I know this magazine is typically a source of optimism but I’m afraid you need to hear the truth.
Tailored clothing is dying.
I’ve been in the menswear industry since 2004. And while I’ve never actually sold a single piece of tailored clothing in that time, I’ve been tangentially a part of it as an accessories brand owner (twice). So I’d like to think I have a good sense of what’s going on in tailored clothing – and it’s not good.
Not good is a professional way of saying “totally f*cked”.
This isn’t the 2008 Great Recession. It’s so much worse. It’s so bad that it almost feels like the men’s tailored clothing industry itself being targeted by Covid.
Tailored clothing will be the last of all retail categories to come back. Like literally the very last one. Why?
Because as we all know, when given an option on whether to get dressed up, men historically choose not to get dressed up. We are the ones who are consistently outdressed by our female counterparts. We’re the ones who invented the look of a suit, tie…and underwear for Zoom calls. Men are why sweatpants and joggers are even a thing.
Yes, the trends were already moving in the casual direction well before the pandemic. The shift had begun and we were in the fight for our lives. Then COVID-19 hit. And now, tailored clothing, as we know it, has almost completely disappeared.
The last time we ran into such a serious step back was during the 2008 Great Recession. And we were able to bounce back, although through no credit of our own.
Without our prying or influence, men unilaterally chose to start getting dressed up again as a means of survival. Many were interviewing for jobs. Others got dressed up to impress their bosses as jobs were in peril. And many professionals dressed up to show their clients that they meant business. Throw in aspirational sartorial TV shows like Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and Suits and it made for a nice little resurgence that we all benefitted from.
That’s why by the early 2010s, all categories in tailored clothing were up. Suits, dress shirts, neckwear, and accessories all experienced a boost. But we, as an industry, had little to do with it. We were just the benefactors of change rather than the cause of it.
Which is why I write this editorial.
This time, we won’t have that luxury. Tailored clothing will not make a comeback on its own. Which means we have to get to work.
And unfortunately, none of us is individually capable of fighting this fight alone. The only way to really bring tailored clothing back now (rather than waiting for an inevitable cycle to kick in which could take years) is to work together as an industry. And now – right now – is the perfect time to start planning.
In some ways, we are lucky. Rarely have we found ourselves in such a perfect position to time a strong marketing message. With the vaccine here and knowing that the country should expect to open up again by mid to late summer, fall 2021 will be the likely time when many men are going back to the office. This also coincides with the busier shopping time for tailored clothing.
So it is why I call our largest industry leaders like PVH, Brooks Brothers, and Tailored Brands to take the lead and help lift us all. Along with smaller brands, we need to come together to create our own version of NATO to take on the casual world, rather than just succumb to it. Pool our resources, both human and financial, and create a messaging campaign to get men back into wearing (and buying!) tailored clothing again.
The messaging is easy. With the country will be opening up again, men will be going back to the office. There will be a certain renewed energy in the air from everyone. There will be excitement getting back to regular life and there will be a new appreciation for all the things we always took for granted. Including getting dressed up.
We need to feed off that energy. Jump on its back. Ride the wave and create a universal marketing message about coming back to the office and looking better than ever. We, the menswear industry, help determine what men look like. We create the style. We drive the story. We are the influence.
Some of the marketing will have to be through paid media. And while there is a cost for that, we will get an abundance of help from the free media as well. Menswear media, influencers, and bloggers who have all faced collateral damage will stand to benefit from a resurgence in tailored clothing. So there’s no doubt they will help us spread our message.
This is not just a ‘big idea’ I have. It’s a real call to action. I’m not writing this as an exercise or a bitch session. I’m here because I’d like to get something done. And I’m happy to put my money where my mouth is.
But I can’t do it alone. I need the help of the big guys who can help lift all boats in this low tide which we are all living in. Indeed, I need help from all of you. *We* need to do this together.
So who’s going to step forward first and save this industry with me?
Greg Shugar is currently the CEO and Creative Director at Beau Ties of Vermont Ltd. He is also the original founder of The Tie Bar and the co-founder of Thread Experiment.