Fashion for muffin top women
Goodbye moobs and muffin top! Two writers share their experience as the man girdle guinea pigs...
Control underwear for women has proved so successful that global sales of one brand alone reached £250million last year. Now, the body-hugging underwear has been repackaged for men. Upmarket department store Selfridges will next month begin stocking a 'Core Precision Undershirt'.
The vests - already dubbed a 'girdle for men' - promise to do for men's expanding stomachs and chests what control pants have done for the female derriere.
The £49 vests are made from polyester, spandex and nylon to 'visibly streamline' the male body, beer belly and all. They are designed to give men a leaner silhouette under a slim-line suit, or even to help correct poor posture. Here, Daily Mail writers Neil Sears and Vincent Graff put the vest to the test...
I was not aware I was the fattest reporter in the office until I found myself selected as the obvious male girdle guinea pig.
Like most men, I naturally choose to see myself as well built, and with a hint of manly muscle, rather than overweight.
And although aware of Spanx for women, I simply vaguely assumed they made any excess flesh bulge over the top in an unsightly fashion, and that there would never be any demand for 'Spanx for men'.
Goodbye muffin top, so long, moobs! Neil found the tight-fitting undershirt smoothed out lumps and bumps and allowed him to slip his belt on with ease
After all, most of us find that a loose fitting shirt covers a multitude of sins.
When ordered to squeeze into a 'Core Precision Undershirt' which promises to 'visibly streamline the body', however, I have to confess to finding it did seem to make a difference to my body shape.
For a start, fighting my way into the tight-fitting top, seemingly made for a nine-year-old was the most strenuous workout I have endured for months, and that could well have burnt away a couple of pounds.
Then came doing up my long suffering belt - and for once, it slipped easily into the notch, rather than resisting to the last.
After strutting his stuff, Neil found the vest slightly too tight for comfort
Looking down, too, I found I could actually see my belt, instead of a 'muffin top' of belly.
And further up my torso, my embarrassing 'man boobs' were largely smoothed away by this miraculous Spandex garment.
The undershirt also appeared to encourage a more upright posture, and made holding one's stomach in easier.
But there were problems. Wearing such tight-fitting clothing is unusual for most men, and creates a strange sensation.
Spanx for men: The Equmen Core Precision Undershirts are designed to give men a leaner silhouette and cost £49 each
The makers of the undershirt boast that it 'controls body temperature', and it does seem to simultaneously make the skin beneath it feel cold, while apparently increasing temperature overall.
More importantly, the physical effects of this 'Spanx for men' top were only visible when it was on show - unless I chose to wear other body-hugging clothing on top.
And despite the slight improvement in my 'streamlining', I still think strutting round in skin-tight clothing would be unwise.
Like, I suspect, the vast majority of mankind, I will be sticking with loose fitting shirts.
Here's a list of things men can learn from women: empathy, patience, how to soothe a crying baby without trying.
Here's a list of things women can keep for themselves: window shopping, shoe envy... and a belief that you can 'visibly streamline' your body by placing the fat bits inside a piece of clothing that is made of posh elastic and is three sizes too small.
I feel quite strongly about that last one. Or I would have done if I'd had any feeling left in my body after spending three days in a belly-reducing male girdle.
Bone-crushing: Vincent Graff before he squeezes his 93cm paunch into Eqemen vest (left) and his slimmer profile (right) in the Eqemen vest which reduces his tummy to just 89cm
Did I say 'male girdle'? Of course, that's not what it says on the packet of my Equmen Core Precision Undershirt. It calls itself 'engineered compression technology', developed 'for real men, by real men'.
The Undershirt gives 'a better fit and more tailored look by gently pulling the shoulders back while compressing the core and self-adjusting to your unique body shape'.
Not, then, just a bone-crushing corset for weak-willed blokes who've used the credit crunch as an excuse to give up our gym membership.
The idea of a girdle is a novel concept for men. The blubber is still there - just out of sight. You get a flatter belly, there's no doubt about that. But, as I am discovering, you also get one that hurts much of the time. Especially after meals.
At the very beginning, the garment seemed so unthreatening: a wrinkled grey vest that wouldn't look out of place in my old dad's underwear drawer. But it's those sinister wrinkles weaved into the mesh that hold the secret: spandex - the generic name for Lycra.
By including the rubber-like man-made fibre, the vest pulls your shoulders back and your tummy in. And, yes, from the outside you do look thinner.
Without my girdle, my belly measures 93cm. With it, a full 4cm have been shaved off. Suddenly I'm a rather more svelte 89cm.
But the Lycra isn't just figurehugging, it's figure-crushing. It's all very well talking about how my vest 'augments what should stand out and diminishes what shouldn’t'. But unfortunately there's a human being inside who is quite attracted to the idea of breathing.
The problem is that the fat on my belly is not shunted up or down, but in. And there isn't enough room for my dinner, my body organs and all that unforgiving Lycra.
I wore the vest to a party. I could feel my internal organs telling me that they need a little bit more room. It was only three drinks into the evening that the anaesthetic effect of the vodka and tonic countered the strangulation effect of my vest and the discomfort subsided.
'You look slimmer, there's no question,' said my wife, the first time I modelled my new outfit. 'And you seem to be standing straighter too'.
How does it do this? The Undershirt is, as the manufacturer says, like a second skin. The trouble is that your first skin fits and the second one they've sold you is just a little too small for your body.
You can feel your back being straightened, and your chest pulled flat. It feels as if you're giving a piggy back to a midget who's worried he'll fall to his death if he loosens his grip.
Hilariously, this is the only vest I've ever received that arrives with instructions on how to wear it.
Amid all the mumbo-jumbo about optimising my body, improving
performance and increasing blood flow to my muscles, this advice was spot on: 'Refer to the diagram to ensure correct placement of compression panels for optimum comfort and fit.'
I think I know everything I need to know about the correct placement of my girdle. Tomorrow, I shall achieve optimum comfort by placing it in the charity shop.