What Is the Men's Underwear Index?

The Men's Underwear Index is an economic indicator that is based on the idea that a bad economy is often accompanied by a decrease in men's underwear sales. The logic behind the theory is that when the economy is good, men buy underwear as soon as their old pairs start to get a little ratty, but when the economy is bad, they wait longer before buying new pairs. Men's underwear is thought to be a good indicator of discretionary spending, and economists — including Alan Greenspan — have been known to consider the Men's Underwear Index when forecasting the end of a recession or depression.

More facts about economic indicators:

  • Sales of men's underwear in the United States dropped almost 6 percent from 2007 to 2009.

  • Other unusual economic indicators include forklift sales, the employment of nannies and the harshness of ads for the U.S. military. The logic behind these is that forklifts represent long-term investments, that people are more likely to hire nannies when they have more money and that when the unemployment rate is low, the military gets fewer volunteers, so it tries to make joining up look more appealing.

  • Another strange economic indicator is the Hot Waitress Index. The theory behind this index is that as the economy goes bad and unemployment goes up, people of all types of attractiveness have to look for jobs such as waitressing. When this happens, restaurants and bars will hire the more attractive applicants first, which leads to an overall increase in attractive waitresses.

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