By Margot C. Lester
You read it on message boards or overhear it being discussed at Weaver Street or the Open Eye. Itâ€™s a virulent meme that spread faster than the Andromeda Strain. In fact, Carrboro Board of Aldermen candidate Katrina Ryan mentioned it in this very paper: â€œThe same residents in Carrboro that need affordable housing need affordable socks and underwear.â€ (Nov. 1, 2007).
Variations on that theme have been repeated since then, including at a recent chamber of commerce economic briefing, where Orange County Planning director Craig Benedict expanded the territory a bit. Benedict said the new retail center proposed at Buckhorn Road should alleviate concerns some people have that there is nowhere to buy underwear in Orange County.
Wondering if it were indeed true that thereâ€™s no place to buy â€œfoundation garments,â€ as my dear, departed mother would say, this reporter scoured the town for evidence of intimate apparel. The result? Donâ€™t get your briefs in a bunch, because, to our relief, thereâ€™s plenty of underwear in Carrboro, yâ€™all. You can consider this myth busted.
Downtown is home to two purveyors of high-end skivvies: Fleet Feet and Townsend Bertram & Company at Carr Mill (200 N. Greensboro St.). (Yes, Performance Bicycle sells the stuff too; but since theyâ€™re decamping to Eastgate later this winter, we didnâ€™t include them in the survey.) But donâ€™t go in asking for underpants. What these stores sell goes by the fancy term â€œbase layers.â€
When my spouse asked if they sold underwear at Fleet Feet, Santaâ€™s little helper responded: â€œWe donâ€™t really sell underwear, we sell â€˜runâ€™derwear. But I bet we could order it for you from somewhere.â€ They did have a nice Champion sports bra in stock for $15 though.
Townsend Bertram has the most robust selection for men and women, ranging from $15 (Patagonia ladiesâ€™ bikini) through $25 (ExOfficio boxer briefs) to $40 (Icebreaker Body Fit menâ€™s briefs).
â€œWe used to stock a Patagonia thong, but it didnâ€™t sell well,â€ says Audrey Townsend, the storeâ€™s owner. â€œBut itâ€™s available by special order.â€ The store also sells silk long johns and sports bras. â€œSo, yeah, we have a lot of underwear â€“ thatâ€™s the long and the short of it.â€
But the good news for Ms. Ryan and others concerned with affordability is that there are a lot of reasonably priced bloomers here in the Seattle of the South. Over at the Rite-Aid in Willow Creek Shopping Center (602 Jones Ferry Road), gals can pick up a three-pack of Hanes or Leggs brand panties or a single â€œshaperâ€ for $5.99. A sports bra will set you back a cool $7.99. Gents are out of luck here though. No shorts whatsoever, but we did find a tie for $5.99 and belts at two for $10. And unless the kiddies need UnderJamsâ„¢, theyâ€™ll get no actual undies here either.
The mother lode
The juggernaut of undergarments is, hands down, the Dollar General at Carrboro Plaza (104 N.C. 54). On this particular Monday, Dixie Belle brand briefs (made just up the road in Gibsonville) were available in many sizes at two for $6. Kidsâ€™ no-name underpants were priced at three for $4.50. Bras were slightly more expensive, but still under $10. And, because â€˜tis the season, there was even a nice selection of thermal undergarments on sale for $5 and up.
But the real bonanza was in the menâ€™s department, where Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and other brand briefs, boxers and those hybrid boxer/briefs line the shelves at prices ranging from two for $6 to five for $5. Clerks on duty declined to comment on the selection or the myth.
The bare facts
So why do so many people have their panties in a wad over the availability of intimate apparel in our fair city?
â€œItâ€™s not really about underwear,â€ posits James Harris, the townâ€™s economic development director. â€œIt started as a way of talking about the ability to get the things basic to life. People want to be able to buy a washer-dryer in Carrboro. Or a car. They want a big store that will bring us higher tax revenues. But those are big-ticket items, so they focus on something everyone can relate to â€“ like underwear.â€
In the end, it seems all thatâ€™s missing from Carrboroâ€™s underwear inventory is a sexy lingerie shop.
â€œThere really is underwear available in Carrboro,â€ Harris says, â€œas long as youâ€™re not looking for anything exotic.â€
Ms. Ryan was not available for comment.
The bottom line:
Who says you canâ€™t buy underwear in Orange County? From low-end brands to designer fashions, these retailers have got your back(side):
â€¢ Chapel Hill Sportswear (E. Franklin St.) â€” Name brands for UNC fans of all ages;
â€¢ Dillardâ€™s (University Mall) â€” Name brands for ladies, men & kids;
â€¢ Dollar General (Carrboro Plaza) â€” Dixie Belle, Fruit of the Loom;
â€¢ Fleet Feet (Carr Mill Mall) â€” Fitness under-layers by Champion;
â€¢ Johnny T-shirt (E. Franklin St.) â€” Name brands for UNC fans of all ages;
â€¢ Metropolis (University Mall) â€” Novelty boxers;
â€¢ Night Gallery (University Mall) â€” Designer lingerie;
â€¢ Plus Size Plum (Hillsborough) â€” Designer lingerie;
â€¢ Rite-Aid (Timberlyne, Eastgate, Willow Creek) â€” Leggs and Hanes for women only;
â€¢ Roseâ€™s (University Mall) â€” Name brands for ladies, men, kids & UNC fans of all ages;
â€¢ The Shrunken Head (E. Franklin St.) â€“ Name brands for UNC fans of all ages
â€¢ Townsend Bertram & Co. (Carr Mill Mall) â€” Fitness under-layers by Patagonia, Icebreakers, Exofficio;
â€¢ UNC Student Stores (campus) â€” Name brands for UNC fans of all ages
â€¢ WalMart (Hillsborough) â€” Name brands for ladies, men & kids
Editorâ€™s Note: Did we miss a local purveyor of intimate apparel? If so, drop a line with the name, address and inventory to Margot Lester at email@example.com. Weâ€™re keeping a list on the Orange County Housing and Economy blog (www.carrborocitizen.com/housing).