1 Mar 2013

Marks & Spencer and Prostate Cancer UK poll airs the nation's dirty laundry 

  • Almost a third of men don't change their underwear every day, compared to 10% of women
  • One in every forty men will wear their pants for as long as they possibly can
  • Nearly one in five (19%) Brits don't change their underwear after every wear
  • Over one in ten Brits own a pair of lucky underwear for going on a date or job interview
  • One in seven Brits (11%) have worn their partner's underwear

The British public is saying 'pants to change'; with one in five (19%) admitting to wearing their briefs more than once before changing them, a study delving deep into the nation's underwear habits has revealed.

The new research by Marks & Spencer, the UK's leading purveyor of pants [1], and Prostate Cancer UK asked the nation to take a long, hard look at their underwear habits to mark the start of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, launching today (Friday 1 March).

The research finds some stark differences between the sexes and ages when it comes to the garment most people put on first every morning.

Men were the worst offenders for adopting a 'til pants do us part' attitude, with nearly one in three (29%) admitting to only putting on fresh pants after wearing their old pair two, three or more times - whereas only 10% of women do this.

Shockingly, one in every forty men will wear their pants as long as they possibly can, highlighting that it's more a case of over-worn than underwear.

Despite such disregard to underwear hygiene, we are a nation of sharing, with one in seven (14%) admitting to having worn their partner's underwear before.

One pair of underwear that should always be worn clean is our 'lucky pants', with one in ten (11%) admitting to pulling on their favourite undergarment for a date or a job interview.

The research also found that over one in ten Brits forgo undies all together when getting dressed and prefer to "fly free" under their skirts or trousers, with 6% of women and 15% of men admitting to this.

Prostate Cancer UK and M&S are joining forces to call on British men to think about prostates as well as their pants during March. There is also a serious message behind the poll, which revealed a lack of awareness and prioritisation of health issues amongst men.

The survey shows that more than two thirds (69%) are not prioritising their health and only see their GP when it's urgent. Men over 50 are more at risk of developing prostate cancer, yet the poll found that three out of five (62%) men aged 45 or over admitted they did not monitor their health and only saw the GP when absolutely necessary.

Almost half (47%) of men in this age group said they did not know there are often no symptoms of prostate cancer. Yet prostate cancer kills one man every hour and the number of men with the disease is rising at an alarming rate.

This Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Prostate Cancer UK is determined to wake the nation up to the disease and treat it as the priority that it is. The charity is calling for men to find out more about their prostate and what can go wrong, and for women to support the men in their lives to do so.

As well as helping the charity to raise awareness of the disease, between 1-28 March, M&S will donate 10% of the retail selling price of selected* men's Autograph underwear to Prostate Cancer UK to support the charity's specialist nurse-led helpline; the only UK-wide telephone and email helpline service dedicated to prostate cancer and prostate problems.  

Scott Fyfe, Director of Menswear at Marks & Spencer, said: "We're proud that our long-standing partnership with Prostate Cancer UK continues to support this valuable service which clearly helps so many.

"Whether you wear boxers or briefs or nothing at all - we just want this poll to get the nation thinking about how the simple act of putting on the first, and quite possibly, the most important garment when we get dressed can make a difference to so many."

Dedicated Prostate Cancer UK supporter and comedian David Schneider said: "The thing about men is that we'll moan about those little illnesses (see under: 'manflu') but when it comes to the really big stuff we'll go and hide our head in the sand. And head-in-sanding isn't good for our health.

That's why I'm supporting Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Marks & Spencer is the place to buy pants this Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and without going into details of just how raggedy and old some of my underwear is, boy, do I need some new ones.

We men shouldn't be taking a chance with our health. This is all about getting our collective heads out of that sand and facing up to the fact that this is a cancer that over 250,000 men in the UK are living with right now. We need to find out more about it. And get some better pants. In my case anyway, I can't say whether that applies to all men. Anyone who buys a pair of these pants will be helping to fund even more calls to the fabulous specialist nurses on the Prostate Cancer UK helpline. And they'll have some nice pants."

Mark Bishop, Director of Fundraising at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "It's no surprise that some men would think nothing of recycling their underwear, and the contents of their top drawer may not be the finest or the freshest. What's far more worrying is that the majority of men seem not to be looking after their health.

"Prostate cancer kills 10,000 men every year - that's one man every hour - and often there are no symptoms. We would urge men across the UK to find out more and talk to their GP if they have any concerns about their prostate, and women could encourage the men in their lives to do so. There's no harm having a joke about blokes and their pants habits, but prostate cancer is truly no laughing matter."

Pants Poll research findings:

  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of men don't mind if their partners didn't change their underwear after every wear. However, such "generosity" isn't returned by more of the opposite sex, with 87% of women expecting their partners to only have the freshest pair of pants on.
  •  "Going on a date" (46%), "Job Interview" (38%), "Watching/Playing sports matches" (25%) were the top reasons named for wearing lucky pants.
  • Brits aged 35-44 are more likely to "fly free" (ie. go pantless) under their trousers.
  • Both genders prefer comfort over style: men prefer to wear Boxers (57%) and women prefer full briefs (49%).
  • 35% of men don't buy their own pants, with partners cited as their ultimate source for underwear (26%).

M&S Pants Facts:


  • One in four shoppers choose M&S for men's pants (24.5% buyers**)
  • Most popular men's pants at M&S: Trunks, Boxers, then Briefs
  • Blue is the most popular colour (not including black and white)
  • M&S sells one pair of men's pants every two seconds
  • M&S sells approximately 15 million pairs of pants per year


  • Every one in four pairs of women's knickers bought is from M&S (25.5% volume share**)
  • Most popular women's knickers at M&S: 1) Low rise short 2) Brazilian 3) Full Brief
  • Pink is the most popular women's knicker colour at M&S (not including black and white)
  • M&S sells approximately 60 million pairs of knickers per year

Prostate cancer risk factors:

Some men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than others. This includes men over 50, African Caribbean men and men whose father or brother has had prostate cancer.

  • Age: Risk increases with age. Three quarters of prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 and over
  • Family: Men are two-and-a-half times more likely to develop prostate cancer if their father or brother has had it
  • Ethnicity: African Caribbean men are three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men of the same age [2].*

*Excludes socks and vests

**Source: Kantar Worldpanel Fashion 52 w/e 20 Jan 2013

[1] M&S is the leading pants retailer (25.7% value market share)

[2] Ben-Shlomo Y et al (2008) "The Risk of Prostate Cancer amongst Black men in the United Kingdom: The PROCESS Cohort Study" European Urology53: 99-105 

*Things have changed since this was published. Find out more.

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