You’ve probably noticed men are dressing better. They’re worried about how their shirts fit, and they’re buying cool glasses. They’re joining “shave clubs” and matching their belts to their shoes. Yes, people, men are accessorizing.
“Gone is the era of metro sexual, and the idea that normal dudes can’t dress well,” said Mark Bollman, founder of Boston-based men’s retailer Ball and Buck. “As I always tell our customers, you can’t be afraid to look good.”
But they once were. What changed? The internet. It has changed the experience of shopping for men. There are no lines; there’s no waiting. That’s why, according to researcher IBISWorld, menswear has seen more growth in e-commerce than any other category — about 16.7% annualized over the past five years. And the same report projects it will grow an additional 15% annualized over the next five years.
Brick-and-mortar shops, like Bollman’s Ball and Buck, have responded to this trend by improving the men’s shopping experience generally.
“Shopping is every guy’s worst nightmare, unless you’re shopping at a serious man cave like Ball and Buck where you can kickback on a leather couch and get a hot towel shave,” Bollman said. “For all other things the best answer is turning to the inter webs where free shipping and generous return/exchange policy’s mean that if it doesn’t fit how you expected, you can easily swap it out. For the holidays many stores run extended return policy’s online to accommodate gifting.”
This is news to a lot of men.
Who needs a brick?
The internet has changed the game for retailers, lowering costs now that brick-and-mortars aren’t necessary for sales. Warby Parker was one of the first brands to take advantage of this trend in menswear, but others have followed, selling a wider array of products than just glasses. Selection has exploded.
Leading the e-commerce high-end shoe space you have brands like Paul Evans and Jack Erwin promising high quality at a lower price. In suits you have brands like Indochino and Suit Supply in the $300-to-$900 range. But prices can go lower. Men who want a lower-priced suit ($200) but want to look better than a JoS. A Bank commercial are heading to Combatant Gentlemen for everything from a bag to a dozen white oxford shirts.
Founded in 2010, the company has had the distinction of becoming the most shipped menswear package at Goldman Sachs, according to cofounder Vishaal Melwani.
Melwani is a third-generation Versace tailor. He grew up watching celebrities go in and out of the secret door in the Versace store in his hometown of Las Vegas and cut his teeth making selvage denim. After selling one jean company, he decided he wanted to do something bigger. Something that used technology to make it easier for men to dress.
“I like the age-old saying ‘Keep it simple, stupid,'” Melwani told Business Insider. “A lot of people think it has to cost a lot of money to look great, but that’s not true. The basics are all you need to set your wardrobe off on the right foot, whether that be a few pairs of tailored slacks, a great cotton blazer that works with everything, or a pair of desert boots.”
“These things don’t have to cost a fortune, and once you find the right fit, all it takes are simple, versatile, and essential pieces to dress smarter,” he added.
Part of the reason they don’t cost a fortune at Combat Gent is that Melwani vertically integrated his company — owning everything down to the sheep that provide wool for suits. He leveraged his family connections to get his fabric produced at the same Italian mills that Versace used.
Combat Gent went as far as making a video to introduce its customers to the owners of the mills making their suits. If you can’t learn anything about the spirit of dressing well from these fresh Italian dudes, you can’t learn it.
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