Proving that an underwear model can be more than one dimension, Chris is also a determined, award-winning author.
How old were you when you started modeling?
I was 22 when I walked in to an agency for the first time and booked my first job (a Cosmo editorial) the same day.
Was it awkward removing your clothes right away?
I’m certain that when I began modeling (in 2007), I thought twice about it, but once you’re involved with something for so long, it becomes like anything else; routine…you seem to become desensitized to certain elements of it, insecurities among them.
When you did think twice about it was that because of insecurities or other personal convictions?
I think perhaps a bit of both. I was born in Manhattan but I grew up in a small suburb in North Jersey. It was unusual for me to go from that setting to suddenly being on a rooftop in Chelsea in my underwear.
In terms of insecurities, I know I had them growing up, and I don’t know when the exact moment was that I made the conscious decision to forget about them, to not care what others thought about me. I know that I must have felt tied down in the sense that I knew in the back of my mind that I would never get anywhere, never accomplish anything, if I let my actions and confidence be controlled by how others perceived me, physically or otherwise. As such, I have marched to the beat of my own tune since elementary school.
Sounds like you were a pretty strong-willed kid.
Yeah, I think I’ve always carried a chip on my shoulder. I was born two months and two days premature and I was used to people (even my own parents) telling me I couldn’t do certain things, particularly physical things (like football or track, for instance). I carry that with me in everything I do.
What else motivates you?
When I was working as a journalist at the Star-Ledger in the evenings and modeling and acting during the day, time motivated me. I had to fit in as much as I could in the time I had because I had another job, another kind of life, and I was always rushing, so close to being one step behind.
To return to the “chip on the shoulder” mentality, I think what motivates me is proving people wrong, and also proving that anything is possible, if you work hard enough. Perhaps that kind of mentality stems also from my childhood, because my parents are both immigrants (Cuba and Poland), and they grew up with not many opportunities except for the opportunity to do great things, which I think everyone inherently has.
Was there a specific instance that pushed you to change their vision of you?
I’m not sure about a specific instance, but I think I became pretty tired early on of having to rely on things like an inhaler to breathe better or even glasses to see. I don’t know exactly what happened biologically, but I outgrew my sports asthma in elementary school, and when I began wearing contacts in junior high, I just felt like I could do anything I wanted, at least physically.
What does your family think of your success now?
I am very close with my parents, but I’m really not sure what exactly they think about my success. They certainly don’t dote on me—and I’m glad—because I’ve always wanted to prove something to them and everyone, which is what makes me stay hungry.
You mentioned becoming desensitized to modeling…is that a compromise you had to make? Was it more routine or realization?
Well I acknowledged it, so it was certainly a realization, but I also think that it came from the routine of doing it every week. You start to not put so much emphasis on shooting in your underwear once you do it with such frequency; I think that goes with everything. I think ABC was cognizant of that when they offered me a few shirtless and underwear-only under-5 (under-5 lines) roles on All My Children and One Life to Live. I don’t know many actors or actresses that would take so easily to being on national television in that kind of situation, at least with a few days notice.
Have you ever had a photoshoot with a fellow model who was uncomfortable with his/her body?
It is hard to tell but I have gotten that vibe before, and it makes everyone, from the photographer to the art director, uncomfortable.
Models sometimes have an unfair rap and are seen as just beautiful and one-dimensional. Have you ever had to prove to anyone that you’re not just a model?
I think I am proving that right now, regarding my first novel, Going Down. In that story—as well as in real life—I definitely experienced odd looks and confusion from multiple people, whether at the newspaper or at photoshoots and castings, when they learned of my dual professions and interests. I think that kind of Hellenistic ideal—physical beauty and mental beauty—is something that is somehow absent from our society, not that it isn’t there, just that we don’t really look for it anymore. I have always tried to reconcile this.
Can you tell us a bit more about your journalism background?
