HELL'S KITCHEN — Whenever German bodybuilder Oliver Nickel-Glücklich comes to New York City, he stops by a tiny Hell's Kitchen shop to buy a couple of pairs of his favorite barely-there bikini briefs.
The 6-foot-2, 252-pound behemoth said he's devoted to New York Bodyworks' custom-made "posing suits" — made and sold in the storefront on West 46th Street — because the tiny briefs show off as much of his intensely cultivated body as possible.
"These are something special, they're for a certain body type," said Nickel-Glücklich, of Berlin, who picked up seven pairs of the briefs on Wednesday.
"They're tight and they fit to your body," added Nickel-Glücklich, who said he owns more than 100 items that came from the store. He said the suits are so well made, and so hard to find, he started bringing suits and other bodybuilding gear to his colleagues back home.
"I've sold this collection all over Europe," he said.
Although fitness has taken a marked shift since the pump-you-up nineties, with more emphasis on trim and tone and less on massive, steroid-driven physiques, the world of bulging pecs and Arnold-Schwarzenegger-style bulk is still alive and well at the store.
"These aren't in department stores, you won't find them in Macy's," said owner Michael Clark, who has catered to the buff set since 1993, first from a storefront on Christopher street then, a decade later, from the current location at 429 W. 46th St.
"Most people wouldn't be caught dead in these, but there are still a few around — and they buy from me."
Clark's posing suits — which he insists are "not underwear" — cost approximately $30 and come in a wide variety of colors and fits. Some are shiny, others are made of nylon or lycra, and there's even a teeny-tiny American flag pair.
The biggest difference in their sizing is the width of the side band, which ranges from a quarter-inch to an inch wide. The less band and material on a codpiece, the more bulging muscles — amongst other things — a bodybuilder can show.
"We make a decent pouch and they show a lot of leg," Clark said.
"But the front is important, it holds you in. And some bodybuilders need a little more cover than others."
Bodybuilders aren't Clark's only clients.
"I also realized that if I cut off the back and turned it into a g-string, I could sell to male exotic dancers as well," Clark said.
The thongs cost roughly $20 each, since they take less material, he said.
Although some of Clark's original customers have gotten older and have slowed down their need for his products, Clark said he has found a new international clientele clamoring for his gear, which also includes $30-a-can competition tan spray, shoes, shirts and tank-tops straight out of an MC Hammer music video.
"The shirts, these long shirts, they're good for a bodybuilder in the wintertime," said Nickel-Glücklich.
"They're wide enough to get around your shoulders, but they're not too wide for your abs."
Clark sells other shirts as well — graphic tees emblazoned with a trademarked 'Hell's Kitchen, NY' logo that are a hit with the tourists wandering over to the Intrepid Museum.
"It's kept the shop going," he said.
But Clark's main seller is still his posing suits, since he's one of the few vendors left that sell them to the dwindling, but enthusiastic, bodybuilding crowd.
"It's died off," Clark said.
"Fifteen years ago, it was a statement. You were never big enough."