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Do Men’s Underwear Purchases Indicate an Economic Downturn?

Written by Nancy Johnshoy, CFA, Vice President - Portfolio Manager & Market Strategist

As humans, we’re hardwired to dislike uncertainty. We gravitate toward patterns and predictability, in general preferring the known. Perhaps that’s why over the years different people have developed rather colorful, unscientific economic indicators.

njohnshoyOur very own revered former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, for instance, evaluated the state of men’s underwear purchases as an economic indicator. His theory went that men wear underwear forever – until it has holes in it – so in a typical economy, buying habits of men’s underwear stays relatively constant. When hard times hit, sales of men’s underwear take a slight dip, Greenspan observed.

Yet another one involves men’s ties. The theory goes that in good times, men wear skinnier, more colorful ties, and in economic downturns, ties get wider and more drab and dark. Personally, I’m not sure if this theory takes into account the introduction of social influencers and the sway they have on our clothing styles.

These interesting economic indicators, while perhaps debatable in nature, are entertaining. As the lead researcher and author of the First Business Quarterly Market Review, I take great care in compiling our quarterly look at national and international economic data. That new report is fresh off the press and now available.

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You never know – next quarter maybe I’ll include a wildly interesting indicator, but as a person who admittedly likes predictability, I wouldn’t bet on it.

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