Fashion has targeted a predominantly female market for as long as we can remember, but has the amount of male interest in fashion been overlooked?
A woman can find anything and everything her heart desires in terms of fashion with the new surge in e-commerce and usually for reasonable prices, but the same cannot be said for men.
According to data published by Statista, clothing along with sports goods were the most popular items to be purchased online in 2020 by both men and women, with men making a 49% share in these findings.
The overall availability of men’s fashion in comparison to women’s is improving with brands such as BoohooMan and ASOS making affordable fashion more accessible for men however, Adam King, Senior Menswear Designer at Manchester-based brand Manière De Voir believes there is still work to be done. He said:
“It’s not at all the same for men, I’ve always had a problem since I first started getting in to fashion. The only shop I could really shop in at the time was Topman because I needed an XXS so first of all, they didn’t cater across the market for smaller people.
“Eventually everywhere did catch on but now we’ve lost Topman/Topshop, there’s not many physical high street shops left anymore, especially when you’re outside of the bigger cities.”
Adam believes that fashion consumption habits between men and women are ‘totally different’ and pondered the possibility that men generally ‘avoid drawing attention to themselves’. He believes the pandemic is evidence of this difference:
“I think women aren’t as bothered about quality… just from talking to friends and other people in the industry, they’re more about the silhouette, the style and how it looks. Guys I think are more about quality and whether it’s going to last.
“A lot of men can’t be bothered going shopping or don’t like to spend a lot of time shopping, but women typically like to do a shopping day.”
Group culture can be seen as factor influencing whether a man chooses to experiment with fashion or to stay safe with the classic t-shirt and jeans combination.
Craig Oliver, Menswear Buying Manager at Newcastle department store Fenwick shared his views on this group culture theory:
“A lot of men are put off by colour and prints because it falls outside of their comfort zone. It’s commonly referred to as the pub test. If a man walks into the local pub to meet his mates, will his outfit get the mick taking out of him? The fear of ridicule from friends is enough to put men off experimenting unfortunately.”
Craig believes men more so than women dress to ‘conform’ according to what’s popular in their generation. He believes there is more of a ‘uniform’ attire that is largely centred around popular luxury labels such as Stone Island, Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren. He said:
“I think a key difference between men’s and ladies’ fashion is that men have usually dressed to conform to a musical or football youth culture. In the 90’s for example, people dressed like Liam Gallagher or if you were into grunge, you dressed like Kurt Cobain. If you liked both music and football then you probably dressed in standard uniform of Stone Island, Burberry, Lacoste and other sports brands who become big hits on football terraces.”
A desire for luxury and designer brands seems to be more common amongst younger male buyers in particular. A report shared in 2017 by Luxury Daily shows men would spend more on luxury than women.
Christy Laverty, 23, is a Product Copywriter for Brown Thomas Arnotts and Fashion Journalist for the Sunday Business Post. Christy confessed that he prefers high-end products for quality and originality, as opposed to purchasing replicas that are sold by fast fashion chains. He said:
“I shop a lot in Brown Thomas because they stock all the brands I want. If I can’t get what I want from Brown Thomas, or Flannels, I’ll go directly through the brand itself.
“I don’t just shop high-end though because that’s just not achievable for the majority of people, including myself. It’s really all about blending high-low prices.”
Designer clothing allows men to stay within their comfort zone but also helps them to appear fashionable through wearing well-known brands. Christy shared his thoughts on fast fashion and discussed why designer is thought to be more desirable amongst the male population, he said:
“Women can carry cheaper clothes better. I don’t know what it is. Sometimes I feel like brands such as BoohooMan, H&M etc. ruin really beautifully designed product with one element which is usually a meme or cringy photo of some sort.
“It’s more so an ego thing rather than a style thing with young men. Young men want to be able to say ‘oh my Stone Island coat cost £900’ but they don’t know the reasoning behind the price. That stone island coat is probably made from ballistic nylon and has a whole heap of technical features which bumps up the price.
“The price alone seems to be really important. Young men want to come across as rich and they’re not achieving that in BoohooMan.”
While fashion has historically been a female dominated market, the demand for more variety in menswear is on the rise.
Although the balance between men’s and women’s fashion is better than it has ever been, there seems to be an underlying stigma attached to the average man wearing anything other than the popular jeans and t-shirt combination with a hint of designer branding.
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