Maybe it's Valentine's Day. Or an anniversary. They arrive with the glint of a big-game hunter, tracking through racks of men's underwear. They are women stalking that special, sexy, sentimental undie for the man in their life.
"Most of the time, they'll be looking at silk or at fun boxers," said David Miller, manager of the Boxer Bay shop in the Beverly Center. "Women kind of know what they want to see their men in."
That's the problem.
We're talking about a gender that favors padded push-ups and underwires. French lace and Jacquard satin. Peacock-blue panties and violet slips. Black silk boxers must seem tame by comparison.
"When they're shopping for men, women tend to buy underwear that is too colorful," said Mario Biazzo, a Bullock's salesman. "Red or blue. Lots of polka dots."
These undies are likely to be doomed. Salesmen can often predict, before they so much as ring up the purchase, that such gifts will be returned. So they offer a few tips to women shopping for something unusual, underwear-wise:
* Know his waist size. Miller guesses that 80% of the women who come into Boxer Bay don't know if their man is a 28 or a 36.
"We end up trying to figure out what size and shape he is," the manager says.
* Beware the holiday special. That white silk bikini with Santa's face emblazoned across the bottom, or the flannel boxers with the enormous pink hearts will be back on the shelves by week's end, salesmen warn.
* Most of all, know what he is willing to wear. A candlelight dinner--or box seats to a Dodger game--may get him into a purple metallic thong for one night, but most men are set in their ways. If you insist on experimenting, take baby steps. Add a little color, a print perhaps.
Because if you stray too far afield, if your man goes back to the store with gift in hand, he's likely to head for boringly familiar territory.
"The men get plain Jockey because it's cheaper," Biazzo said. "They can get two pairs for the same price as the one they returned."