Taking the stress out of shopping

Men are finding it easier to improve their look, writes Jeremy Loadman.

Men are finding it easier to improve their look, writes Jeremy Loadman.

When Minh turned 30 he, like many men, was struck by a feeling that he needed to start paying a bit more attention to his wardrobe.

While his situation was improved by adding a pair of Crockett & Jones black Oxfords to his shoe collection, when he realised he didn't really have anything to wear them with, he knew he needed help.

Of course, many men around this age face the same dilemma of wanting to dress differently but not knowing where to start; or in Minh's case, not knowing what to do after a pair of shoes suddenly shone a spotlight on the wider problems lurking in his wardrobe.

But with any discussion of the way men dress necessarily comes consideration of the way men shop. And in relation to the mistakes of the stereotypical male shopper - shopping at the same stores, being too one-eyed, and buying to replace rather than refresh - the question is often asked: is ignorance or impatience to blame?

Clothing retail marketing expert Steve Kulmar says male shopping habits are a large factor behind why men's fashions make up less of the Australian apparel market compared with Europe and the US.

"A lot of that has to do with the fact that in Australia, a lot of 'his' shopping is done by 'her'. However, we are seeing growth in men's fashion apparel sales in the Australian market and a lot of this is being driven by online sales," Kulmar says.

But while online sales may be increasing, this is no guarantee that men are learning to shop any better. The amount of choice online might be making things worse.

It is an issue Will Rogers thought hard about before deciding with Nick Gonios to co-found Kent & Lime, an online retailer where the stress is taken out of the shopper's hands.

Instead of choosing their own clothes, Kent & Lime customers are asked about their dress sense by a style adviser who then selects clothes for them from a variety of brands. The clothes are posted out and the customer has 10 days to try them on and make up his mind. What he likes he pays for; what he doesn't, he returns at no extra cost.

Rogers, a former menswear buyer for online store ASOS, says the idea behind Kent & Lime was to provide a genuine personal service that helps male shoppers cope with the often overwhelming choice online. "We thought there must be a way of reducing all that noise that is out there and give people a place to go that cuts through all the choice. That's what really sparked the idea," Rogers says.

The business is also trying to capitalise on the poor service many shoppers lament in bricks-and-mortar stores, Rogers says.

While Kent & Lime may appeal to the man who wants to look good but has no interest in shopping, two young Melbourne men have decided to tackle the problem from the opposite angle.

James Gallichio and Julian Burak are two fashion freelancers who are teaching men in Melbourne and Sydney how to improve the way they dress and shop better via their business, A Good Man.

"Our clients are men, typically between the ages of 25 and 40, who want to take more pride in their appearance. They want to achieve a sharpness in their look that comes from wearing classic shirts, suits, trousers, jackets and beautiful shoes," Burak says.

He stresses that their service is a long way from the makeover transformations that are the fodder of reality television shows.

"While quite often we're overhauling someone's look, we're not setting out to make them unrecognisable to their friends, and we always take into account any great clothes they already have. In fact, we do have clients who are well-dressed guys who enjoy shopping but come to us because they are busy and short of time.

"By helping them put together a base wardrobe which they can build upon and inject new pieces into, the whole process becomes a lot easier and typically they grow to enjoy the experience more."

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