I worked in newspapers my whole life. I began writing for The Record, the second-largest newspaper in New Jersey, when I was in high school. While I was at Lehigh, I worked as a Sports Copy Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, for three months in the summer. When I graduated from college and began modeling and acting during the day, I worked as a Sports Copy Editor and writer for The Star-Ledger. I didn’t have much of a social life for awhile…
You now have a food blog, Spooning In The City, that you write with your girlfriend. Obviously, you love food. Do you have to discipline yourself, or were you blessed with a good metabolism?
When I began modeling, I was very serious about my eating habits. Now, I laugh about it … I can’t explain it but I suppose my good fortune is genetic. My mom and dad joke that I was born without a gene that processes fat because I was born two months and two days premature. I think food is one of the most important things in life, and also one of the most underappreciated things in this culture. I take what I put in my body very seriously and I enjoy the sensual pleasures of food.
What does your girlfriend think about you modeling underwear?
I just asked her to get a specific answer and she laughed. She is not someone who gets jealous easily, and I think that certainly helps. Everything I do is for my writing anyway, and she understands that all of these experiences are enriching, no matter what they are, and so they are important to me.
You were recently awarded the the Academy of American Poets Prize and spoke during the ceremony at Lincoln Center. Tell us about that.
I started writing poetry before I wrote a word of fiction. In the second grade, actually, when my abuela died, I wrote a poem for her, so it is extremely rewarding for me to have my poetry acknowledged in this way and on this level so soon after receiving news of the book deal for my first novel, Going Down (Aignos Press, 2013).
If I may take a brief moment here to plug that (laughs), that would be great, too. It will arrive in bookstores and be available online in advance of the holiday season, probably by October or November. It’s a coming-of-age-story based on my own experiences in the fashion industry. One of the things that the protagonist (also named Chris) says toward the end of the novel really resonates in my own life, especially in regard to self-confidence: “‘The important thing is to always remember who you are … And never give any part of yourself to something other than that thing.’ … That is it, he knew. And it is everything.”
What would you say to other young men and women who are struggling with insecurities?
I really think insecurities are the worst thing we can have, and yet we all have them. They are inevitable, but what we can control is how we let them affect us. I was very conscious of them from an early age, and at the same time, I knew I couldn’t let myself be shackled by them. I think so many people in today’s world have this inferiority complex. I’m not saying to be arrogant or conceited or anything like that, but I think it is important to love yourself; all of you, especially the faults.
Also, a large part of confidence comes from self-realization. I never could truly synthesize all of the things I was doing—whether it was modeling, whether it was writing and editing for a newspaper, whether it was something else entirely—until I wrote it down, until I wrote it in. It is too easy to become disheartened over a job, social status, relationship, appearance … anything that contributes to a (mis)conception of self-worth. But I found what to other people might seem self-evident, or else hardly acknowledged: it is who you are, not what you do, that makes you fully-realized.
Watch Chris’ Academy of American Poets Prize acceptance speech, here.
With a fresh outlook on life at the age of (almost) 50, Ed found confidence in honesty and love.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 49, from Ohio, partnered for 10 years, and a nurse by profession.
What can you tell us about confidence?
When I met my current partner and came out as a gay man to my friends and family, something seemed to have changed in me. I became liberated in ways I never even thought I could be liberated, and that included how I dressed myself, even down to my underwear.
What was it specifically that made you more aware of what you wore?
I would have to say it was finally noticing the same old, tired clothes in my closet. Looking and dressing like everyone else. Not really exploring and asserting who I really was on the inside, and that was a proud gay man who deserved the chance, like every other gay person, to not live in secrecy.
What prompted you to come out to family and friends?
It was encouragement from my partner. It was also the fact that I knew that my friends and other loved ones already were aware of the fact that I was gay, that I always had been, and not even being married for ten years to a woman would ever change that.
Why weren’t you able to come out before?
There wasn’t a good reason why I hadn’t come out long before I did. It was one thing and one thing only: my own fear of facing who I really was. I wasn’t afraid of losing the love of my friends and family by coming out as a gay man. It was admitting to myself that I needed to live in MY truth, not the truth of others. It was the fear of learning how to live my life as a proud gay man. It was the fear of standing up and being counted as worthy.
