Clinton mixes it up with boxer crowd, exposes his generation

April 24, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

It's out in the open, so to speak. He wears . . . briefs. The president of the United States, the leader of the free world, a man who orders his fries extra large, wears what they call in the underwear biz "tighty whiteys."

(Certainly, in his case, "brief" doesn't seem like the right terminology. I'm figuring Clinton for a size 42, minimum.)

Think about this for a minute. We have no idea what Clinton was doing during the entire Whitewater period, but we now know exactly what he was wearing -- easy-fit jeans, a "Go Hogs" sweat shirt and Fruit of the Loom briefs, picked out, of course, by Hillary and later given to overweight poor people and charged off on the Clintons' taxes.

Is it just me, or do you find this slightly humiliating?

What other president, in what other time, would have been asked about his underwear?

Did anybody ever ask Ike this question? By the way, not every day, but on special occasions, Ike wore leather.

The question came up when Clinton went on MTV to talk to young people in a desperate bid (so typical of his generation) to appear cool.

The underwear business wasn't the only news to come out of the session. For the first time in history, an American president used the words Snoop Doggy Dogg in that order.

Anyway, a young woman, 17 years old, shot up between questions on Bosnia and acne-treatment tips to say to the prez: "The world is dying to know -- is it boxers or briefs?"

This is a question you could ask Jim Palmer, but not the president of the United States. There is supposed to be at least a modicum of dignity attached to the office. This is a guy with his own seal, after all.

Some people are trying to pin the blame on the fact that kids ain't got no respect today. Actually, it's not the kids. It's their parents. We never respected anyone, and this is what we get.

I mean, how much respect should a president get who tries to discuss serious issues between clips of "Beavis and Butt-head?"

Turns out, according to one presidential scholar, this now ranks as the second most famous question ever asked of a president, losing out only to Mary Todd saying in the Lincoln bedroom, "Abe, do you always have to wear that hat?"

The point is, if you can ask a president what kind of underwear he's got on, what can't you ask him? I know I have a few questions:

Is a dog's mouth cleaner than a human's? And how drunk would the average man have to be before he married Roseanne?

To the underwear question, Clinton came up with: "Usually briefs."

Usually?

Most people I talked to of Clinton's generation said, "Always briefs." But according to Debbie Mitchell, director of marketing for mens' and boys' underwear at Fruit of the Loom, men are branching out, underwear-wise. Not that we should expect an "Albert's Secret" catalog any time soon.

"Let's take the guy who works in an office and wears his tighty-whiteys during the week," she says. "On the weekends, when he wants to relax, he's got on his boxers. And then on Saturday night, he wears his high-fashion underwear."

High fashion, in laymen's terms, means bikinis, thongs, etc. The stuff I wouldn't wear if somebody put a gun to my head. The stuff your wife buys you as a joke on your 40th birthday.

Guys do wear them, though, I guess. In Europe, all men, even if they look like Winston Churchill, wear bathing suits no bigger than a 10-franc note. Women I talk to tend to find these suits, well, gross. One woman told me of this pool she belonged to where a guy always wore mini-Speedos. The women finally got together to tell him: "You're scaring the children."

Certainly, underwear is generational. The young woman who asked the question must have hoped Clinton was, unlike her father, hip enough to wear boxers. She doesn't understand history. When we were kids, and somebody wore boxers to camp, he was sure to be pantsed inside a week.

That's all changed. Boxers are de rigueur for the younger generation. "We call it the boxer rebellion," Mitchell says.

Guys wear them. Girls wear them, often as the bottom half of pajamas. Guys wear them so they show over their jeans or under their cut-offs. It's a statement. It's a statement that Clinton didn't get, and maybe we should be glad.

How much more humiliation can one generation take?

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