‘Worst Valentine’s Day Surprise’: Why Women’s Underwear Costs Exceed Men’s

Smiling woman with dollar banknotes in underwear shop stock photo
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This Valentine’s Day brings a nasty surprise to the wallets of women in the U.S. — and their partners who may be buying them lingerie. A report from the Progressive Policy Institute uncovered what PPI writer Ed Gresser called the “Worst Valentine’s Day surprise ever.”

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No, it’s not that your Valentine’s Day restaurant dinner could cost roughly 8% more than last year, according to Restaurant Dive. (Although that is pretty disheartening!) It’s the fact that women’s underwear costs more than men’s underwear of a similar quality due to higher tariffs. On average, women’s underwear is taxed at 15.5%, while men’s underwear has tariffs of just 11.5% added.

While construction and automotive industry professionals fight against steel tariffs, careful examination of clothing tariffs reveals this problem affecting everyday consumers. Underwear across genders is taxed at an average of 14.7%, while steel tariffs cost roughly 5%. But comparable items of similar materials cost even more if they are designed for women.

Synthetic polyester underwear, one of the more affordable materials, is taxed at 16% for women and 14.9% for men, according to the PPI report. Breathable and comfy cotton underwear experiences tariffs of 7.6% for women and 7.4% for men, which represents the smallest gap in tariff costs.

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Finally, silk underwear, which you might think experiences higher tariffs because it’s used to make luxury goods, is taxed at 2.1% for women and 0.9% for men. That could be good news if you’re looking to pick up something pretty for your partner this Valentine’s Day.

You may have heard of the “pink tax,” which typically refers to higher prices on women’s toiletries like razors and other personal hygiene goods. It has nothing to do with the color, but women’s deodorant or razor blades often cost more than similar items marketed to men.

However, the “pink tax” is not actually a tax. It’s the result of brands raising prices because they believe women will be willing to pay more for these items. The tariffs on underwear, however, reflect an actual tax based on gender, with very little reasoning behind it.

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Other countries, according to the report, tax men’s and women’s undergarments at the same rate, regardless of material or who is expected to be wearing it.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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