Every holiday season, the Angels of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show gallantly spread their wings on the runway for a national TV audience. Who's to say a man couldn't don a lace bra and panties and feel just as confident and sexy?
It's an assumption rooted in rigid, age-old gender roles dictating what men and women should wear, both in public and in their own beds. And while women have made some inroads with more gender-neutral intimate apparel, you won't find lacy lingerie designed for men in any department store.
Enter HommeMystere, a Brisbane, Australia-based online store and design studio whose sole mission is to make lingerie that's "fun, unique and comfortable" for men. In the process, the company and the men who model for them are challenging some of our most entrenched gender stereotypes.
Brent Krause, owner and lead designer for HommeMystere, launched the brand roughly five years ago, more out of personal need than for business reasons. As a man who appreciates and likes wearing lingerie with his wife, Krause couldn't find anything that looked or felt quite right for him. So he struck out into the male lingerie market on his own.
"I never set out to challenge anyone or anything," he told Mic, noting that many prospective customers often ask if he specifically caters to queer or gender nonconforming people. "I just wanted to make lingerie that would fit the physique of a guy."
In the years since its founding, HommeMystere has grown from one couple's side project to a global business with a large client base in the United States, Krause said. The company now has distributors and agents shipping the apparel all over the world, even offering a discreet shipping option for customers from more conservative or heteronormative cultures.
"While our research indicates many wives and girlfriends are comfortable ... we do receive correspondence from guys who explain to us that while they like their lingerie, their partners do not approve," Krause said. "Some social media comments from women include suggestions that they would leave their partner if they discovered he wore lingerie. I think this says more about her than it does about him, but helps explain why some of our customers want some discretion."
By and large, both the makers and clients celebrate and affirm men wearing lingerie. The brand's smooth and revealing aesthetic has even attracted acclaim within the intimates industry, having been featured at numerous trade shows including the 2013 International Lingerie Show in Las Vegas.
Talk about a new crop of "angels" wearing hot panties.
HommeMystere could jumpstart a movement, challenging stereotypes while signaling that there is nothing wrong with men, regardless of their sexuality, who enjoy wearing lingerie. In one letter Krause received, a happy customer said he ordered three sets of lingerie based on customer testimonials alone. The fit, quality and comfort alone, he said, were enough to impress his girlfriend.
"Opening it was like Christmases of old. As I took each item out of the bag, I was presented with a beautiful array of colors and textures," the customer said, according to Krause. "Please continue to inspire the more broad-minded of this world. Perhaps even become mainstream, although perhaps not in my lifetime."
Of course, the concept of men and male-bodied individuals wearing clothing originally intended for women, otherwise known as cross-dressing, isn't anything new. Look no further than the steady integration of drag culture into the mainstream. Underwear fetishes have been known among men for many decades, where they enjoy wearing bras, panties, stockings and even heels.
Krause said he hopes guys wearing lingerie will eventually become more acceptable in the public eye, even if he's not around to see it happen. His company, with its honest and respectful business model, can't hurt. Krause and men like him are establishing both a trend and a safe space, where men are free to explore fashion and intimate apparel free of society's many insidious, gendered hangups about the clothes we wear.
"I wouldn't be surprised if a mainstream department store stocks a line of lingerie-style briefs sometime in the near future," he said. "It would be adventurous, but I think someone will take a chance sooner rather than later."
It's probably safe to say Brent Krause is not alone.