Looking good has never been easier for men, thanks to a new generation of startups that are shaking up how the average Joe finds new clothes and accessories. Over the past few years several e-commerce businesses aimed squarely at men—such as Proper Suits and JackThreads— have become more popular as they cater to what was once an oft-overlooked consumer segment.
It’s no surprise fashion entrepreneurs have zeroed in on the male consumer in recent years. The menswear market is slated to hit $40 billion in sales by 2019, according to last year’s report by research firm Euromonitor International.
Meanwhile, men’s clothing sales in the U.S. increased at an annual rate of 17.3 percent between 2009 and 2015, found newswire service AFP. In fact, the menswear market has seen such huge growth over the last six years that the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) announced last year that it would launch its first ever standalone Fashion Week dedicated to menswear.
Here’s a closer look at the startups and companies altering the fashion landscape for men.
The subscription e-commerce model has become increasingly prevalent over the years. One of the more popular subscription services offered to men is JackThreads, launched in 2008, which provides discounted apparel to customers across the U.S.
The company’s forward-thinking approach to fashion means that customers can shop looks online and order goods straight to their home. Individuals only pay for the items they want to keep and simply send whatever they don’t like back, free of charge.
“I think the main reason we’ve been able to drive guys to the site, is that we deliver a very niche and curated product and work hard to make sure we’re bringing the most relevant product and brands to our audience,” Jason Ross, founder of JackThreads, explained to FoundersCard.
While an e-commerce startup that sells men’s shorts may sound a little too niche, it’s in fact helped make the company’s founders incredibly rich. Stanford University graduates Rainer Castillo, Kyle Hency, Tom Montgomery and Preston Rutherford originally started their retro-influenced shorts company in 2011 as a side business. During a Fourth of July vacation to Lake Tahoe the friends decided to only wear 80s-inspired men’s shorts. Their friends and family dug the look and it inspired the foursome to start what would later become known as Chubbies.
“A lot of our friends were really excited about these 80s-inspired vintage shorts,” Castillo explained to TechCrunch. “After Tahoe was over, people reached out to us and started asking for the shorts. The second we made a handful we started getting this inbound interest from people we didn’t know.”
Investors have really gotten behind the concept, too. In February 2016, the company raised $9 million in Series A funding, which is in addition to the $14 million it has raised since 2011.
Ryan Babenzien is putting his best foot forward—pun intended—with his thriving footwear brand. The Brooklyn-based entrepreneur’s shoe company launched in 2013 and creates a variety of luxury shoes—ranging from loafers to high-tops—for men.
Like many other digital-first companies, the startup focuses on a direct-to-consumer business model, which sets it apart from its other sneaker competitors. Individuals can purchase shoes online from the company’s website, which ends up lowering production cost. Consumers can also exchange or refund products for free if what they’ve ordered isn’t to their satisfaction.
“I think the internet being a great equalizer—and the largest distribution channel in the world—has allowed for a value proposition to be created around whatever it is you’re making,” Babenzien told Highsnobiety earlier this year about his businesses’ success. “Allowing yourself to sell it directly to the customer allows you to say: ‘I’m still going to make that same quality you’re looking for, that level of excellence, but I no longer have to charge you what you were paying before.’”
For working professionals looking good is a necessity, but can also be incredibly expensive. Bespoke suits can cost thousands of dollars, while alterations for off-the-rack outfits can end up being annoying and time-consuming. Proper Suit is hoping to change all of that with a platform that creates relatively affordable made-to-measure suits for men.
Here’s how it works: Customers put down a refundable $150 deposit and visit one of the company’s stores or traveling pop-up locations for a one-hour measurement session with a “fit specialist.” Afterwards, those measurements are shared with facilities in China that construct the suits, which are then shipped to the customer’s home.
What makes the company unique is that all of its suits are laser-cut with AutoCAD—a design technology more frequently used by architects and industrial designers. The software builds a blueprint of the suit, allowing for greater detail and nuance when constructing the garments. Each suit starts at $950—similar to other off-the-rack companies.
“My business partner and I, Richard, really love clothes,” Madden told Esquire about what inspired the business. “But when we got back from working in China, we didn’t understand why off-the-rack costs $2,000…We took the product and broke it down to the bare essentials, which are fabric, the pattern, and construction by a knowledgeable person.”
Dollar Shave Club
Grooming products are often seen as a fashion accessory that can either help or hinder a look, which is why we’ve decided to add Dollar Shave Club to our list.
The company’s ethos? Getting a good shave shouldn’t be a challenge for men, says Michael Dubin. The entrepreneur launched the startup in 2012 with co-founder Mark Levine after deciding there must be an easier—and hassle-free—way for men to purchase high-quality razors without having to visit retail shops. The company delivers curated boxes of shaving and grooming merchandise to a customer’s front door on the cheap. Goodie box products range from $3 to $9.50 per month, depending on the type of razor and blades consumer’s choose.
“For years, guys have been frustrated with the price of razors in the store and the experience of having to go to the store and find the razor fortress and have it unlocked,” he explained to Inc. “That whole thing is very unnecessary.”
In recent years, the company has racked up fans from across the country, which is why it’s no surprise that consumer goods conglomerate Unilever purchased the company in July for $1 billion.