• Image about Sara Blakely
For the purposes of this story, I have been taking the entire line of Spanx for Men products out for a spin. This begins literally with me spinning around the hallway of my home, trying to stay alive long enough to put on the Zoned Performance shirt. Days later, after carefully reading all the instructions, I put the Cotton Compression shirt on, under a sweatshirt. While hosting a dinner party, I don the Cotton Compression tank and Cotton Comfort briefs under a zippered sweater and wool pants. For a business meeting, I wear the Zoned Performance V-neck shirt and Cotton Comfort Boxer Briefs under a suit.

Despite the fact that I love my sleek new physique, there are some downsides to this type of downsizing. At the business meeting, I reach into my dress shirt to adjust the Zoned Performance tee. I manage to pull it away from my skin briefly, and it snaps back in place. The resulting pop is loud enough to garner the attention of my associates, who eye me suspiciously. At the travel clinic where I receive a round of vaccines prior to leaving the country for an assignment, I forget that I’m wearing the Cotton Compression Undershirt. Upon seeing me in the clingy contraption, the nurse makes no eye contact with me for the rest of my visit.

Later that day, I wonder whether the other men who are buying Spanx feel the same kind of embarrassment when someone sees them sans cravat. Apparently not. Blakely says she knows some men — extremely fit men — who wear their Spanx out on the town, with no shirts to cover them. This, to me, would be like a woman wearing tights with no pants. But then, that happens these days.

So maybe I shouldn’t be embarrassed. After all, the products work. In addition to flattening my stomach a bit, the shirts push the fat that has collected at my sides toward my back. The result: a straighter, leaner appearance that reminds me to stand and sit up straight. (The underwear works, too, although it’s used less for shaping and more for, well, control.)

Now You Know: The products often sell out quickly and can have waiting lists of up to six weeks.
Still, I wonder: Isn’t it a form of deception when a guy wears Spanx? Sure, women have long donned corsets and girdles and Wonderbras and Spanx under their clothes. But women also wear heels that change the shape of their legs, and they wear makeup, and they color their hair and make all kinds of other alterations that men typically don’t. Blakely explains, though, that she’s not selling deception; her products won’t turn beer bellies into six-packs. She’s selling T-shirts to men who want something that won’t bulge under their shirts and sweaters and that won’t lose its shape after dozens of wears. And she’s selling underwear to men who want to “keep everything together.”

“It has become much more mainstream and acceptable for men to care about how they look,” she says. “And a lot of men who are buying the shirts are already fit, svelte, well-dressed men.”

I feel anything but fit or svelte after indulging in the six-course meal I cooked for a dinner party while wearing Spanx. And yet, that’s when my breakthrough occurs. At the end of the meal, I make an announcement: “So, I’m wearing Spanx … for men.” One of the guests, a guy, says, “You’re wearing a girdle.” Another guest, a women’s rights activist, says, “Welcome to the club.” She insists on seeing my Cotton Compression tank top. I reluctantly unzip my sweater to show off the top half. She responds by showing me the outline of the Spanx she’s wearing. Two pairs, actually: There’s a top holding her in at the sides and another garment that’s pulling up everything below the waist. The two items meet somewhere in the middle.

I’m shocked. This is not a person I would expect to care about conforming to societal standards for, well, sucking it in. “You wear Spanx?” I ask.

“Yeah, man,” she answers. “There’s no shame in it. You have to look good.”

She’s right. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if it makes you look better, who cares about a little squeezing? Just one word of caution: Read the instructions first.