I caught up with Anna Volina from underwear specialist Body Aware to find out what trends we should be keeping an eye out for in the world of men’s underwear.
Body Aware has always been on the sexy side of the underwear spectrum. Who are the typical Body Aware customers?
We have an array of customers from all over the world, with various backgrounds, who want to feel sexy in our underwear. Most of our customers come from the US, but we also have customers visiting our site from Canada, Mexico, the UK, across Europe, and Asia. Many are dedicated customers who are anticipating our new designs and keep coming back for more.
From a recent survey, we found that our customers range mainly from 30–50 years old, who are working professionals — so it’s a more mature crowd that get to enjoy our underwear, aside from our Instagram Influencers that model underwear for a living.
Body Aware isn’t limited to just one type of guy, there’s something for anyone on our site to look and feel good in.
Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
We draw inspiration from various trends and our friendly competition. Along with our past styles that did well. A lot of our designs are influenced by the fabrics we end up finding, along with the our colour selection. We always want to bring various shapes and utilise the fabric in a combination that appeals to our customers. So we’d want to do something somewhat modest, and go all-out with some see-through items for our more daring customers.
We create new designs each month, ranging from sportswear, bodysuits, to a limited run of a pair of briefs or thongs. If it ends up being a hit, we do it again, but perhaps in a different type of fabric. A lot of the time, the fabric speaks for itself and we try to focus more on the fit and making it look just right.
Which are some of your biggest selling products?
Our Greek God Brief has always been a best-seller. It’s a soft and lightweight stretch satin fabric that’s contoured in the back, with a slight pouch giving our customers a thrill when they see that glistening sheen and flattering fit. It’s a bit of a luxury item that keeps coming back in new colours, so new customers get a chance to try it out.
Thongs tend to also do very well. One we keep bringing back is the Gossamer String. There’s very little fabric, which makes for a spectacular fit for our wearer. It’s one that definitely accentuates and stands out, with various colours to choose from.
Sometimes some of our most simple designs are the ones that do well. Our customer favourites can be seen from the countless reviews the items end up getting. Our customers rate our BodyCon Thong and Brief as some of our most comfortable designs, often rating them as a ‘must-buy’ when shopping with us.
I’m always intrigued by your lace underwear for men. I’m constantly looking for an occasion when I can wear a lace bodysuit. Why do you think lace underwear products are popular with men?
It’s something new to try and it definitely has to do with the sensation of getting to wear lace. Lace is much more delicate and uncommon to be seen on any men’s garment. At Body Aware we give men the option to explore and realise that lace can make a guy feel sexy too, and our briefs have a pouch making it much more comfortable than a pair of women’s lace panties.
There’s also that edgy factor lace has to offer for men, and it can definitely be worn for special occasions to make a statement. One of our customers — Eric Alden — had paired his lace leggings with a pair of his own underwear in a similar shade, and just a harness with some accessories to show up to an event. So I’d definitely say its for someone that wants to be bold and not afraid to show it.
With the underwear made from neoprene — don’t they get a bit sweaty?
Neoprene can get a bit sweaty if there’s extreme heat. However, it’s technically like a cropped down version of a wet-suit. The weight of our neoprene is much lighter, there is a chance of sweating, but most times it isn’t much of a problem. It’s also very easy to wash and holds up well afterwards.
What are some of the underwear trends that we should be keeping an eye on?
The trends in the mainstream underwear market have steadily been catching up when it comes to introducing other fabrics such as silk and satin to a boxer or brief as a more luxe item. This is something we’ve been creating over the years, including satin leggings and tanks for lounge-wear. So we’d say the industry has been catching up and providing men with more than the usual cotton/spandex blend boxer or brief.
Eco-friendly fabrics are also on the rise. Companies have been dabbling in finding what’s best for our planet in production of undergarments. We’ve found an alternative for ourselves in a range of boxers, briefs, and thongs called The Amazing Bamboo Collection — the fabric feels like a very soft modal, but the fibres are made completely out of bamboo.
Overall, we’ve found that men are looking for more eye-catching cuts of underwear, lounge, and sportswear, and we’re here to deliver it to them.
We want to hear your opinion
A cautionary tale about Chemsex
The Chemsex Trilogy of books documents a fairly turbulent period of your life. When did you decide to chronicle your experiences?
The initial idea came to me one night while I was high. We were sitting around a friend’s kitchen table, discussing my financial situation, and he suggested selling a few drugs for the next few weeks to supplement my short term income discrepancy, and I jokingly quipped — ‘Yeah, sure! I could write a Secret Diary of a Drug Dealer book about the whole experience!’ — not dreaming at that stage for one minute that I would either deal drugs or write the book.
Later, once in prison, and with plenty of time on my hands to reflect, I decided that it might be a good idea to write about my entire experience in the hope that it might help others in similar circumstances. I originally intended on writing the one book, but now I’m on my fourth volume in this series.
In recent years there’s been a number of books, plays, and documentaries exploring the appeal and the impact of the Chemsex scene. What does your trilogy of books add to that narrative?
