Chicago native musician continues to grow his Grand Axis store of fashion items for men
Steve Grand is, admittedly, a longtime fan of underwear and Speedo-style swimwear – and he jokes that, as a kid, he had his sexual awakening in the underwear aisle of a department store.
“Since then, I've found the image of men in underwear and swimwear so enticing … and of course I love wearing them (and) have amassed quite a collection over the years,” said Grand, 31, the Chicago-area musician who shot to worldwide fan in 2013 when the video for his hit song “All-American Boy” went viral on YouTube – and now has more than 8 million views.
“I love how such a small amount of fabric can make you look and feel sexy, powerful and masculine. Over the years I became increasingly particular about the look and fit of the underwear and swimwear I would wear.”
He even had custom-made underwear and swimwear made.
“It got to the point where I was actually drawing out my own patterns and sending them in to be made,” he said. “And when I would post photos of myself wearing my custom-made pieces, I would always get guys asking me what brand they were.”
That's when Grand realized he should make them available for everyone, and that was about five years ago.
Today, Grand's fashion world centers around the Grand Axis Store: shopgrandaxis.com, which launched in December 2019.
“It's been a lot more work than I could have imagined, but I feel really fortunate to say it's going quite well,” Grand said of the outlet for multi-colored thongs, swimwear and much more. “It's demanding more and more of my time, and most of the work is not so glamorous, but as a small business owner, I am much happier being too busy than not busy enough. Though I probably need to start delegating out some tasks, I like being hands-on. Part of running a business is being able to delegate tasks, so you can stay focused on the larger vision for the brand.
“The response (to Grand Axis) has been so positive. Most of our customers end up being repeat customers, and the reviews we get on our products have been overwhelmingly positive. It feels good to create something that I really love and that other guys love as well.”
Grand said the most popular item is their more skimpy-style swimwear and some sizes are selling out of their Swim Bikini, Posing Suit, and Swim Thong after only a month of having them available. The Launch Collection underwear also has been a big seller. “We released an improved-fit version last spring and those continue to sell at a good, steady pace,” he said.
Grand just released an improved-fit “Mini-Brief” swimsuit, which was their previous best-selling swimwear. “It was supposed to come out with the rest of our swimwear earlier in the summer, but it got held up in production,” Grand said. “Sometimes it takes the factory a few (tries) before they get it right, and I wanted to be sure they did before we placed the bulk order. I think those are going to be a huge hit again.”
Asked his favorite style and color, Grand hesitated, adding that his underwear often depends on his mood, the setting, and how much he likes showing. “The mini-brief has been my go-to since we launched, and was actually the first item I started designing for the brand since it was similar to the suits I was having custom-made,” he said. “But I enjoy wearing the swim bikini, too … and sometimes even the posing suit, which is a slightly skimpier version of the bikini, similar to the posing trunks that bodybuilders wear with a sleeker, more flattering fit.”
The underwear offerings from Grand Axis certainly have Grand flavor. “I've always been into more pouch-style underwear but found that a lot of the options out there were a little too extreme or showy,” he said. “Often, the pouch was too big and the fabric too thin. I designed our underwear and swimwear to give a guys' package a nice, full, round look without showing too much detail. That's why all our underwear and swimwear is lined in the pouch, and constructed from a durable, stretchy cotton or modal fabric for underwear, and spandex for the swimwear.”
Grand Axis does not carry crazy prints or patterns … at least not yet.
“I really like (a) clean, structured, athletic look, and I think our products reflect that,” he said.
Grandy is active in every element of Grand Axis, not just the namesake.
“The only thing I'm not so involved with is supply chain. I have a consultant who finds the vendors for our materials, formats the patterns we create, and works directly with the factory. I also have an accountant,” he said. “Outside of that, I'm involved in everything from patternmaking, design, choosing fabrics and colors, shipping and fulfillment, inventory, photography and editing. I do all our social media and customer service, too.
“Nothing can make you feel as confident, powerful, and sexy as a well-fitting, thoughtfully-constructed, beautifully-designed swimsuit or underwear. Especially when it's designed by a gay man who's been as fixated and particular about men's underwear as I've been since I was 10 years old. Serious, I started Grand Axis because I love men's underwear and swimwear and I think our products reflect that. I wanted to create what I imagined the perfect underwear or swimsuit would be for other guys to enjoy as well.
More Steve Grand & Grand-Axis:
Upcoming, this winter: “We should have a new collection of underwear out which, unlike our current LAUNCH Collection, is made entirely out of the soft modal spandex we've been using for the lining, and for the seat and sides of our underwear. These are going to feature a more simplified silhouette and are going to be the most comfortable underwear you've ever worn.”
Upcoming, next spring: “I'm going to bring back all our swimwear styles in new colors, including our square-cut and swim short.”
Also: They will be launching a boxing short and hiking short.
Wearing while singing at, say, Northalsted Market Days: “The LAUNCH Jockstrap is what I've worn for most of the performances I've done since it became available.”