Underwear was once something most men spent little time thinking about.
Location First floor, Selfridges, Oxford Street, London
Size 8,500 sq ft
Standout feature The back wall
Launched April 2013
Things have moved on, and stores such as Calvin Klein Underwear now provide something to show off in when things get down to brass tacks. With this in mind, Selfridges has recently expanded this category’s presence in the men’s department of its London flagship store.
This bodywear department has pyjamas, swimming trunks, dressing gowns and socks, but the real point is the underwear. This is a destination that really is big on smalls.
01 VISUAL MERCHANDISING
The real action here is at the back. A long, backlit, curving white wall filled with pigeonholes allows multiple brands to be displayed and ensures shoppers can see the entire space. It is a dramatic statement of intent about the purpose of the area. Before you can reach the back, however, there are numerous displays and freestanding units that tell you that this is Selfridges, but within this there are many brands. This is a branded house, and when it comes to male underwear, the onlooker is left in little doubt that no one label assumes prominence ahead of the host store. And it would be hard to look at all of this without admiring the moustachioed mannequins posing in their brightly coloured underpants.
The concept is simple. A curved wall fronted by freestanding units, each with a single brand. The whole thing is fronted by dressing gowns, socks, pyjamas and beachwear, but underwear is the main event. This is a minimalist shopfit; most of the stock is bright in colour, so the design allows the merchandise to shine. The pigeonholes will be familiar to those who buy shoes from United Nude and wine from Waitrose, as well as men with a penchant for buying upscale underwear.
Service and men’s underwear are potentially tricky. There are plenty of staff on duty here, but they do not appear to be programmed to accost customers, as most men will probably want to be left to their own devices when it comes to selection. However, given that a fair percentage of what is on show may well be selected by women for their menfolk, it is nonetheless important that staff are on hand. Selfridges appears to tread this tricky line with an appropriate level of discretion.
Almost all men’s underwear brands you might care to shake a stick at appear to be on show, from AussieBum to Björn Borg and, of course, Calvin Klein. None of this is cheap, but if you want real selection, look no further. The same is true of socks, with Paul Smith, Happy Socks and Polo Ralph Lauren vying for attention. At 8,500 sq ft, this is a larger space than would normally be he case for men’s bodywear, which means extended browsing will be the order of the day: multipack shopping has no place here.
Selfridges and Marks & Spencer are across the road from each other on Oxford Street, and the divide could hardly be greater. For those who view the matter of buying underpants as a commodity shop based almost entirely on price, this is not the destination of choice, and perhaps they should be in among the M&S product gondolas. For shoppers in search of something more idiosyncratic and whose pockets are deeper, this is worth a look, and there will almost certainly be something that is worthy of your consideration.
In total, the offer surpasses anything else in the area.
06 VERDICT: THE PROSPECTS ARE GOOD
Men’s foundationwear doesn’t usually get much of a look in, but this is a large department store that makes a point of making a point about anything it sells - and this category is no exception. As you pass this area you will stop, which is no mean feat when the men’s footwear department - the world’s largest in a department store - lies just beyond here. For men’s special occasion underwear (yes, it works in the same way as it does for women), this is where shoppers are likely to head. It is a powerful offer with an impact for Selfridges customers.