's more!

The "Insta Slim Muscle Tanks" (available for a limited time for only $29.90, plus $9.95 shipping and handling) will help you "flatten your stomach, redefine your chest, eliminate your love handles"!

All while still being that lovable bowl of Jell-O you are!

"Men's shapewear is one of the few up-and-coming trends you can actually put your hands on," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the market research firm NPD Group.

While the term "men's shapewear" probably didn't exist in the Mark Twain era, this sort of thing isn't entirely new. Men who went for the cosmopolitan dandy look in the late 19th century in Europe and the States were known to sometimes wear some type of binding undergarment. And the history of men's fashion, broadly stated, has been a search to accentuate the male ideal of the V-shaped body -- broad shoulders, narrow hips -- whether in medieval armor or the modern suit.

Staples of gym wear

But the trend toward undergarments that make men look more svelte than they actually are began over the past decade or so, with lycra or spandex bicycle shorts and other tight, form-fitting sports gear, Cohen said. These clothes, such as polyester gear that wicks sweat away from the skin, help athletes reduce wind friction and improve circulation (and warmth on cold days). They began to be staples of gym wear. From there, it wasn't much of a leap for men to notice that the garments could hold in jiggly flesh around the stomach and chest -- places where men tend to put on flab or lose muscle tone.

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