But now there’s no more putting off the dreaded excursion to go Christmas shopping and that nightmare pursuit of the perfect present for your wife or girlfriend.
A straw poll of male friends and colleagues revealed many have bought underwear for their partners at least once – and this has largely been classed as a failure never to be repeated.
One even explained how his horrified girlfriend held up the carefully selected sequined thong on yuletide morning only to ask him loudly in front of the grandparents whether he thought she was “a Las Vegas hooker”. No wonder so many men stick to spa vouchers.
But Sloane Square department store Peter Jones has come up with a new concept this year to help men who do want to buy lingerie as a present and are determined to get it right.
Lesley Jimenez is one of the store’s “Lingerie Runners” who are briefed to guide the nervous male customer through the maze of balconette bras and find the perfect pair of pants for his beloved.
The store has set up a dedicated men-only area on the edge of the ladies’ underwear section complete with widescreen TV, Nintendo Wii and stacks of blokey magazines. The idea is that the nervous male shopper can relax while his runner brings a selection of delicates for his approval.
Jimenez says that the best prepared customers come armed with a list not only of their partner’s sizes – gleaned from a quick rummage in her underwear drawer – but also some notes about favoured styles and colours. Most can be happily sent home having spent £80 on an underwear set.
The biggest mistake most men make, Jimenez explains, is buying something they would like to see their partner wear, rather than something she would like to wear. The girl who dresses in pretty pastel shades and high-sided knickers is unlikely to say thanks for a present of a bright red corset and suspender belt.
It is, however, possible to find something for everyone, she adds, with the measure of success being whether the present is immediately returned in January. Someone can be taken through the whole process of buying lingerie as a present in just five to 10 minutes including gift wrapping, Jimenez reckons.
The Lingerie Runner service is offered every day at Peter Jones from now until Christmas Eve. Other branches of the John Lewis chain offer fully trained lingerie specialists who can assist with purchases.