Menswear is firing on both cylinders. This week has seen the second London Collections: Men, with a full roster and hype-a-plenty, and recent announcements of luxury brands opening their first standalone menswear stores (Burberry, Jimmy Choo, J.Crew) are a step in the right direction. Indeed, Burberry’s menswear sales grew by 26% in the year ending March 2012, and globally, menswear sales grew by 9% in 2011 – a growth rate almost twice as fast as womenswear and amassing total sales of $33 billion. Mintel estimate that the market will grow by 16% from 2011 to 2016 and currently menswear represents a very gender-balanced 50% of the luxury apparel and accessories market.
Magazines are full of style advice and glossy editorials for dapper gents and neo-dandies. Taking cues from Madmen (AMC), Suits (Dutch Oven), David Gandy and Tinie Tempah, the modern man apparently likes his tailoring sharp, his shirts starched and his pocket square, er, in his pocket…
So has the male consumers’ taste changed?
At London Collections: Men, the week’s top emerging trends for AW13/14 offer two sides to the story. There’s the English gent theme from the likes of Hackett, Richard James and Hardy Aimes. Think Prince of Wales checks, pocket watches, smoking jackets and bow ties. The second story was looser, more rebellious: Punk. Topman, Richard Nicoll, Lou Dalton, Martine Rose and Vivienne Westwood sent out their boy wonders in bomber jackets, statement jumpers and relaxed-fit trousers. But surely, that’s a mistake? Where do you display a pocket square in a neon puffa?
Perhaps the magazines have over-stated men’s current adoration for the finer things in life. Let’s see what’s working commercially – what are guys actually buying?
Topman’s best-selling styles this season have been far from dapper and polished. Take their £38 red yoked stag patterned knit, which dropped in September and has sold out three times, across all sizes. Then there’s the cosy and somewhat understated quilted sweater with elbow patches. At £32 it has also been restocked three times. Add to the mix a £30 gingham shirt, some homely grey sweatpants which sold out in just 16 days in December and an £18 “Dweeb” slogan t-shirt which arrived online late November and is already on its third restock. Not a tie pin in sight.
Meanwhile, Topman have struggled with a $230 burgundy flecked skinny fit blazer which arrived in store at Nordstrom on the 7th December. Its price has dropped three times (to $114.98, a 50% discount) and still all sizes remain instock. Same story for an all-over floral print tee, also at Nordstrom; all sizes are still in stock after a 50% price slash. So it seems Topman’s customer is buying into the country look, chunky sweaters and homely comforts.
John Lewis’s fastest moving menswear this season? Alongside a £149 quilted Barbour jacket is a £50 “Super soft and cosy” towelling dressing gown, restocked three times since 26th September, a £25 pair of Fair Isle slippers, and some Timberland boots which saw an 11% price increase after being in stock for just three days. Nope, no velvet waistcoats here.
Surely Harrods would be the destination for the refined gent, puffing at his cigar? Not here either; Harrods have found success this season with the £149 Lusekofte onesie. Yes – Harrods… onesie. They also cashed in with pyjamas, sweat pants, hoodies and Hunter wellies.
Mr Porter’s tasteful editor’s picks and style advice injects the kind of fanatic love of detail shown by petrol heads. If anyone’s customer is living the dapper dream, it’s theirs. Mr Porter’s seasonal wins include the £91.48 Aubin and Wills navy plaid shirt, a plain cotton t-shirt by J.Crew and a chunky flecked knit by Sandro which sold out after a 7.7% price increase. Also popular were motif sweaters from Givenchy (shark) and Aubin and Wills (fox). The only concessions to the off duty vibe were fast sells on two velvet tuxedo jackets by Acne.
ASOS have a young and trend-savvy customer base. They’re game for trying out the tricky trends. How did they fare this season? We may as well all head for the hills (decked out in some fine camping gear), because ASOS’s best sellers include a £124 quilted Diesel rucksack, £50 work boots with shearling lining and a £40 Puma chambray shirt – all of which sold out twice. What didn’t do so well? Their £110 slim velour trousers, which were reduced to £50 and are still in stock in every size.
The American market and J.Crew aren’t going to help us here, their best selling items this season would be frowned at on Savile Row too. Their $28 deer socks and the comfy $398 Burbridge parka, which sold out twice, were surefire winners. And for the feet? $420 R.M Williams ‘gardeners boots’.
So the press loves a story, and on seeing men’s high end boom, they’ve run with the luxe in luxury. Looking at the data does indeed show us menswear is healthier than ever, lads are splashing their cash on good design, though that doesn’t mean suits, cravats and plus fours. But why would it? Looking at the current financial climate, it makes far more sense to nest away in a onesie, albeit one from Harrods. Our bet for AW 13/14 is that the relaxed and undone vibe seen at London Collection: Men, is the exact way to go. At ease, fellas.