The number of books that cover the topic of men’s underwear fashion in a serious manner are few and far between so it was with high hopes that I picked up Brief Encounters: underwear Inspires Art when it came on to the market in 2010. This book’s intentions as laid out in the opening essay are to celebrate the male form as expressed through the lens of men’s underwear advertising and photography. As much as I can appreciate expertly crafted advertising images the real draw for me as a book that also includes some insightful and interesting text to accompany the imagery. This book starts with a series of underwear brand features that include an essay discussing the history and style of each brand’s advertising choices, models and overall approach to marketing their designs through photography.


The text is well-written and easy to read while providing a useful introduction and overview to the brands. You won’t necessarily find any deep-dive behind-the-scenes information in these essays and they lack any quotes or references to sources but the information seems well-grounded and accurate. Occasionally there are critiques being applied to the brands or the advertising which are clearly the subjective opinions of the author so you’ll have to keep in mind this book should not be considered a reference manual and instead, it’s one author’s specific approach to covering the subject.

One of the big highlights of this book are the included excerpts of professional photos used by the various brands. The images are high-quality and the print reproduction within the pages is excellent. I appreciated the heavy, semi-gloss paperstock as it provided a premium surface for the images to be displayed which are high resolution and lack any flaws. You’ll recognize many of the images featured in this book from recent underwear campaigns. Don’t expect any historical images as these are all culled from relatively modern efforts so nothing from the 70s, 80s or 90s is to be seen here.

The breadth of brands covered is definitely a strong point of this book and I appreciate the selections of images chosen to be featured.
I appreciated the range of brands covered in this book which includes many names you’ll instantly recognize such as C-In2, Aussiebum and Andrew Christian. Beyond the better-known brands you’ll also find some more edgier fare such as Nasty Pig and Rufskin underwear. The international contingent is also covered here including Papi, ES and Bon Bon underwear brands. The breadth of brands covered is definitely a strong point of this book and I appreciate the selections of images chosen to be featured. The second-half of the book features a variety of professional photography images that are not necessarily tied to any particular brand campaign and instead can be considered editorial or erotic photo selections from well-known photographers with models that happen to feature underwear.


Although not entirely devoid of diversity, I will say that the models featured throughout this book are *mostly* Caucasian or light-skinned Latin men with just a few minority men in the mix. This isn’t the fault of the author of course, just a reflection of the euro-centric nature of fashion and advertising imagery in society.

Another area where this book could have been more generous on is the information about the underwear itself. There isn't much technical information included here with the majority of the focus on the marketing aspects of the brands rather than the fit, colors, design and/or manufacture of each line.

There are some noticeable omissions in the book and a more comprehensive coverage of brands including Calvin Klein and 2Xist and some Asian underwear brands would have been ideal.


Although I have noted a few relatively minor misses in my review I would say that taken as a whole this is an enjoyable and nicely produced book that is worth the retail price. The quality of the binding, printing and imagery is difficult to find fault in and the additional commentary is a rarity in print publications.


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