Underwear Ads Lose the Macho: How Marketing Has Embraced Real Men

Are you a man who plays dress-up with your daughter? Do you enjoy bowling, and are you terrible at it? Do you have hopes and dreams and insecurities and flaws and a belly that looks more like baked alaska than Hawaiian rolls?

You, sir, could be an underwear model.

A number of ads for briefs, boxers and other products aimed at men have lately turned away from old notions of square-jawed masculinity.

In a Hanes commercial that made its debut last month, “Every Bod,” a wide range of men perform an elaborate musical number in their skivvies.

A recent Jockey commercial focused on a man getting emotional as he described his battle with alcohol and drugs.

Ms. Martell, the marketing consultant, also struck a note of skepticism to describe message-heavy campaigns. “It’s virtue hustling and it’s woke-washing,” she said in an interview. “And it’s trendy. Advertising has been so mired in stereotypes and tropes about men and women that anything that looks like reality is celebrated right now.”

Some observers said that the new style in ads for men’s products might not really be intended for a male audience. “I bet it’s women,” said Lisa Wade, a sociologist specializing in gender at Occidental College, who noted that women do much of the spending on such products.

“That’s what women are craving right now,” Ms. Wade continued, “because of their uniquely exploited and objectified status in American society. It’s about money, the bottom line — the people behind these ads are feeding into some kind of cultural desire.”