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russell smith

The question

What do you make of package-enhancing underwear?

The answer

Recent Internet hysteria over a picture of screen heartthrob Idris Elba sporting an impressive bulge in a suit (he said it was caused by a microphone wire) demonstrated that packages are appreciated. It seemed to cause a great deal of pleasure among his many fans. Nobody said it was gross. Same went for Jon Hamm when a series of similar photos caused widespread lubricious speculation. I have heard women talking among themselves quite enthusiastically (especially when they thought they were not being overheard) about bountiful crotch sightings. I think the days when it was considered disgusting to know too much about a man's body are over.

The thing is, many men don't like a show off. So you're going to have to choose who you want to please here.

And if you do feel a need to impress, make sure nobody knows you do. It has to appear completely unconscious. (One of the reasons that Hamm was mocked here and there and Elba wasn't, is that Hamm frequently appeared to not be wearing constraining underwear: In other words, there was a suggestion that he was trying to get his crotch noticed. That, not his endowment itself, was his sin.)

Now if you do think you can get away with it and your acquaintances are the kind of people who are more likely to be impressed than revolted, there are a number of companies selling outline-enhancing undergarments online. Perhaps the most successful is the Australian group with the unfortunate name of Cocksox. They sell skimpy briefs and tight boxers and swimsuits that promise to put your assets in greater relief. They don't do this by adding padding, merely by creating a highly supportive pouch – they are like brassieres that promise lift. They are made of skintight spandex blends and are quite expensive ($27 for the tiniest brief, plus $7 for shipping to Canada, plus Canadian duties at your door). The company itself understands the embarrassment that too much publicity might cause, promising "no one will know you're wearing them." It also acknowledges its products "will impress your mother-in-law but maybe not your mum." Which pretty much sums up the social decisions you have to make here.

Novelist Russell Smith's memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail