Wednesday, December 12, 2007
ABC Wednesday – U is for under U 4 men
Check out the designer underwear and swimwear at Under U 4 Men, 507 SW Broadway, downtown Portland. I've not been in the store since the only men in my life are my two grown sons who have their own ideas about their underwear, and a 14-year-old miniature dachshund name Duncan who doesn't bother with underwear. Still and all, I couldn't pass up the perfect U photo, complete with Christmas balls and boughs of green.
Here's an article about the store from the Willamette Week (an alternative paper, one of Portland's multitude of free newspapers):
"Under Where? A new downtown store hopes to get in your drawers.
BY BYRON BECK | bbeck at wweek dot com
[November 29th, 2006] Is Portland, and the rest of the nation, ready for a Victoria's Secret for men?
Steven Lien thinks so.
I'm not surprised. Twenty years ago, I worked for the now 50-year-old Lien at his used sporting-goods store, Sports Exchange (it was where Spartacus now stands). I've always known Lien to be an astute retailer. He taught me the proper way to sell ski equipment—including a slightly improper way to fit ski boots on hot men—even though I'd never spent a day on the slopes. After I quit in '86, we lost contact; I'd heard he'd gone on to co-own a nightclub. So I was stunned last week when I strolled into a still under-construction shop downtown and found him behind the counter.
"Men's underwear is underrepresented in Oregon," Lien said when I asked him why he was opening a store devoted to the most intimate of apparels. "I thought I might make it into a Web-only-based business, but underwear is tactile. I needed to open a brick-and-mortar shop."
That's what he and his partner, Larry Laughead, have done with Under U 4 Men.
Located just steps from Jane's Vanity, an upscale lingerie women's outlet, Under U 4 Men features men's unmentionables from cool vendors like C-IN2 and Ginch Gonch (QW, April 26, 2006) in fabrics from bamboo, hemp, soy and milk, priced from $12 to $45. It also features live male models in their skivvies on two different platforms (Lien trolled Craigslist for candidates) and scantily clad shop workers.
Is Lien pouring thousands of dollars into this venture just to see men in the buff, or is this just the ultimate dream sequence from Sex and the City? Well, neither.
Lien says he's spent two years researching the market, and he believes now's the time for a Victor's Secret. Only in the past decade, he says, has this men's-furnishings category gone beyond such stalwart basics as Hanes and Jockey—as well as once hot but now mainstream brands like Calvin Klein or Polo—to embrace more form-fitting gear. His hope is to open more stores in the near future, with plans of eventually going nationwide. For now though he'll focus on the downtown boutique. And it's interesting he chose downtown for his very first locale.
"Most men's underwear is bought by women," says Lien on why he and Laughead chose Southwest Broadway over Stark Street, or any other queer-centric thoroughfare that might be more accustomed to seeing nearly naked men through store windows. "That's why we didn't want it to be on Gay Street, U.S.A." To that end, Liens also doesn't plan on carrying thongs, jockstraps or other stripper-friendly items.
Still, this might be one of the sexiest stores to open in Portland. And it'll bring a new meaning to your holiday package."
Here's a photo I took the night after Thanksgiving when Flat Stanley and I had gone to Pioneer Courthouse Square for the Christmas tree lighting. See those people walking on the sidewalk on the right side of SW Broadway? They're almost in front of under U for men--it's the chartreuse-colored store, just past Marx Jewelers.