Assuming coming out offered you a new-found confidence, where did you find confidence before?
I didn’t find it before coming out. I didn’t know I had confidence inside of me until I came out. At least, I never believed I had any confidence to begin with.
Ten years later, what gives you confidence now?
Several things. Turning 50 this year and knowing I have lived half a century and experienced so much of this life that hasn’t always been easy or fun, but somehow I have managed to stay alive. My wonderful and amazing partner Richard who has kept me grounded. Going back to college after twenty years to finally finish my RN degree. THAT takes a huge amount of confidence, believing that no matter how old you are, education is something everyone can and should pursue. You are never too old to learn!
Anything else you would like to share?
Yes. A favorite quote of mine: “We do not live in this world alone, but in a thousand other worlds”. This has always resounded with me. It says so much to me as a human being, and particularly as a gay man.
NYC, New York
From lost identity to embracing his own unique personality, Jason hopes to inspire others through his newfound confidence
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in NYC and am originally from Topeka, Kansas. I’m an actor by trade doing a great deal of off off Broadway theatre and working retail, bartending, and DJ gigs to pay the rent. My favorite color is white and I drink too much soda pop.
About how much underwear do you own?
I own upward of 700 different pairs of underwear from jocks, bikinis, thongs, briefs, speedos, spandex gear, singlets, and body suits.
Why such a huge collection?
It’s kind of like this: You know how people from LA have cars as an extension of their personality, or how distinguished women of NYC have handbags that extend their awesome presence on 5th Ave…well, my briefs are that same extension of who I am on a daily basis.
What initiated your love of underwear?
I think a public declaration of being gay outed my under fetish. I spent a long time hiding from the world around me in regards to who I am and what I am about. I thought for many years that disguising what is questionable about me that society might object to how one got ahead in life. And then one day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and found I didn’t like myself very much. Worse, I didn’t know anymore who I was.
In your story, you explain that a jock (John) stood up for you against a bully in your high school locker room and that it was a defining moment.
On that day my idea of what a hero was changed. I immediately attached sexy underwear to power and compassion and sex and virility and heroism and being a man.
How did that move you to start collecting?
I think at the center of my underwear fascination and collecting is a hope that I’ll recreate that moment of discovering what the difference is between being a bully, being a boy, and being a man. That if I find the right Gregg Homme square cut, Joe Snyder bulge thong, or Cocksox push up speedo that the memory of that moment in that high school locker room with John looking out for me will come back in some form and I’ll experience again what it means to develop a first crush and a young version of love.
How has your fetish influenced you?
There is something powerful about being in a pair of sexy briefs and nothing else. It’s a tease. A confidence builder. I have a special jock strap I wear to my visual job during overnight shifts when we are doing floor flips. It’s bright orange and puts a spring in my step when I am moving around. Even though no one can see it at work, I know it’s there and that is fun for me.
What has your journey from those teen years to now revealed?
I am not unique in that feeling of lost identity. I don’t think mainstream society in general really encourages us as humans to embrace who and what we are as people. I do think I am special in my decision to stop hiding and, to not only show more of who I am actively discovering myself to be, but to let others know that what sets them apart from the masses is what makes them attractive.
Why did you choose to share your story?
The sharing of a history can heal a person. It can create a sense of community and home. It teaches others that they are not alone and can inspire people to do great things. It is the medicine to human confusion and the magic elixir to make anything possible. So not only stories about underwear are important to me but stories about life.
Owner of Jockstrap Central
When big business didn’t hit the spot, John followed his dream and started his own underwear company.
You cover a broad spectrum.
You’ve got guys into the tighty whiteys or into the skimpy stuff. I love it all. Different underwear has different purposes. I was into good fitting boxer briefs for day to day but I was also into the sexy, erotic stuff. My underwear fetish wasn’t a secret fetish. My family knew about it, everybody knew about it. I was buying the crazy, erotic thongs and g-strings. Again, I was always into a good fitting boxer brief or brief, but the kinky side of me was always looking for something crazy.
