ACHTUNG! No Fly Zone: The Emasculation of Men’s Underwear in Germany

Several years ago, I came to Germany with a suitcase, a small backpack and a cat carrier. The cat carrier contained my cat. The suitcase contained 10 pairs of Hanes men’s comfort waist knit boxer shorts. Allow yourself to visualize Vin Diesel as the Navy SEAL, efficiently, with no-fuss, packing baby diapers in a bag in the funny film ‘The Pacifier’ /’Der Babynator.’ Then read further. Every Hanes boxer shorts had a fly opening stitched on the front, so my German guy, who likes to stand rather than sit to take a leak, could do so without any drop-trou to do. Last year, while hanging the now threadbare, no more elasticity in them boxers to flap on the clothes line, I firmly resolved to buy my guy another 10 pairs of boxers to tide him over the next five years with the same degree of comfort he’d enjoyed every since the Yankee Doodle Hanes arrived in his neck of the village.

Something’s In the Way

I started my search at the local grocery chains and drug stores, which carry underpants in a men’s clothing line called ‘Der’ or a small range of optional underwear designers like the knowledgeable sounding ‘Watson.’ As I sorted through piles of black briefs and virgin white boxers, sorted through rows of hanging striped shorts, I noticed something strange: formerly fly front boxers and Walter White ‘tidy whitie’ briefs had lost their flies. Only the puffy, culotte, wide legged boxer shorts still sported a button front that actually opened. The formely flyfronted boxers and briefs were stitched completely shut. What was with the seemingly sudden restricted access?

Looks Like an Elephant Bum

Further weeks of hanging the wash out on the clothes line, noting the ever sagging seat of the boxers, reminded me of an elephant’s bum not Jason Statham’s, I went to the internet, scrolled through the Amazonian jungle worth of men’s boxers and briefs, only to find, the fly on the desired style was still missing. Now, not to belabor the search too long, on a whim I did type ‘Hanes’ and almost instantly found what I’d been searching for, however, had I not known about this brand, I would still be hanging elephant pants on the line.

There Is Nothing Like a Hanes

Why Hanes, an American brand, is found in Amazon.de takes little imagination, as American soldiers, namely ones formerly stationed in Iraq, had led me to this particular brand and style all those years ago. Reading men’s multiple star ratings for their underwear was a whole new view of the male species for me actually. One soldier wrote how his wife sent him packages of Hanes comfort waist knit boxers and how they ‘make my ass look great!’ I never considered that men might turn sideways and assess the shape of their buttocks in such an appreciative, to the point, and succinct way. I laughed as I read the reviews. A kind of relieved laugh. Suddenly I realized there were self-conscious men, concerned about the fit, cut, style of their underpants. I ordered 10 pairs of the same old Hanes, noting that the ‘no fly’ underpants for men showed up in this week’s grocery store advertisement, again. What inspired this stitched up look for men in Germany?

My Ideas: A Laundry List to Flap on Your Line

Saves Money: A fly-free pair of men’s underwear takes less fabric to construct. The stitching is easier, takes less time and you can actually sew from the back to the front in one accelerated thrust over a sewing machine arm. So, maybe the flyless underpants are a money saving venture. However, the finished product still costs the same as men’s underwear that formerly had a fly. So only the product distributor might be saving some cash.

Women and Control: Are German women behind the lack for fly for a guy? Angry about having to drop their own pants to squat or sit to pee, maybe women, in a new move for equality, are demanding that men squat or sit too. Maybe the inner Hausfrau rage got tired of swiping the floor around the bottom of the toilet to rid the room of summertime campground au de urine? Or maybe it’s a gender equality move in a different way, e.g. sometimes I wear my man’s briefs, and the extra pouch like layer of fabric where the fly is stitched seems/is useless for me. Maybe women are taking over the men’s underwear and claiming it all for themselves.

Politics or Religion: About two years ago, the underwear fly said ‘bye-bye’ while Germany said ‘hello’ to a lot of Muslim refugees, many of them young men. I’ve never inquired but perhaps Muslim men wear no-fly underwear in their countries of origin and this is now reflected in the German mainstream men’s underwear fashion? Is this stitched shut look something to do with ‘stitched shut, don’t touch’?

Ask Men: I don’t know Joop, Lagerfeld or Glööckler and Co. but maybe someone should approach male designers and ask for input. I asked German men (20-somethings) at my work if they’d noticed the fly missing from their underwear of choice and they just looked embarrassed or flabbergasted. I guess it’s a taboo topic. Especially when the lady asking is old enough to pass for Stifler’s mom. That or I worded it incorrectly somehow in German. My German guy says: ‘Underwear with no fly is a form of emasculation.’ That’s from a former Kreuzberg Punk, so you know it came out of his now grey stubbled lips with an undertone of injustice revealed. Now that’s the kind of response I want to hear. It’s a statement that inspires action!

We Want Fly!

Some Suggestions:

Go commando. Wear no underwear and just unzip your trousers and spout off like a statue on an Italian fountain. Switch to those baggy boxers that still sport a fly front, just go with the silent crowd and allow yourself to be herded into a style you’d rather not wear.

Buy Hanes men’s underwear, or a similarly constructed brand of fly front products online.

Create your own line of fly front men’s underpants, decorate them how you will, make them from recycled T-shirts even, and set up a table at your local German market. If they sell well, branch out!

Petition your local stores, demand the return of the fly front underwear for you/your men!