"We've become accustomed to accelerated improvements in technology, but it's amazing to see this kind of radical innovation applied to the once humble undershirt. It's a technological breakthrough that provides men with the means to re-structure and enhance both their inner perceptions and their outer representations of themselves in the physical world."Semiotics Cultural Theorist
EQUMEN™ Helix-Mapping™ Technology seamlessly builds in physiotherapy insights to deliver ergonomic results. See more details
Core Precision undershirt - the new Spanx for men?
I'm in my early forties, a standard-sized man with a 33in waist and a 39in chest. I weigh 78kg and I'm just less than 6ft tall in my socks. Lifting weights, going on the odd run and doing a bit of stretching is how I stay fit and fairly in shape. Yet, for one day, I morphed into Superman with the help of "helix-mapping body-response technology". Rough translation: a very clingy Lycra top.
Every so often, something totally "lady" from the world of women's fashion and beauty gets repackaged, dyed navy and sold to men. In this instance, it's the turn of the girdle. I'm reminded of previous cases, such as Superdrug's bizarre make-up range for men, or Marc Jacobs careening around in heels, explaining it's not just women who suffer for fashion. Attempts not famed for their success.
When I first pull out what is swiftly becoming touted as "Spanx for men" - Equmen's core precision undershirt, a long-sleeved T-shirt, in mid-grey, which comes in a medical-looking box - I'm underwhelmed. Somehow, I'm expecting more, something manly in knitted whalebone, perhaps some sort of mechanical truss, or navy duct tape. For a T-shirt that promises to "visibly streamline" my body, this just looks like it needs a good iron.
I manage to plunge myself into its flapping mouth. Several moments of flailing, grunting and yelping, and I'm in. Actually, no, not quite. Wrinkles of fabric are twisting up my arms, there are air pockets of fabric below my armpits and I'm trying not to fart. Which isn't surprising, for where's my stomach meant to go? My breathing is rapid and short, like a hunted creature's. I've pulled on a size large, but according to the Equmen fitting table, I could equally have gone for a medium, my actual size, to "maximise results". What, total asphyxiation?
Trying hard to keep breathing, I manage to measure my waist. Shock. It has shrunk to just over 30in, a trouser size not seen in my wardrobe for more than 20 years. I've sliced 3in off my waistline in 7 seconds. My hot, red face looks blankly back at me in the mirror, my hair is a bird's nest and my eyes are glazed with the struggle of it all. Moving my arms slowly, I'm acutely aware of my body as each successful inhalation is clocked in my head with relief. Yes, I can simultaneously breathe and have a 30in waist. I feel air passing over the taut membrane it feels both cool and warm at the same time, like Cointreau on the rocks.
Pulling on my now slightly too-big-for-me clothes, I look normal again, but better: I think I look a fraction taller and just a bit thinner. Leaving my flat, I feel firm and invincible, like a pumped-up football. At the Tube station, I arrogantly barge softer mortals out of the way, like Jelly Babies against a balloon. I'm solid. I'm a rock. I'm Equman!
At my first appointment, I bump into my friend Crystal. "Do I look different?" "You're standing very erect," she says, avoiding my panting chest, as Lisa, a fashion PR, joins us. I squirm as I tell them about the body-enhancing underwear I'm sporting, to which I quickly add, "purely for research purposes".
Both pairs of female eyes drop to my groin. "Not down there!" I cry, cupping myself like a defender before a free kick. "You know, my body, does it look better in any way?"
"Oh, you look slim, but you always look slim, Dave," says Crystal. Lisa tries to stifle a smile.
What would they think if they went home with a man who was wearing "compression underwear", I ask them, pulling up my shirt to reveal the tight grey mesh of my compression top.
"I'd rather see a man in that than in a posing pouch," says Crystal scornfully.
"I'd admire a bloke for making an effort, but I really wouldn't want to know about it," says Lisa. "It's like girls wearing big Spanx pants. Men like the effect they have, they just don't want to know about them."
I press on through my day, like a marble-filled condom swinging from a rope. I feel strong, upright and confident, which could be the Equmen T-shirt "delivering the ultimate fusion of fashion and function". I also feel hot, so I am relieved that it's cold, although those clever folk at Equmen intend to launch a lighter-weight range, giving me the option of feeling physically restricted whatever the weather.
I reveal my secret slimming weapon to Sebastian, a colleague. He asks me if I'm enjoying wearing it. I confess that I am. I like the way it makes me feel tall and upright, and I even sort of like the feeling of being held in. And I do like the confidence boost of losing 3in off my waist. Sebastian looks at me conspiratorially and asks if I've ever worn rubber before. Where's he going, I think. I back away, saying that I haven't, as I quickly check my watch and tell him I'm running late.
At home, I peel off what now feels like my second skin. My whole body lets out a sigh of wobbly relief, but I know my furtive relationship with body-response technology isn't over. I know that dark, crumpled mound in the corner of my bedroom will soon be calling out to me: "If I'm good enough for Clark Kent, I'm good enough for you."