Has discovering underwear made you more confident?
In a very abstract way. It allowed me to make a website and people respected me…and it’s always been free. It’s built me up to feel confident. I’m confident in my underwear fetish. I guess it makes me feel sexier. Definitely sexy. Especially when I was working in an office and I’d be wearing something skimpy underneath. It made me feel a little more sexual…almost naughty (laughs). I’m not sure about confident but naughty. It was my little secret that nobody else knew.
Now I’m able to do exactly what I love. Whether it’s underwear, the design aspect, programming, or marketing. I love all aspects of it.
Do you think there’s a common thread among the forum members?
Definitely. The whole site has been geared towards showing off in underwear. It’s all about self pics. I try to stop people from just posting pictures from around the Internet. It’s really about finding the underwear, then showing it. When I first started it was all about the forums, and then I launched galleries and the forums were all of a sudden being neglected. Guys just love to show off their purchases. I think it’s even more popular than talking about the underwear.
Retail manager, go-go dancer, and underwear aficionado, Jay transitioned from a shy boy into an outgoing performer.
And by night?
I do go-go dancing and stripping on the side. I perform under the name of Dakota Brennen.
So you’re not just the 9-5 kinda guy. What’s stripping like?
I love it—being in my underwear, having fun, socializing. Plus it makes a nice fit for some extra money.
Do you obsess about body image at all or are you pretty confident?
I’ve always been your average guy, fairly skinny, short, no muscle tone…often times with a little extra flab or weight in the midsection. Even as a performer in an industry where body image is super relevant, I still struggle with my body. I want to get better, I want to look hotter, have a better body. Who doesn’t?
True, except you’re on stage. Is that a difficult balance—wanting a perfect body and stripping?
People actually like me a lot as a performer and person because of that. I’m not perfectly chiseled, right out of a magazine or movie. I hope that I can translate to others that confident and sexy does not have to be a certain type. You find that from within and turn it outward.
Have you always been the outgoing type?
Not at all. I grew up a very shy boy who went to Catholic school and was always a little different. I did not fit in with the mainstream crowd.
High school isn’t exactly the kindest time. How did you leave the “shy boy”?
I discovered music and theater early on and found comfort in singing and performing on stage. It was an escape that helped me gain confidence and become someone else.
You seem pretty comfortable in your own skin now.
Over the years, as I got older and started discovering myself and who I really was, I finally started meeting others like me who had the same underwear fetishes, turn ons, and likes. I realized that not only was I normal, but it was a pretty common thing for men, gay and straight alike.
To have an underwear fetish you mean?
It’s no strange occurrence to have a gay man with an underwear fetish, but honestly it took me years to finally be at a place where I felt comfortable expressing myself with it.
Can you tell us more about your love for underwear?
I’ve had a huge underwear fetish since I was a young boy discovering colored briefs, low rise bikinis, and thongs in local discount department stores and eventually catalogs. I have always been obsessed with the hot styles, the way they look and feel and make me feel. Seeing other hot guys in them in catalogs, online…almost drives me more wild than seeing them naked.
What kind of effect has your fetish had on relationships?
It’s a little bit of a challenge when your partner isn’t necessarily into underwear as much as you are or could care less. They don’t understand why you spend so much on a pair, or why you are wearing something so fancy for no reason, or that it turns you on sexually. So for years, it was literally a hidden secret fantasy of mine and something I was almost embarrassed of.
You’re very open about it now, though. What changed?
Well it turns out that my current partner has the same underwear fetish. We met almost 3 years ago. Through him, I’ve been able to set fears aside, give in to all of my likes and desires and just be me. I am proud of who I am and underwear is a huge part of how I express myself.
I imagine working in retail keeps you up to speed on the latest styles.
I care more about what underwear I am wearing than anything else.
"I wanted boobs so badly and then it was like POP."
NYC, New York
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I work as a corporate event planner. The other side of me is a bit more artistic—my best friend calls me a semi-professional amateur photographer, but in the past year my day job has taken over a lot of time, so I don’t pick up my camera as often as I used to.
