One of the reward levels on my Patreon is suggesting a topic for a blog post. I was thrilled a few months back when a kind patron suggested “Underoos” as a topic. This patron was shocked and amused that the underwear line was being relaunched for adults. He told me he’d like me to address this question: “Why? I mean, just why?”
For anyone who isn’t familiar with Underoos, they were extremely popular character-based underwear sets that were around from the late ’70s to the early ’90s. They featured a t-shirt and tight little underpants depicting superheroes, Star Wars characters, and more. The packaging declared Underoos were “underwear that’s fun to wear.” In the 1980s, it would go without saying that these are for children. Now, not so much.
As a child, I had Superman Underoos and they made me bitter every time I wore them. I desperately wanted Robin, The Boy Wonder, Underoos. I vividly remember standing in the shopping mall, feverishly pawing through the display looking for Robin Underoos. But the city bus was coming to take us home and it was Superman or nothing.
So I settled.
“Well, I won’t have to settle now,” I thought when I heard Underoos for adults were being released by Hot Topic.
Just a few days after the blog suggestion came in, I was out walking with a friend. We happened to pass a Hot Topic so I checked out my Underoos options.
It was my turn to be shocked and amused. It’s always interesting to revisit things from your childhood because you notice stuff you didn’t as a kid.
For example, I tweeted this.
It’s important to realize Skeletor is THINKING of Underoos of himself. pic.twitter.com/YmwR1aC8Ek
— Joseph Scrimshaw (@JosephScrimshaw) January 9, 2015
I mean, I understand Skeletor is a self-involved megalomaniac, but he’s just standing there dreaming, “What if there were underwear of my naked, ripped purple chest and dark, foreboding underwear of my loin-cloth area? AND what if they were available in men’s large?”
Every single fucking thing about it was absurd.
I loved it.
I knew I wanted to get a pair when it was time to write the blog post.
A few weeks later, I added a new milestone goal to my patreon. If I reached the goal, I’d add photos of myself wearing Underoos to this blog post. It was unlocked faster than I thought.
I went back to Hot Topic. All the Skeletor Underoos were gone. Most of the Underoos were gone. I asked the cashier about it. She said they hadn’t been selling very well, but suggested I call some other locations.
After I processed my shock, I, an adult man, called a Hot Topic and said, “Hello. I’m wondering if you have any Skeletor Underoos?”
And the voice on the other end of the phone said, “Oh, sir. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry, but we’re all out of Skeletor Underoos.”
She waited a moment. I think to see if I started crying.
Then she continued, “And…and I don’t think we’re getting any more. But I know we still have some superheroes on our online store!”
I couldn’t believe it had happened again. I was truly reliving my childhood in the worst way possible: I COULDN’T GET THE UNDEROOS I WANTED.
It was weird, as an adult geek, to be denied something. I’ve become used to our obsession with nostalgia and the huge popularity of everything I loved as a kid. I can buy an ice cube tray shaped like Han Solo’s face, for fuck’s sake. I can have anything, right?
I was determined not to let the bitterness seep in like it had when I was a kid. I couldn’t have Skeletor, but there would still be other good options.
I went online and picked out two of my favorite superheroes as an adult: Batman and Captain America. Sorry, Superman.
I was excited. I found myself legitimately asking the same question my patron had posed: Why?
Why was I, an adult man, excited to order novelty superhero underwear from the internet?
So many things lose their sense of magic and fun as you grow older. It’s easy to get bitter and complacent. Who cares about underwear? Putting them on is just one more damn thing you have to do in the morning.
As an adult, people only have two feelings about other people seeing their underwear: acceptance or hope.
You’re going to be in a horrible car accident or your date is going to go well. Either way, you just want to feel presentable.
I’m happily married, so for me, every day is a date that goes well.
But I don’t think Underoos are about what other people think. They’re not like wearing a t-shirt that says “I Frakking Love Battlestar Galactica.” They’re not about broadcasting a message to other people.
They’re about trying to make a busy, cranky adult support their secret belief that underneath it all they’re a noble hero.
Eventually, my Underoos arrived. First, I tried them on to see what I had really got myself into. The shirts were awesome and comfortable. The colorful extremely tight underpants were, uh, mildly alarming. I briefly regretted the decision to share photos.
But real heroes don’t feel shame. They strap that ridiculous shit on and own it. And then take pictures to put on the internet.
My wife and I had a fun photo shoot.
I felt very heroic as Captain America.
I did some brooding as Batman.
I reflected on the current state of democracy.
Eventually, I got sleepy.
All in all, the packaging was right. They were fun to wear.
P.S. I am well aware that I can buy Skeletor Underoos for grossly inflated prices on eBay. There aren’t a lot of lines I won’t cross, but buying used underwear from strangers on the internet is one of them.
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