Men’s workwear is getting more and more casual—and retailers need to adapt.
By Rieva Lesonsky
I’ve mentioned before that my dad owned a men’s clothing store for most of my childhood. Back then, in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, there were clothes for work and clothes for weekends. And never the twain shall meet.
That’s all different today—so different, The Wall Street Journal reports, that “with fewer men buying suits, retailers of tailored clothing are trying to adapt to a world in which it is no longer unthinkable to wear Lululemon pants to the office.” The Journal says more and more companies are embracing a more casual dress code, leading to a decline in suit and tie sales (dry cleaners need to be aware of this trend as well).
While no one is saying bankers will throw away their suits, the trend is likely driven by generational factors and the rise of Silicon Valley businesses, where casual California-style clothing is more en vogue than the Brooks Brothers suits of Wall Street.
According to the WSJ, “The U.S. men’s suit market has shrunk 8% to $1.98 billion since 2015…Over the same period, sports apparel, which includes a variety of clothing from performance gear to fashion, has grown 17% to $44.8 billion, according to Euromonitor International.”
What does that mean for your men’s clothing store or website? Well, the Journal says mega chain Macy’s is fighting back by “showcasing suits in plaid, pinstripes and other patterns and showing customers how to wear them in more modern ways, such as pairing them with sneakers and a hoodie.”
For your business, though, that might not be practical. So make sure you offer plenty of “comfort” clothing or what’s generally called “business casual” clothing, such as jeans, khakis, sweaters, colorful button-down shirts and polos. (Most offices still hold the line at sweats and tees.)
To really make your business stand out, do what entrepreneurs do best—offer personalized service (my dad was great at this). Mary Beth Blake, brand president of national chain Jos. A. Bank, told the Journal, “It’s harder for men to dress business casual. They need more assistance.”