There have been a few attempts at explaining Chemsex through various art forms, but I don’t think any of them have offered a balanced perspective, looking at it from all angles.
When I first started writing the books, I wanted them to be entertaining as well as factual. I certainly didn’t want to write a ‘poor, poor me’ missive, but instead a humorous yet factual and informative series which highlighted the process of addiction from introduction right through to recovery. I also want the books to serve as a reference to friends, family and loved ones of victims, who, having never been exposed to this culture, might also be searching for answers and understanding.
How hard was it for you, sitting down to write the books, looking back at that period of your life with sober eyes?
Surprisingly, not difficult at all. This is a period in my life of which I’m not proud, but the biggest battle was in wrestling with how much of the story should be told, and in how much detail, and how much should I omit in order to protect my ‘reputation’ and keep my friends.
Once I’d started writing, I actually found the entire process cathartic. It forced me to examine actions and reactions, why I’d made some of the decisions which led me down this path, and what I could have done to stop it. It shocked me — looking back, how emotionally and physically drained, and how vulnerable I’d been at the point where I was introduced to Chemsex. Many of the others around me at that time were in the same boat. At the time, I had no idea my state of mind was so fragile.
Later, after my release, I realised ironically that had I not written the books, no-one would have known about my prison term and deportation in the ‘real world’ as I’d been fortunate in having no press coverage during my trial at all.
It’s taken me nine months to gather the confidence to be able to discuss the full extent of my punishment. People who have read the trilogy have presumed that I was writing about others and not myself, initially it was convenient for me to hide behind this.
I finally came to the conclusion that if my friends were going to reject me because I’d been caught and punished for the drugs — when at the height of my indulgence they were all participating — then I didn’t need them as friends. These battles have been more difficult than the actual writing of the books.
How would you describe the different periods covered by each of the books in the trilogy?
Chasing the Dragon is all about pressure, experimentation, and indulgence. It tells the story of how various factors led me to experiment, and then to become more deeply involved. The biggest problem with this drug is that it makes you feel so good, sex become a euphoric experience, and for a few hours you lose all inhibition, all pain, you feel attractive, desirable, and wanted again. When those factors are missing in your life, the temptation to do it more and more becomes extremely difficult to resist.
Candy Flipping covers indulgence, addiction, and arrest. It demonstrates the failings of the legal system in general, the ambivalence and laziness of the Metropolitan Police, and the incredible impact austerity measures have had on the Crown Prosecution Service and the legal profession. I also discuss addiction — the psychological addiction to Chemsex. The assumption that Crystal Methamphetamine is physically addictive is an absolute myth, propagated by the government, and adopted by users as an excuse for bad behaviour.
Double Bubble covers arrest, sentencing, and incarceration, and is an exposé of the short-comings of the British penal system, and also explains why I’m convinced that the drugs themselves are not addictive.
My new book The Deported deals with incarceration, deportation, and new beginnings, discussing re-entry to society, coming to terms with life in a country in which one hasn’t lived for decades, self examination, lessons learnt, and the best way to rebuild one’s life. This is the one of which I’m most proud. It will be available for purchase on 1 August 2018.
There will be a lot of gay men reading your books who will be familiar with some elements of the Chemsex and PnP scene. Would you describe your books as a cautionary tale?
I would hope so — if they stop people from going through what I did then I’ll be happy. I’d also like to think that they’re a reference point for partners, friends, and family of victims in gaining an understanding of the culture so that that they can better offer support and assistance in breaking the cycle.
My most ardent wish is that the books will raise awareness of the factors involved, so that the government will become better informed in formulating policies, instead of just sticking band-aids without any understanding of a problem which has deep and wide-ranging ramifications.
Not everyone who explores Chemsex and PnP follows the trajectory that you’ve followed. Were there any specific factors that shaped your story, or is Chemsex a slippery slope that could lead anyone down a similar path?
When I really started to examine my ‘path to destruction’ I realised that the only reason I became involved at all was because of issues with confidence, low self-esteem, work stress, depression, and anxiety. Like any drug — whether it be alcohol or something stronger — when you have a healthy, sane, balanced state of mind, you can handle any stimulant in moderation and walk away from it. I was using drugs, and Chemsex as a support mechanism to stop myself from sinking into depression — self-medicating, if you like — and it was then that I started to become more and more embroiled in the whole process. Like many people I met during this process, I was convinced I didn’t have a problem, right up until the end when I found myself in ‘forced detox.’
What do you hope that people feel when reading The Chemsex Trilogy?
I hope that they will identify with the issues discussed, and feel empathy for the people and stories within the narrative. I hope that I will have frightened them enough to discourage them from becoming involved in this epidemic. If they’re victims of it already, I hope they feel inspiration, and gain support in knowing that they’re not alone in this battle, as well as encouraged to use the support channels to find out where to get help. Most of all, I hope that people see the humour, and enjoy reading the books.
We are serialising Double Bubble on Mainly Male.
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