When I was 17 my aunt told me that men find nothing sexier than white cotton knickers. I got some Marks & Spencers finest – 100% cotton, not quite granny pants but not far off. They didn’t have the “I must have you now” effect I was hoping for, though that may have been more to do with the fact that they’d been carted round Thailand for a month at the bottom of my backpack. Slightly mildewed knickers and a blister on my bum two inches across from snorkelling with no sunblock may not have been the most alluring sight, but he could have pretended to go along with the game.
Now that I’m all grown-up and feminist, I’d regard with suspicion men who found white cotton knickers, in particular, sexy because I associate them with children. Aside from a single outing, I haven’t done any field studies so I might just be dissecting a man’s taste in pants when it doesn’t actually mean anything. Since I’ve been buying them, knickers have shrunk in size and grown in stature. Now they’re known as lingerie and seem designed to do anything but be something you get out the drawer and stick on. They’re frilly, lacy, crotchless (I still don’t get the point of those), and sheer, designed to squash in your stomach and festooned with Hello Kitty, Playboy insignia and days of the week.
The strangest development in the knicker department is, surely, the c-string. It’s a piece of plastic, shaped like a C with a small patch at the front and a long, thin bit round the back – basically a g-string with no sides that, as if by magic (or a great deal of buttock-clenching), stays in place. It promises no panty-lines, no tan-lines, and total invisibility. Grand promises, indeed, but I don’t think having invisible pants would make up for suffering an all-day plastic wedgie. As if the concept, itself, wasn’t inventive enough, the makers have come up with all sorts of embellishments on the front. For just a few pounds, you, too, can have a fluffy, sequined merkin that – OMG! – perches on your cooch with, apparently, nothing to hold it in place. And they’re not just for girls. Men can sport them in all sorts of fancy designs and colours, too. This cute little lacy number is said to be a big seller. I’d asphyxiate laughing if a man dropped his jeans to reveal that. Might have to stick some white cotton knickers on to get him back in the mood after being humiliated for his choice in drawers, but I would ask no questions.