For years, men’s fashion has played a minor role in the pantheon of luxury retail. Womenswear and accessories have dominated the last half century and the industry has responded; more regular purchasing in women’s attire and accessories has led to larger collections, more innovation, experimentation with design and a marketing focus on women and their lifestyle.
Men, though possessing larger incomes and a greater share of wealth, have traditionally bought less into changing fashions and have been the minor element in ready to wear and accessories. Design and innovation in menswear has also moved more sluggishly with the pinnacle of male formality, the suit, changing very little in the last 100 years.
Now, menswear is outpacing womenswear. Since 2004, total menswear sales have grown 50%. In the same period, womenswear sales have grown 45%. And since 2011, menswear has grown even faster, at twice the rate of womenswear. It is projected to reach a huge $119bn by 2019.
The dot-com boom era in the late 1990s is the dawn of this extraordinary menswear growth story, when new tech workplaces embraced an unbuttoned, casual look. The era inspired an expansion of men’s wardrobes due to changes in accepted sartorial rules. For so long, men’s attire was mundane, conventional and conformist – suits were a uniform; all of a sudden, men looked in their wardrobes and realized they didn’t have anything to wear. So, they went shopping and expanded their imagination.
But it was the arrival of blogs in 2004 which is considered to be one of the greatest catalysts for men, particularly those in Generations X and Y, becoming more involved in apparel; talented bloggers were showing how things could be worn, inspiring, building confidence and removing men’s fashion from the ownership of publishing editorial. Streetwear became a phenomenon in menswear, and men started to own their style. Bloggers became the ‘real’ versions of the brands and the lifestyles they were being told to buy into.
This ‘Menaissance’ was then consolidated by the arrival of Tom Ford’s men’s label in 2006, which heralded a change in menswear. The focus shifted menswear trends from casual to formal, making suits, ties and tailoring sexy again. Ford was instrumental in empowering the male to consider elements of dandyism in dress, which had largely been shunned in the post-World War II world.
The word ‘dapper’ peaked in June 2006 on Google searches. Style icons from Colin Firth to Jay-Z wearing the Ford label showed how men of all ages and tastes could enjoy being more formally attired. Men began wanting to be smartly dressed – for fun, not for work.
However, it is the internet and specifically the social media age that is at the heart of the enduring growth in menswear. The launches of Instagram in 2010 and in 2011 of major luxury male-focused e-commerce portal Mr Porter signalled the start of a co-dependent online partnership; between social media and e-commerce.
Between 2010 and 2015, menswear had average annual online sales growth of 17.4% – the highest growth of any category. What’s more, this is expected to continue. Online menswear sales growth is expected to continue at a yearly average of 14.2% from now until 2020.
The relationship between online social engagement and e-commerce realisation also continues to blossom. It is showing an increasing multitude of brands, both old and new, a pathway from consumer engagement to conversion that can be surprisingly short. The instant gratification of social media inspires and connects individuals not just to a brand’s products but its ethos, image and lifestyle; reviews and forums enable reassurance and establishment of group-think and approval and, finally, e-commerce enables ease of fulfilment.
The age of male self-image improvement is well upon us. This is a post-metrosexual world where good male grooming and individual style choices no longer draw stares and gasps. From a lifestyle perspective, men are staying single longer, earning more than women and spending more on looking good, clothing and accessories than ever before. The use of social media such as Instagram is only intensifying this lifestyle shift; the added pressure of maintaining a public profile makes it even more of a priority that they keep up.
This article originally appeared on Luxury Society