Younger Men Suit Up

Discussion
Feb 23, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

While many older men equate the term suit and tie with stiffness, their younger counterparts are buying more formal apparel in increasing numbers, reports The Los Angeles
Times
.

According to NPD Group, apparel sales rose 4% in 2004 and men’s tailored clothing was up 24%.

“Younger consumers who never worked in a suit, owned a suit or even have seen a suit — except in the movies or on television — have gravitated toward the suit like
they discovered it,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst.

That’s great news for chains such as Men’s Wearhouse Inc., which is estimated to have a 22 percent share of the men’s suit market in the U.S. The retailer sells more than a million
suits and 2 million ties a year. Last year, the retailer’s profit rebounded after two straight years of declines.

Moderator’s Comment: Does the increase in suit sales reflect a fundamental change in male consumer shopping behavior? If yes, how else is this evidenced
and what does it mean for retailers and other marketers targeting men?

George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "Younger Men Suit Up"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Oops! I misread the story! Suits up 24%, not 4%. That’s a horse of a different color. I was joking about the rebelliousness. Yes, suits can look good. I’m neutral to them when it comes to credibility and authority, having seen just as many geniuses and idiots in suits as I have seen in blue jeans over the years. I’m still curious as to what drove the 24% number, in terms of upscaling, unit increases also, currencies, etc. But I guess as a New Yorker now living the life of a blue jeaned hermit in Vermont, I should stay out of fashion discussions henceforth. No, I don’t really get it, but it’s not a problem for me — I just don’t much care one way or the other. Whatever makes you happy, you should do. And nobody should ever judge you by your clothes. Amen. Well, time to go out and slop the hogs…

Lisa Everitt
Guest
Lisa Everitt
15 years 9 months ago

The NBA All-Star Game came to Denver last weekend and I am pleased to announce that, based on the apparel of the crowd, dressing up is back. My pal who works at the headquarters hotel downtown reported that Shaquille O’Neill appeared in a beautifully tailored, dove-gray suit, a snazzy fedora and sneakers of unusual size.

If the African-American superstars are wearing suits, that means African-American kids can’t be far behind and the rest of the kids won’t be far behind them.

I applaud this trend. “Every girl crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man,” as the song goes.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 9 months ago

I think the trend is towards dressier casual lately. For corporate types, wearing a “uniform” may be important for what it conveys to colleagues, suppliers, customers, etc. But, you won’t catch many entrepreneurs sitting around in suits and ties, so the blue-jeans type can be pretty productive, too. Personally, the Steve Jobs look works for me, and he’s been modestly successful. It is generational, too, and some of us boomers just haven’t got the casual thing out of our systems.

A puzzling trend for a confirmed casual like me is men’s cosmetics. In Manhattan today, I noticed that a popular cosmetics outlet on 5th Avenue had 25% or so male customers. While it’s puzzling to us non-metrosexuals, it’s today’s reality.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

I dunno…4% ain’t exactly a stampede. Could it be our weakening dollar vs. overseas currencies, since most apparel is imported? What effect did less aggressive price cutting over the Christmas season have? Maybe it’s just an upscaling of the suits that are bought. I’d like to see if units were up, not just dollars. So I clicked “not sure,” a rarity for me. But of course fashion is cyclical. And I recall joking, many years ago, that our kids would rebel against us crazy hippies and start wearing suits again. Stranger things have happened. Almost daily.

Franklin Benson
Guest
Franklin Benson
15 years 9 months ago

I think most retailers would be ecstatic with a 24% increase in sales, especially with what are presumably Comp Sales, and when the overall segment rose by only 4%.

There are good reasons to wear suits, but I can’t get my mind around rebelliousness as being one of them. Credibility and authority are more like it. That and just plain old “Looking Good.”

If the boomer generation doesn’t “get it,” that’s their problem.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
In conversations with Men’s merchants, this trend has been underway for some time. If not suits as we once knew them, there is certainly a move in progress (albeit slow) towards a ‘dressier’ casual in the workplace. That is to say, maybe not all the way to the necktie and suit or sport coat, but pretty close. I am reluctantly for it. I believe the pendulum had swung too far the other way to the point where there was no distinction between work and play. There is something to be said for being dressed for work. I fully realize that this might not be popular and I understand that. We saw it happen when Target made their attire decision. It had nearly as much discussion as their decision about the Salvation Army. The spectrum went from those who considered it lunacy to those that fully supported it. In the end, each organization has to decide what is right for their culture and environment. They have to decide what fits. No matter what the migration in… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Here’s a speculative analysis: The “business casual” trend of the past half-decade broke the mold of the button-down business uniform. Suits were out, khakis were in (please no cut-offs or skateboarding in the hallways!).

As Warren aptly observes, we have met plenty of empty suits in our time. But clothing remains symbolic in our culture as in any other. Men’s suits convey authority, probity, status, prosperity. Some of us may desire to put on that mantle from time to time.

Today, super-casual is less acceptable, but fashion options remain broader in the workplace. It makes sense that retailers might periodically promote the suit-and-tie option, because it may lead men to acquire more clothes overall and to replace them more frequently. In this respect, marketing suits to men seems a shade closer to the way fashion is marketed to women.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 9 months ago

Women are back to wearing more suits in the work place and men are following suit. Trends such as the “metrosexual” as well as the more formal dress tendencies of certain consumers (including African American and Hispanics) contributes to this as well. It’s a welcome shift out of the confusing limbo of business casual. Perhaps it will lead to some behavioral changes that will impact productivity and professionalism.

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