You’ve taken some beautiful photos, including yourself. Would you say you have a positive body image?
No, I wouldn’t say I have a positive body image at all. I would definitely say that I think I can look good but I don’t wake up in the morning and say “oh DAMN i look good.” I have to try to make myself feel that way. I’ve always struggled with my body. I’m 30 years old and I weigh 100 pounds. Most people always tell me to shut up and not to worry about it and how they wish they had bodies like mine, but the truth is dressing for my body is NOT easy at all and was especially hard when I was younger.
You’ve mentioned you were a later bloomer.
I wanted boobs so badly and then it was like POP. I don’t ever remember wearing a training bra. I remember one day suddenly just needing to wear a bra. And of course they didn’t make bras in my size, so I went a number of years with a lot of back pain. Even to this day I still don’t own that many bras. I think I buy about 3/4 every other year and I just rotate through them.
Do you still have difficulty finding the right bras for you body?
Ha. You have no idea. How often do you see a size 28F Bra? Actually I don’t even know if that’s the right size anymore… it’s been awhile since I bought a new one. I actually get depressed when I have to go bathing suit shopping. Who decided that everyone was small on bottom was also small on top? I LOVE when stores sell separates. But even then it’s rough. The one bathing suit I wear the most I bought in 2003…sad.
Do you have certain fit criteria when shopping for intimates?
I just want it to be comfortable and fit. At this point in my life I’ve given up on ever being able to wear a matching set. I’m convinced they don’t exist for people like me. It’s just something practical at this point. I’ve never been given the chance for it to be “sexy” so I don’t think I’ve ever looked at it that way.
Have you been able to explore underwear and bra wardrobing?
Sigh, no. I’ve got my cotton undies and my bras that fit me. There is nothing else in my wardrobe. I’ve even tried buying a cute nighty before…waste of money, I’m too embarrassed to wear it even in front of my boyfriend, who I live with! It just makes me feel like i have droopy ugly boobies. If the girls already hang this low, I can only imagine when they’ll look like in another 30.
Even though you struggle with your body, are you more comfortable in your skin than before?
I hate showing my boobs off although I will admit I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but I think I’ve just gotten better at finding things that fit me better which is the only reason I’m okay with it.
Can you tell me about your art and photographing the human body? What you love about it?
To be honest I never really thought about it…I really enjoy photographing myself, as narcissistic as that sounds. But I think that’s because it allows me to dress up and be a character that I wouldn’t be comfortable being in front of everyone else. There is too much stigma in this world, if you’re corporate you have to be one way or another. I say poppy-cock. I like putting on a wig and dressing myself up, it’s actually given me a a lot more confidence.
Even though you struggle with your body, are you more comfortable in your skin than before?
YES! I’m sounding like a bit of a downer, but that’s not the case. I’ve finally actually gotten to a point where I can embrace my body, love it for what it is and through my artwork find a way to express myself. I’ve learned how to see myself in a light that isn’t negative and like it for what it is.
What would you say to other women or men struggling with body image?
Love who you are and don’t let others get you down. I started my 365 project of photographing myself everyday and it’s what made me look at myself differently. I enjoy myself now. Yes it’s still hard find clothing sometimes, but I am who I am and I have no plans to change the skin I’m in.
NYC, New York
The single, sane, New York blogger who’s out to prove that anyone can be sexy, regardless of body type.
What initiated it?
I was in an abusive relationship at one point in my mid 20’s, and when I got out I took some time off to rediscover me. That’s when I started collecting underwear. It made me happy, and then I wanted to share it and find others who loved underwear as much as I did.
You’ve devoted a blog to it since then.
It was really a way to share my love of underwear with others that also enjoyed it. I would post pictures and little blurbs daily. It’s introduced me to other guys that also enjoy underwear. We’ve become a family of sorts. We are all shapes and sizes, all orientations and all have different sized equipment. I was not then, nor am I now, a model you’d see on the underwear boxes.
You emphasize that there’s something for everyone, regardless of body type. That it’s more about attitude.
