“From heels, to underwire bras, to plastic surgery – it’s all about the male gaze,” says Alexandra Fuente, on a conference call with me in early February. “Why do we have to be slowed down in every single way?”
Fuente is the founder of the boxer brief company, Woxer, an undergarment, comfort-wear brand curtailed to women and nonbinary individuals. As we talked about the many ways the fashion and beauty industries were created with cis-men in mind, or created by cis-men, I sat–grateful for phone interviews–in a t-shirt and a pair of comfortable, albeit extremely worn down Calvin’s underwear.
I thought of my long relationship with underwear. What was once frilly and covered with the days of the week quickly turned into lace, thongs, and G-strings. These choices led to the extra-long-step-in-the-street move, an attempt to rid myself of a wedgie. Or the itch-my-bikini-line-by-sticking-my-hand-in-my-pocket number, because why is lace so damn itchy? Eventually, I came out and realized I wasn’t femme for me, but had been femme for other people. I started wearing boxers, briefs, and “boyshorts.” I had two pairs that were my favorites, so frayed and tagless from overuse that I had no idea where I might buy another pair. Calvins were comfortable, sure. But there’s something deeply validating about getting your underwear from a queer company that understands queer comfort and queer bodies, not just a company that markets to our community a few months out of the year.
It turned out that Fuente had experienced many of the same underwear discomforts I had. From chafed thighs from hustling to class, to wedgies, to wearing underwear all day made for bodies other than your own, we each had grievances with practically every underwear company under the sun. Our main difference? She had decided to do something about it.
“I called my friend one day after class and said, ‘That’s it. I’m making boxer briefs. Worst thing that can happen is I fail and I have 1000 pairs of underwear in my closet to sell.’” Fuente laughed at the memory. But “fail” is far from what she did. A Hispanic, LGBTQ+ woman, Fuente is no stranger to obstacles. With her finance and business education, combined with her clear vision for what she wanted her product to look and feel like, and what she wanted her company to stand for, Fuente quickly learned that she wouldn’t have 1000 pairs of underwear in her closet, but thousands of orders to fill.
View this post on Instagram
Today, Woxer has over 128,000 followers on Instagram and a customer base so happy with their purchases that they urged Fuente to consider making a matching bra. “Honestly, I wish we never had to wear bras,” Fuente says. “But if we do, we’re going to make them right.” Woxer’s page is splattered with a diverse array of models, mostly women and nonbinary individuals, sporting the company’s briefs and matching bralette. And while I know that shoots are curated in such a way as to garner sales, there’s a deep part of me that believes the looks of comfort, confidence, and joy are authentic. Once a member of the queer community finds themselves in some way, the energy levels are palpable, especially when that founding is rooted in satisfaction within their own skin.
Plus, there’s something to be said about being sexy and not sexualized, a rarity in undergarment marketing. It is often assumed that whatever we wear beneath our clothes, once revealed, suggests some intimate, sexual next step. And that can definitely be the case, but marketing like that, in conjecture with the materials used by companies that utilize those schemas, tends to ignore a person’s comfort. Whether its nylon, lace, and polyester, or not-true-to-size charts based on an archaic yet still prevalent body standard, we often feel like we purchased something starkly different than what was advertised. “We’re wearing [underwear and bras] everyday. Why are so many of them so uncomfortable?” Fuente asks. On their Kickstarter campaign page for their BOSS Bralette, Woxer’s team reveals a perhaps not so surprising fact: Companies like Aerie, Victoria’s Secret, and Adore Me were founded by men. And while Aerie has adopted an authentic, no airbrushing campaign, women-worn, male-made companies don’t always hit the comfort—or practical—mark.
Fuente, while aware that her brand attracts a plethora of queer folks, does not exclude their hetero counterparts. “We long for a world in which gender and sexuality discrepancies don’t exist,” Fuente says. “So we’re really here, arms wide open, for everyone. Everyone is deserving of comfort.”
Beyond the inclusion, diversity, and overall focus on comfort, Fuente was insistent on creating a company centered around a low carbon footprint. “We were lucky to have our beginnings during a time when climate change is on the forefront. Because we can implement policies to reduce our carbon footprint and build around it, rather than having to find ways in which to make it work,” Fuente says. “We were able to look at the future.” Woxer’s boxer briefs and their new BOSS bralette are made with Tencel Modal, or composted beech wood. So in an industry where making a cotton t-shirt takes 20,000 liters of water, a biodegradable fiber with an 80% lower emissions rate is a welcome change. Modal is not only soft but breathable, a stark difference from the underwear we’re used to, which is often made from plastics like nylon or polyester.
A Latinx, LGBTQ+ woman entrepreneur, Fuente has much in the way of obstacle-overcoming experience. But as a person who falls into three marginalized categories, and having grown up in a world with less representation, Fuente understands that the stakes for comfort, success, and self-love are high. What advice does she have for other marginalized entrepreneurs? “Act like you’re not marginalized,” Fuente says. “They are going to judge you, but once they get to know you, they’ll understand your values. You just have to act like there’s no gap.” Essentially, the more marginalized folks believe they belong in the room and act accordingly, the more the world responds, adapts, and makes room. Maybe a necessary step to harboring that confidence? The right underwear.