The Hemline Index, the theory that hemlines rise in boom times and fall in downturns, isn’t holding water. The Lipstick Index, the theory that women buy nice lipstick in bad economic times so they can at least indulge in something small, also seems like complete bunk these days. So economists are looking for new fashion-related economic indicators. Alan Greenspan likes to look at men’s underwear sales. He argues that since hardly anyone sees a man’s underpants, they’re the first thing men stop buying when they have to cut back. And then, when they’re ready to spend money again, manty sales are among the first to soar, to make up for pent-up demand.
Sales of manties were down 12 percent in January but leveled off not too long ago. So if the Manty Index, unlike the hemline and lipstick indexes, is to be trusted, we can conclude that the economy has bottomed out. However, that doesn’t mean things are getting any better, because sales haven’t started rising yet. The Economist seems pretty confident in the Manty Index. We’re a bit skeptical because we implicitly trust guys to keep good, clean underwear in stock at all times, and our Friday nights haven’t gotten any more rancid (kidding, sheesh). Also, the hemline and lipstick indexes are crappy economic predictors. But we understand economists’ quest for the perfect fashion-economy index. Why look at charts and numbers all day when you can think about clothes?
Search your underpants for signs of a recovery [Economist]