What do you do when you’re unhappy about the state of men’s underwear in SA? Well, if you’re Cape Town’s Preston Tandy, you start your very own underwear and swimwear label – and you call it Plumbum.

“What does one do if you have low knockers?” asks Preston, adding that, “re-adjusting in public is a definite no-no.”

To be more accurate, the gay-owned label was actually created by both Preston and his life and business partner Brett. The name Plumbum has a cheeky origin: It is the Latin name for lead (like ‘putting lead in your pencil’, geddit?) and the letters are also the initials of the two co-founders’ first names.

The range, accompanied by the call to “Hoist your Mast” and “Cradle your Mankind,” encompasses three underwear styles: Hipster Bikini, Classic Brief and a Fitted Short, presently available in black and white combed cotton lycra. There are also two swimwear styles: Brazilian Swim Brief and Brazilian Square Trunk, in black nylon lycra.

The enterprising duo are also working on a jock strap, featuring the same engineered pouch. This is due for release in April 2008, while two very “flash” swimwear styles will be launched in May.

Preston comes from a fashion background, having studied Fashion Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, focusing on menswear in his final year. He was also Junior Visual Merchandiser for Stuttafords, a patternmaker at Sweet-Orr & Lybro and a designer and patternmaker for Island Style in Mauritius.

This experience enabled him to work on a design ethos for that the range that he describes as “engineered,” with the aim of creating “the most innovative pouch to hit African shores; similar in concept to Wonderbra, but without padding and clasps.”

“We’re finally getting men to talk about their likes and dislikes regarding underwear and swimwear…”

“We wanted underwear and swimwear that lifted the testicles and supported one’s genitals throughout the day, without feeling restrictive,” says Preston. He adds that it took 27 months of research and 43 prototypes to get there.

He explains that, “Comfort, fit and fabric is vital and we’re happy with the end result. One hundred percent cotton loses its shape and once stretched, it does not return to its original shape. We also wanted to undercut designer imports which are expensive locally and provide nothing but designer branding.”

Preston says that one of the challenges in creating the range was sourcing a reliable and trustworthy local manufacturer. Sunthings, based in Elsiesriver, Cape Town, who convert Plumbum’s designs into the real thing, was their final choice.

Ideas and inspiration come from both himself and Brett, says Preston. “I will then put pen to paper, do the pattern and the first prototype. Once approved by both of us, it is then submitted to Sunthings who will do a factory prototype. Once approved by both of us, it then goes into production,” he explains.

The brand is well on its way to making an impression on the local fashion scene: Preston was awarded 4th Regional Finalist in the South African Breweries Kickstart Entrepreneurial Programme, winning R 39 900 towards the business. He is now in line for the national awards in July; where almost R 700 000 is up for grabs.

Ultimately, it’s all about seeing local men’s underwear and swimwear ranges, specifically designed and engineered for the South African male, says Preston. “We’re finally getting men to talk about their likes and dislikes regarding underwear and swimwear and what they wish to see.”

And where does he see Plumbum in the future? “A complete range with engineered t-shirts, vests, jeans, pants and jackets using eco-friendly and recycled fabrics – all locally sourced,” he replies enthusiastically.

Plumbum products are currently only available online at

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