We embrace what we have and move forward with the philosophy that you have to feel good in your underwear to look good in them. It’s not a line. It’s true. I know that there are styles that don’t work well on me—despite me wanting them to. I have found the styles that work for my body and package. I have found the ones that make me feel sexy, and when I feel sexy I know I look it and act it.
Would you consider it transformative?
Underwear helped to bring me back out of my shell when I could have retreated there. It let me make connections with people all over the world, that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
What would you say to other people who might be timid about exploring underwear?
There is a style of underwear for every body type and shape - and you can find something that you look and feel amazing and hot and sexy in. Find it! Embrace it! Flaunt it!
Las Vegas, Nevada
From 210 lbs to BeachBody coach, Casey overcame an unhealthy lifestyle for the sake of his family.
How did you get into fitness?
Well, 6 years ago I was about 210 pounds and eating whatever I wanted. I kept seeing infomercials for the P90X and things like that. So I called my wife one day from work and I go, “Honey, I’m looking at this and I think I’m gonna do it.”
What’d she say?
"That program is gonna kill you. You don’t work out now as it is." So she said, "Here, look at this one." It was Slim in 6. It kinda looked like a girly program (I know now that it’s not). So I thought, well, six weeks is an easier commitment than 90 days. I started it, followed the meal plan—I was eating a lot more veggies and working out six days a week.
And it worked?
By the end of the six weeks I was down 25 pounds. It was at that point that I moved onto Power 90, P90X, quite a few different ones. After that I realized, this stuff works.
How did you become a coach?
One of the guys in my church choir was a coach. I had no idea what that was. You’re able to make money but you’re helping people reach their health and fitness goals. I love helping people, and I’m pretty good with the public—I worked with Wells Fargo bank for about five years, so I thought I could give this a try.
How do you push yourself?
Most of it is for my daughter, because I want her to grow up knowing that exercise isn’t a chore, it can be fun. Eating healthy is not as bad as a lot of us growing up tend to think it is. I keep her picture on a box where I keep my medicine balls, so when I’m working out it keeps me motivated. My family is my first and foremost. The healthier I am, the longer I’ll be around. The more active I’ll be able to be with my daughter, because kids do not stop. Not until they’re sleeping.
Were you overweight as a child?
I was very active when I was younger, and then my family picked up and decided to move to Utah. For whatever reason, I don’t know, I just became completely inactive and I think it was because I’d just left all my friends and other family and I just didn’t know what to do. And so, I just became a lazy slob.
Where are you now?
I dropped to about 185 and I haven’t been that thin since probably high school, which was a while ago. I was just tired of being fat. Tired of being tired and winded. And I just honestly did not like the way I looked whatsoever.
How did your wardrobe change after you lost weight?
At first, I wore a lot of sweatshirts in the winter to cover up. Summer was a little harder. I’m kind of one of those people who’s in between sizes. You know, trying to find jeans in my waist size that are usually either too tight or too loose. Shirts too, especially now when everything is athletic fit and tighter, so even if you get a size more it’s still a little tight.
Did your style change?
I don’t think I changed my style. I don’t follow trends. I’ve never been one to jump on the bandwagon. I wear what I’m comfortable in and what looks good on me. Just losing the weight, it gave me more confidence and made me more sure of myself.
How about underwear? Did that change?
Yeah, that did change. My wife laughs at me because I’m an underwear freak. I don’t have a ton, but I like underwear. Maybe because there’s so many different styles. It’s not like jeans or shirts. I can wear a certain style and nobody knows but me, and I feel good in it.
Does your wife have an opinion?
“I said, Honey, you’re marrying someone, who, for whatever reason really likes underwear.” She said, “Okay, I like shoes.” So, we’re good. I’ve got my underwear and she’s got her shoes. And it’s cheaper than her shoes.
Any fitness goals you’re working on now?
I’d like to have a six pack. I wouldn’t mind looking like Michael Phelps or Brad Pitt. Anyone who has a six pack. It’s a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time and a lot of discipline. If you stick with it, follow the plan, you can’t fail. You always feel better after you do it. Pushing yourself to get through it—that’s the hard part.
