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Bra-vo ... just a brief chat with Graham will put lingerie-buying guys at their easy

By Maureen Coleman

Belfast man Graham McCormack is something of an expert on basques, baby dolls, balcony bras and briefs.

The 26-year-old is a Marks and Spencer "Stocking Fella" - a trained adviser who helps male customers with a little less knowledge of lingerie than himself to choose the perfect Christmas gift for their partner.

Graham's role is to be on hand at the Sprucefield store at Lisburn to offer " support" to embarrassed customers.

And he says the men he's assisted so far have appreciated advice from another man.

"Many men are daunted by the prospect of coming into an underwear department, so I'm here to help them feel less uncomfortable," he said.

"If a customer looks a bit lost, I will approach them and offer them advice. Sometimes they haven't a clue about sizes or styles so I'll encourage them to go back home and take a peek in their partner's underwear drawer.

"Generally, men tend to rush in and rush out, buying the first thing that they see. I can steer them in the right direction and, really, just offer them a bit of moral support."

Graham, who normally works in the menswear department, said he wasn't at all embarrassed about his new job.

"I haven't had much exposure yet," he quipped, "but I dare say I'll take a bit of stick when they read this."

The M&S Stocking Fella said he was encouraging customers to move away from the traditional colours of black, white and red and opt for something a bit different.

"Quite a few men are snapping up the animal prints, and colours like chocolate brown and silver are selling well, too," he said.

"Really, what type of lingerie you like reflects your personality. We have such a wide range here, that there's something to suit everyone."

Graham admitted he knew more now about women's underwear than he ever expected to.

"I am a bit of an expert now," he said.

"I know enough about ladies' lingerie to do me a lifetime."

Andy Ferguson, Head of Christmas at M&S, said: "We launched Stocking Fellas after research showed us that only a third of women are happy with the lingerie their partner buys them, so we thought we'd better give men a helping hand.

"It was such a great success that we've extended it to all of our largest stores this year.

"That means we've got almost 200 trained Stocking Fellas out there to make sure men get it right."

The Stocking Fellas will also be available in the Belfast store.

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