Men's Underwear Sales, Greenspan's Economic Metric, Reveal Crisis
As chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan was known for using quirky, proletariat metrics to judge the temperature of the economy. The most famous of these, as recounted by NPR's Robert Krulwich in January 2008, were the sales of men's underwear. If the economic scales dipped even the slightest, Greenspan reasoned, it was as sure a sign as any that people were truly feeling the pinch.
'If you look at sales of male underpants it's just pretty much a flat line, it hardly ever changes,' Krulwich recounted after the publishing of Greenspan's book, 'The Age Of Turbulence.' 'But on those few occasions where it dips that means that men are so pinched that they are deciding not to replace underpants. And [Greenspan] said 'that is almost always a prescient, forward impression that here comes trouble.''