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Boy shorts are challenging the thong

October 17, 2005|Valli Herman | Times Staff Writer

Women around the world have had enough. They're starting to turn their backsides on the thong, the scanty underwear style that has virtually overtaken lingerie departments worldwide.

Nationwide chains and department stores have brought in big supplies of hipsters and boy shorts in anticipation of the change. And last week, Mintel, a Chicago-based market research firm, reported sales of thongs in the United Kingdom have fallen 14% since 2003, to represent 23% of the panty market. Meanwhile, British women have boosted sales of full-cut "maxi" panties by 36%.

The newly popular boy shorts, also called French knickers, are made from stretchy mesh, lace or cotton and often cut to leave no visible panty line. They can look like an abbreviated, clingy version of 1920s tap pants or like a frilly men's brief.

"We're over the thong. Boy shorts are a woman's best friend," says Clare Nehra, assistant director of design at Donna L'oren, a New York designer lingerie firm. "They're still sexy, but they don't show too much."

The flourishing of the peasant skirt this year helped usher in boy shorts, which "are more comfortable under skirts and leave the wearer feeling less vulnerable than a thong," says James McCoy, consumer analyst with Mintel. Indeed, boy shorts fit and flatter a wider range of figures.

Victoria's Secret, Frederick's of Hollywood and Macy's report that sales of boy shorts are "neck and neck" with thongs this season.

Can the death of the stiletto be far behind?

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