What’s it like when you check yourself out now?
It’s kinda hard. I see that I’m smaller, but I still kind of see that bigger person that I was for so long. If that makes sense. Sometimes I just tell myself “I’m hot.” It’s not something you say to other people, but sometimes you have to say it. I still have my insecurities, but they aren’t as big as they were. I feel better. I feel healthier. I feel sexier. I’ll notice my arms are getting bigger in the mirror and do some poses in the mirror when no one’s looking.
"The whole reason I found the job was because I had an underwear obsession."
Brooklyn, New York
How long have you been at Freshpair?
Two years. I interned for two months and then they offered me a job.
What is it that you like about it here?
The whole reason I found the job was because I had an underwear obsession. The reason I stayed and the reason I continue to stay is that I like the mission. It’s about helping people feel better, not just selling underwear.
What’s it like working in social media at Freshpair?
It’s fun, but challenging. It doesn’t always earn revenue like other advertising channels, but in today’s culture it’s essential. So it’s a bit of a challenge trying to balance social and other projects. I really love social because it allows us to really interact with people in a casual setting. I love meeting customers, like Casey, who’s also participating in The Confidence Project. I really enjoy interacting with people, getting to know them, making them feel good, giving a voice through social that helps people feel comfortable speaking with us.
You’ve interviewed a number of participants. Have you discovered anything through this process?
That people do actually want to talk about it. Even though underwear is still somewhat taboo, I haven’t heard many no’s from people. I feel most people want to help each other, and you may take 30 minutes or an hour doing an interview but who knows how long it will live online and influence people.
What is it that you love about underwear?
Well, when I was “blossoming” I had a lot of mixed feelings. I thought that by looking at men in underwear, instead of naked, didn’t mean I was gay. It really started there. I love the way it looks and feels. The way each pair is different and can make you feel a different way.
So underwear was a window into your own sexuality?
It was. I was very conservative, very modest. Underwear made for a smoother transition into the sexy, confident man that I am today. But seriously, it allowed me extra time to come to terms with my sexuality. It felt less dirty and less adult. I was always a late bloomer.
When did you become comfortable with the fact?
It was gradual. There were no bells and whistles. I was 17 and I remember standing in front of the mirror and saying it to myself, feeling goofy. But I was more comfortable in college. I felt more free.
You mentioned you have an underwear obsession. Do you buy regularly?
Frequently. I think out of all the men’s brands that Freshpair carries, I’ve tried all but three. I don’t have any prejudices. I want to try all of them even if I end up hating them. I crave variety…it’s the spice of life, you know.
How does underwear affect your mood?
I spend a good minute or two at my underwear drawers (that’s plural), trying to figure out what’s going to work with me that day. It’s kind of like those sticks that help you find water.
Like the metal things on the beach?
It’s got branches on it. It must be an Oklahoma thing. Dowsing! I can’t plan it out. I have to look and feel fabrics, see what gives me a vibe. There are some days I just grab something…and it makes a difference.
What’s it like when you get it right?
Automatically it makes me feel sexy and more pulled together in general.
Do you consider sexy and confident related?
Absolutely. You can’t be sexy without being confident. At least in my world. There are a lot of ways to achieve it but I think confidence is motivation for some sort of success. When you feel really sexy and confident it gives you an edge. There’s an aggressiveness and strength that emerges.
Is there anything you do to motivate yourself when confidence is lacking?
There are two parts. There are the things that aren’t important but still make a difference in my day—a good haircut, a new shirt. Exercise and being healthy is ongoing and can sustain. I try to take a few minutes each morning to do some push-ups before I go to the mirror…even though I don’t want to do them.
And the second part?
Relationships that are healthy and supportive help push me and they’re really essential. I couldn’t do it alone. Plus, there’s also the drive that I want to look better in my underwear…and for the company picnic.
Determined not to fall victim to the same disease that took his father and grandfather.
You have a family history of prostate cancer, going back to your grandfather.
