Pushing Men to Try Something New

by Harry Sheff

For many men in their later twenties and early thirties, shopping for clothes is not a habit. They’ve got other things to do. While a lot of these guys care about their appearance (they’ll work out obsessively), dressing themselves well can be overlooked. A few recent experiences highlighted this fact:

1. I complimented a friend on his shoes, a nice looking pair of Campers, and he told me that his wife got them for him. She had also bought the jeans he was wearing. He told me he hadn’t bought himself any new clothes for years.

2. My brother needed new clothes. He complained that he’d been wearing the same stuff—a pair of jeans and a plain black t-shirt—for way too long; it was starting to become an accidental uniform. We went to a mall, and when I tried to get him interested in a nice light-colored plaid linen shirt, he got nervous. Too different, too bright. “I know my wife will love this,” he said, “so I should probably get it. But I really don’t want to.”

3. I was interviewing someone for a men’s fragrance story I’m working on, and I asked him how he’d handle a typical guy who comes into a store: a guy who already has a favorite cologne. There was a long pause where I thought I’d lost the phone connection. “I don’t think there’s anything you can do,” he said.

Here are three fairly common tales of male retail behavior. Their wives will get them things because they have little interest in making the time. Once they start to panic that they need new clothes, they’re confused and they’ve been out of the fashion loop for so long that buying almost anything is seen as a fashion risk. And these guys in their late twenties and early thirties have such a reputation for being inflexible that sales people give up trying to sell them on something new.

My brother ended up buying that plaid shirt I recommended. The next time I saw him he happened to be wearing it, and I complimented him on it. “Oh no, this is different one,” he said. “After my wife liked the one I bought with you, I went back and got a different color.”

Guys need a push. Once they want to buy something, they may still need help making decisions. So for all the salespeople out there, remember, many men who venture out shopping without their wives or girlfriends may desperately need help, and they may be afraid to ask. But be gentle, because they intimidate easily.