Wisey’s “Buying underwear” guide in Leiden!

Ahhh Mad? Mad as a bag of spanners! Not amused! No not at all!

So, as the title suggests, I have been presented with the delightful occasion for having to buy underwear in this fair city which I now live in. The reason being, our forthcoming trip to Durham and Newcastle is being facilitated by the medium (that is, a mode of transport, not a psychic teaching us astral projection), of a cruise from Rotterdam to Hull which incorporates an overnight cabin stay. There are 4 of us to the cabin, and as the other couple would doubtless not want unfavorable comparisons to occur it seems only right that I furnish myself with some attire that will keep my flailing manhood (I said flailing, not failing!) in check, (restrained, not covered in gingham!)!

So began the quest. It’s been many a long year since I last bought underwear, save for attempting (and indeed failing due to size issues) to grab some once while training at the Nimpojutsu club, which resulted instead in me just wearing shorts! Commando, I believe is what the kids today call it, but me, I recall the days when not wearing anything was another rebellious swipe at those around me wishing to restrict my penis! Read into that what you will, but what once was daring, became habit, until now, the idea of wearing underwear is as alien to me as perhaps a penguin in a jobcenter being offered a place in the entertainment sector when clearly the penguin is only qualified as a typist!

Armed with my trusty sidekick, a lady versed in the local vernacular, a brief (!!) tour of the shops (called “winkels” here amusingly) took us into the main department store in town. V&D. VD for short! I find it difficult to attempt to enthuse about VD. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t fill me with a sense of gladness. I know I know, I hear of other people having positive experiences with VD but, and especially considering the delicate nature of that which i was intending to purchase, allowing VD to engulf my reproductive parts and having to pay for this vaunted pleasure just.. well… it left me with a sort of nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

However, time was pressing, Once VD had us in its clutches it would’ve been silly just to ignore what it had to offer, so we ambled across to the men’s undies’, where I was confronted with a veritable menagerie of junk clutching costumes. Seriously? This much choice? For what reason exactly? I understand (and reject) the concept of underwear, but surely this array was merely put there to confuse, to bamboozle, and most of all, to put in fear, a poor unsuspecting customer such as I!

But I digress. My mind is strong, I know what it is I require. Something innocuous, not even especially stylish. Something which acknowledges the fact that it is there, while being understated enough not to draw attention to its self. No need for patterns, or some long forgotten tennis player’s name splattered across the elastic, proclaiming that assimilation is the way to go, and resistance is futile. When dealing with toilet parts, in my view, the only way to go is, bog standard! I find exactly what i require. They’re black, boring, and unassuming. Now for the sizes.


I cannot stress the above strongly enough. Arrrrrrrggggggg!!

You see, it’s like this. I understand I am no longer in the Uk. I get that the sizes here are measured differently. Well.. technically they’re not measured differently, but with a different base unit,often the device doing the measuring has various types upon it, such as inches and cms etc. The measuring is done the same way, but the outputted number is different. Ah you get what I mean! So for example, a woman buying a bra in the Uk would have band and cup size, band being measured in inches, cup size in letters (something which always puzzled me), and here it would be similar but in cms, however, you need to increase the cup size on most bras by one.. so.. 38e becomes 85f .. etc etc. Fair enough.

So, I understand the conversion for normal things. My waist, being not what it was back in the day, is now 34, which here would be 75cm, if they were to convert it like they do with ladies stuff, however… in all my time of spotting jeans here, those measurements are given in inches for guys. Except now. As my gaze ambles across the awe-inspiring collection of underwear, not once can i see a size that corresponds with either a cms measurement… or a measurement in inches. The smallest size appears to be a 40, but 40 of what I do not know. Is it like a curtain, and perhaps it is a 40 cms drop, where the elastic is one size fits all waist? If so, what kind of giant of a man wears the 60s nestling at the back? I think back, to the last attempt to buy underwear here, where the choice was S, M, L, Xl and I’d plumped for the M, not being large of belly, only to find my voice an octave higher while wearing them. If I can’t trust S & M to not mean the same.. here in this “winkel” of the VD persuasion, for the love of all that’s holy someone explain to me what these sizes are!!

It’s at times like this, it is handy to have a local with you. My good lady wife, whipped the things off the hanger, stretched them in a way that made me want to stand with crossed legs, pronounced “I’d fit in them”, and for her, that was it! But by now it was beyond if they fitted or not. It was about the principle of the thing. I can only assume that, the whole process is designed to be as complicated as it can possibly be, for no other reason than to egregiously infuriate, something which it had done with impressive alacrity. “Tell me what these numbers mean!” I demanded. “Why is it not in a uniform standard of measurement?”, I continued. Warming to my theme now and getting up a head of steam, “You’ve lived here all your life, you must have encountered sizes of mens underwear before, why can you not explain to me how they come to use this number as an indicator for me to purchase the right size!”.

And so I’d had enough! “These will do!”, I said, resisting the urge to cancel 4 days and a couple of hundred quids worth of fun over 2 pairs of mens knickers, and instead picked up something which I assume equated to medium, on the grounds that it was not the smallest number I could see, but was not close to the largest. Feeling aggrieved and impotent as answers were not forthcoming I stalked away, Esther in tow, only to run into two friends outside whom I vented my spleen at with gusto!

Conclusions to be drawn from this? I’m not sure. Days later and I still don’t know what the numerics relate to, but i do know I shall be suitably attired to cohabit a 4 birth cabin without eye-widening/watering (viewpoint dependent) consequences, and for that, I am sure we are all grateful!


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