"They're a cross between Joe Boxer and Calvin Klein," said Los Angeles entrepreneur Keith Davis, chairman-founder of Big Headed Inc., of the shorts he's trying to sell to men 18 to 35 through department stores this fall for the premium price of $18 to $22 a pair. "The industry is hungry for something like this," he said. "Retail is stagnant because brands are tired and people want something new, something fresh."
Big Headed, Mr. Davis said, was chosen as the brand's name because it shows "confidence" and "has brand equity even before it is launched." Nevertheless, Mr. Davis said he plans a $4 million privately funded print campaign this fall in men's magazines such as Esquire and Details.
The frankly sexual ads feature a naked woman with a tape measure-like strip coming out of her mouth and were developed under the direction of Ron Taft, who serves as marketing director for Big Headed and also is exec VP-director of Big Headed's agency, Dailey & Associates' Daily Interactive. Other creative features a woman's slender hand opening the fly to reveal the red strip. The company's Web site includes a page where visitors can click on a button and "cop a feel."
The campaign is tagged "Everybody measures up," and to make sure everyone does, the tape measure pattern dos not list numbers along the inch markers. In fact, Mr. Davis said, there is slightly less than an inch between the lines. The condom pocket bears the words, "head protection must be worn at all times."
Mr. Davis, who hopes to grow the brand into a Victoria's Secret for men, said a number of retailers at major department stores, such as Nordstrom's and Bloomingdale's, are in talks to order the boxer line. Buyers from those chains could not be reached for confirmation at press time.
Not the first
Another shorts brand, Joe Boxer, launched in 1985 with sexual innuendo. Eventually, the company went out of business and rights to its name were sold to Kmart, which revived the brand as a broad-based apparel line. TV advertising uses a boxer-clad dancing model.
Big Headed Boxers also isn't the first brand to put a red stripe on the inner fold of a fly opening. Lucky Brand Dungarees, started in Los Angeles in 1992, made its mark with a small tag on the inside of the fly with the word "Lucky" on it, while a low-budget ad campaign on Los Angeles bus bench backs said "Sit here. Get Lucky." Now part of Liz Clairborne, the brand has been expanded in Europe and Japan.
Retail analysts had mixed feelings about the new line. Irma Zandl, president, the Zandl Group, New York, said "It's so overt, it will bomb or be huge." Kurt Barnard, president, Barnard's Retail Trend Report, said that while the market is "flooded with underwear," Big Headed Boxers may have a shot as a novelty item. "There's no void there," he said, "but if aimed at the right target, they may be lucky."
Howard Davidowitz, chairman, Davidowitz & Associates, a retail consultant in New York, said the men's market has been moribund for years but men's tastes are changing and opportunities exist as Unilever discovered with its sexy ads for men's body spray Axe. "Men do want to be cool," he said. "They get manicures, go to spas and do things they never did before. If done well, I think there is a niche."