For the uninitiated, these brands—and many others—survive by a seemingly by-gay-men, for-gay-men economic system. They are designed to appeal to same sex oriented guys who hope (or do) look like underwear models. These systems are why so many men (myself included) feel inadequate with their bodies. They do a good job of making you feel less than.
They’re also (sex) cultural currency. In certain sects like West Hollywood, California and Midtown Atlanta, Georgia, a man wearing these underwears are keepers, are mainstream successes. They are signs of being in the know and also an aspirational man, regardless of social standing. There are different brands for different subcultures (Special Delivery for fashion-y gays, Rough Trade for kinky types) but there is one commonality: they belong to gay men because only gay men really care about things the brand of underwear being worn by a man. (Of course, some straight men care. They usually opt for Calvin Klein or another “big label” brand.)
Thus, a question: what happens when a straight man wears these notoriously gay underwear? Does someone see them and question their sexuality? Do women scoff? Do men flock closer assuming they want that type of attention? Probably not. This is likely more of a need-to-know thing, the sort of “Tree falling in the forest”: if no one in your world knows of a homoerotic connotation, does an underwear brand have a homoerotic connotation?
Probably not. It is weird that I did find both GQ and Men’s Health encouraging (straight) men to wear these skivvies. Do they know? Do they know that we know? Do they know that we know that they know that we know? Does your underwear reflect that of your sexuality, ladies or men who are curious to know? Not at all, in most cases. If anything, this open world of male underwear and over-sexualized presentation of them points toward gender lines blurring and male bodies becoming objectified. That’s a plus.
Yet, as a formerly heterosexual, I will say that certain brands and activities I ingested in private about being gay (like wearing certain brands of underwear) were participated in when I was pre-gay. Does that mean every “straight” man wearing 2(X)ist is secretly “gay”? No. They just have a diverse underwear diet.