Under clothes — and under the radar — is where men’s underwear typically have stayed in Pittsburgh. But Thomas West is changing that.
This spring, he opened Trim Pittsburgh at 5968 Baum Blvd. in East Liberty. The store specializes in designer men’s underwear along with swimwear, T-shirts and socks — a first of its kind for the city.
“It was hard to find anything that wasn’t just plain in Pittsburgh,” said Mr. West, adding that underwear-specific stores for men are common in many big cities. “I wanted Pittsburgh to have one.”
He’s stocked the boutique with brands that are tough to find in the city – and in some cases the country. His is the sixth store nationwide to carry San Diego-based Rufskin, Mr. West said, and the popular Montreal line PUMP! is scarce in stores beyond New York City and Washington, D.C. Trim Pittsburgh’s latest triumph: securing an order of aussieBum underwear from Australia. The first shipment is expected soon.
Many collections are made in America and some even have local ties, including Pittsburgh-based Steel City Cotton Works, DeadBuryDead and Likewise Collection tees. Swag & Valor underwear was started by University of Pittsburgh graduate Doug Hill, who’s had support from former Steeler LaMarr Woodley. Egyptian cotton Arthur George socks by Rob Kardashian also have been a draw. A lot of merchandise typically goes for $15-$30, with select styles at higher price points.
“People are catching onto it,” Mr. West said.
Customers range from young underwear aficionados to men in their 60s and 70s wanting something new. Families with children stop by to browse T-shirts and socks, and opening day attracted a couple bachelorette parties seeking something special for significant others.
For Mr. West, a Downtown resident in his mid 30s, Trim Pittsburgh is a dream come true. After a career in television news, including seven years as a producer at WTAE-TV, he craved a change. Now he owns and operates the store with assistance from business partner Adam Childers, 30, of Downtown.
“I’ve always loved Pittsburgh,” Mr. West said. “I always knew I wanted to be here and help make it change.”
But there were some reservations.
“While we were here putting in inventory, there were some guys walking by and they were like, ‘I don’t think Pittsburgh’s ready for this,’” Mr. West said. “The reception has been great.”
Despite the perception that Pittsburghers’ personal style tends to be conservative, many have embraced Trim Pittsburgh’s colorful assortment of underwear. Airy mesh styles and buttery-soft boxers are some customer favorites. Ones with buttons, magnets, pockets and cut-outs accompany more classic looks.
Its bright open storefront, framed with stained-glass windows, creates a welcoming environment. Hardwood floors still bear dark dye stains from the hair salon that preceded Trim Pittsburgh, adding to the rugged aesthetic.
“Some guys still feel weird walking in a store like this, but once they get in here they realize it’s just a store,” Mr. West said.
Keeping the excitement going is key to capitalizing on the initial success. To get the word out, it’s already teamed with nearby Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh Pride festivities and Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.
“We like to work with the community,” Mr. West said.
There’s also talk of introducing some options for boys in the coming weeks and possibly a second location in the future. But whatever brings people inside, they’ll leave with a whole new perspective on menswear.
“That’s the whole point of underwear,” Mr. West said. “To come in and have fun.”
Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. Information: trimpittsburgh.com or 412-512-2828.
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.