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CANBERRA (Reuters) - Businessmen who vowed to hit the gym daily in 2010 but are yet to leave the desk are the target of a new, fast-growing line of high-tech underwear which boasts to trim the torso while also benefiting your health.
Just ask Gavin Jones, co-founder of Australia-based company Equmen which has pioneered "fitwear" for men who spend the week hunched over desks in high-stress jobs and weekends chasing their children.
Jones said compression wear was well researched and accepted among elite athletes as was shapewear for women that trims and smoothes those stubborn bulges, but when he stood in front of the mirror he had one question -- what about me?
"I was just beginning to show the signs of wear and tear. I had a pretty active 20s and 30s and maintained a great social life and played sport but I was just starting to turn the corner into middle age," Jones, 43, a former journalist, told Reuters.
While women have quickly snapped into the increasing lines of shapewear, trebling sales in the past decade according to the market research NPD Group, Jones realized men wanted more than a male girdle or "mirdle" to trim the beer gut if they were to upgrade from their boxers or cotton briefs with fancy waistband.
In partnership with an American friend and former investment banker Corie Chung, Jones spent about a year and about $1.4 million of his own money researching and developing a new product line that was more mainstream than the compression wear around and came with health benefits.
They found a manufacturer in Israel who could produce a high-elasticity blend of fabrics which was seamless and flexible.
This led to Equmen's range of undershirts and underpants hitting the market a year ago, boasting to help back support, better posture, and improved blood circulation as well as a better shape -- and maybe even a lower golf score.
The line is sold in Australia, Britain, the United States, Canada, Spain, South Africa, and Taiwan with plans to move this year into Scandinavia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand. The company is introducing socks to its collection.
"Sales have outstripped our expectations and we are in very good shape," said Jones, forecasting sales for 2010/11 rising to about $12 million and turnover of 200,000 units from about $7 million and 95,000 units in 2009/10.
Chung, 30, said they were even working on a range of women's fit wear, Equfem, which they hoped to hit the market early 2012.
Other companies are now also starting to produce fashionable, shapewear for men such as Calvin Klein's X line and Marks & Spencer's Bodymax range but Chung said men will remain Equmen's key focus, with professional men the main target.
"Our primary consumer is between 30 and 55. It is the slightly middle to older demographic because those health benefits become more powerful the older you get," said Chung, whose experience also includes working as a product and marketing manager at Revlon and L'Oreal.
"We are focusing mainly on metropolitan and urban areas where people are under the most pressure and stress."
Editing by Miral Fahmy