It’s what killed my father. My father died in 2001 and my brother was diagnosed a year later.
How do you prep yourself for the possibility or can you?
It’s been the Sword of Damocles over my head [Laughs]. I was being watched, I knew it was a concern. I didn’t know, until after I was diagnosed, that a brother with the disease is a stronger risk than the father. Because he’s the same genetic mix as me whereas the parent is only half of you so it actually increases the risk. If I had known that, I think I would have been more nervous about it. When the time came, I was watching and I had someone I could talk to. I knew it was possible to be ok.
When your father passed, you mentioned you felt a great deal of guilt.
I was surviving something that killed him. It bothered me that I was here and he wasn’t, you know? I thought that he would be so upset that his two sons had this disease. My mother said he’d be so thrilled that you both survived. I think about that. That’s how the people in our lives stay with us. You find yourself remembering things they said. I was 30-something and I remember I had to promise him (long before I was ever diagnosed) that I would have surgery if it would ever come to this. So it was weird that I actually had to follow through with that promise.
How did it affect your relationships?
Overall most people were very supportive. Work was very supportive. Men that I meet are much more supportive than I would have expected. You know, there’s a lot of fear. I hear other people express this and I’ve felt it—that nobody’s going to want to be with me again. Because I’m different. I’m surgically altered. I’m not the same. I read that breast cancer survivors feel that way, too. Like you’re not going to be wanted. I’ve been pleased though. My brother said, “Remember, you wear it like you’re going to feel it on your skin everyday but it’s not anything anybody will know.”
You’ve mentioned it’s really important that you’re heard.
There’s a lot of fear. All the horror stories come out on the internet. The side effects, whether you’re going to be incontinent or have sex again. People don’t go to support groups because their lives are wonderful. It’s part of why I wanted to be out there. Those voices about people who survive and go out there and their lives are great.
Can you tell us what helped you cope?
I belong to an online support group for gay men with prostate cancer email@example.com. Gay men are willing to talk about all their intimate details [Laughs].
What kind of information did you get from it?
A lot of practical information that they just don’t tell you. After you have surgery, wear knit boxer shorts because it helps control the tube from moving around and prevents chafing. As I was recovering, I took some advice from a guy in the support group. I used a women’s ultralight incontinence pad (they use a super absorbent light material for women, but not men) and cut it in half. It just fit in regular underwear and was unnoticeable.
What was that like?
It was hard trying to recover the feeling of being a sexual being. You’re thinking very functionally. No one can tell what’s going on but you just feel different. How do you change it at work? In the locker room? Those were all big fears.
Were there specific styles you relied on during that time?
I certainly didn’t wear anything slimmer cut and I avoided white underwear. I bought into traditional brief styles. Now I’m back to whatever I want.
How long were you wearing the pad or underwear that you didn’t want to?
Probably 8 weeks after surgery. I was lucky. By the end it was—did I have the confidence to not need something? When can I make that switch?
How did you figure that out?
I finally had to dive in and just say, it’s ok. A few months later I took a pilates class and that really helped. That’s my advice to men, too. Get your core in shape.
So you started feeling more confident with the classes?
It was a gradual process. Confidence took some time to build. It took time before going without the pads and I still had trouble at the gym for a while. Exercise brings on stress incontinence. When I finished that class, I really felt confident. I could feel my core tighten up. I walked straighter and felt like I was leaking less.
Any other practical advice you would give men?
There was a utilitarian phase of just surviving this. The knit boxer advice was awesome. It’s got to be something you don’t care about because it gets messy. The kind that has elastic at the leg opening and isn’t too tight in the crotch. But also, normalcy is about showering and getting dressed and not acting like an invalid.
What’s it like going back to normal underwear? Do you buy yourself nicer styles?
Maybe that’s just part of being a cancer survivor, I do treat myself to better underwear in the past years. That’s when I saw your site. I like C-IN2 and Calvin Klein makes good stuff.
How would you say your attitude is today?
I did a gay cruise last February and they had an underwear party. That was when I had some fears. But I did it. I just got out there.