Lasting Impressions: Lessons from a Men’s Underwear Buyer

I know a lot about men’s underwear.  It’s true.  As a former retail buyer of men’s furnishings, underwear was one of my categories.  Despite the seemingly odd nature of this job, I embraced it just like any other position I’ve had and wanted to be the best men’s underwear buyer around.

While I took this position very seriously and of course showed only professionalism on the job, my assistant and I used to find ourselves ROTF with laughter after yet another vendor launched into the benefits of a super absorbent front panel (you know what I’m talking about).  We only did this after the vendor left the room, of course.  We had no intention of embarrassing anyone; it was just such a funny thing to discuss in the workplace.  

And the unsolicited samples from vendors hoping to get their brand in our store!  Each came with a brochure, featuring super-hot models wearing the scanty undergarments.  Can you say “Playgirl”?  Others could probably hear us down the hall, shrieking with laughter every time we opened a new box of samples.

I learned more than I ever thought I needed to know about men’s underwear.  Briefs, boxers, boxer-briefs, silk boxers, low-rise, regular-rise, thread counts, seams – whew! Little did I know that some underwear doesn’t have a useable fly opening, although I’m still not sure why underwear would have a fake fly.  It hardly seems like a worthwhile design element if it’s not useable.  Of course that’s my female POV.  Suffice it to say, there was and still is tons of information about men’s underwear and I’m still not sure that most men really care that much about the technical specifications of their underwear. After all, men basically enter a store on a mission when shopping - they just want to pick up a 3-pack and head out the door.

But that job was years ago, just a memory now.  In fact it was one of my first jobs out of grad school and it’s been reduced to barely a line on my resume since my career has expanded so much.  I’ve got more important things to talk about than super-absorbent panels.  In fact, many of my current friends have no idea that at one time I was an expert in the field of men’s underwear.  It’s pretty irrelevant at this point.

Or is it? 

The topic of self-branding came up recently, and part of the discussion was the importance of leaving a lasting impression as you network and interview.  After all, there are a million MBA’s running around now and we women have flooded the work force, so it’s important to set yourself apart in order for people to remember you.  A former colleague was part of this discussion and brought up my skills as a men’s underwear buyer, pointing out that this factoid was not included on my resume.  He suggested I incorporate that into my talking points during an interview. 

It’s actually a brilliant idea and I wish I’d thought of it sooner.  It’s the kind of fun fact that may help someone remember me over other candidates or people at a networking event.  Even if my lengthy Italian name doesn’t make an impression, surely a healthy discussion of briefs vs. boxers will.  I hope it works. At least it will give people something to think about.    

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