While shopping passed from chore to enjoyable pastime for women years ago, for most men – whether they love fashion or see clothes as the only thing separating us from the animals – it remains something of an arduous task.
A supermarket-sweep-style trip around the favoured outfitter would no doubt suffice, leaving a happy shopper laden with jeans, shirts and jumpers without the need to grace the inside of a changing room.
So far, so familiar, but a silent revolution in menswear has occurred since the turn of the millennium as men’s fashion made its way out of the niche-interest category and into the consciousness of the modern man.
Regardless of one’s fashion credentials though, there’s no denying that some men just don’t see shopping as a pastime in the way that women have long been programmed to do. And, of course, the advent of the internet changed the way men could shop forever – enabling the complete restocking of a wardrobe in a lunch break. So in a landscape where online retailers are carving up the competition, and increasingly enriching their sites to compete with their bricks-and-mortar rivals, is it any surprise that those traditional shops are fighting back?
One way traditional retailers are manning the barricades is by offering tangible services and experiences that, no matter how rich their text, the online giants would find it impossible to match. One such venture is the recently opened Spitalfields store of gentlemen’s outfitters Hackett. As well as tailor-made suiting with Savile Row roots and hand-picked pieces from across the preppy, sporty and country casual lines, Hackett’s new concept store welcomes customers to make use of a billiards table and bar while mulling over any purchases. In addition to the young members’ club vibe that the store is attempting to create with mid-century modern furniture and vintage taxidermy, is a barber courtesy of the modern grooming brand Murdock.
If you are buying into a tailored look, it’s not a great leap of the imagination for retailers to see that you would probably want to be sufficiently groomed to match. Another illustrious British brand that has invested in offering more than just clothes to its customers is Alfred Dunhill, the venerable tailor that offers layers of luxury in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and London. Over three floors of the Georgian former home of the Duke of Westminster, Bourdon House in London’s Mayfair, Dunhill attempts to cater to every need of the modern gentleman. As well as bespoke tailoring, overcoats and leather goods, a barber, spa and screening room are open to all. A cellar bar serves breakfast, lunch and an early supper, while a cigar humidor provides the finishing touch. The House is known to be something of a home away from home for the brand’s international clients.
While at one end of the scale Dunhill’s offering is the last word in luxury, it is far from the only retailer to attempt to enrich the customer experience.
Earlier this year, the casualwear brand Superdry took up residence at the five-storey former home of Austin Reed on Regent Street, in the basement of which is a listed art-deco salon. Designed and built in 1929 by Percy Westwood and Joseph Emberton, the salon was lovingly refurbished by Tommy Guns, a London salon chain established in 1994. Restored to its former glory, the salon now boasts original 1930s’ barber chairs and cabinets in gleaming chrome alongside Travertine marble floors and deco neon lights. As well as the salon, a gallery within the store showcases the hand-designed graphic T-shirts Superdry became best known for, while in June the store was used to present a collaboration with the tailor Timothy Everest during London Collections: Men.
Something of an extension of the pop-up phenomenon that has rocketed in recessionary times, by using expensive commercial space wisely brands are able to diversify and retain their customers – and their disposable income – while at the same time building a multi-faceted brand that can be used to tap into markets that continue to overlap as time-poor shoppers look to make every moment count.
Hackett: 75-77 Brushfield Street, London E1 6AA; 020 7377 5393
Murdock: 020 3393 7946
Alfred Dunhill: Bourdon House, 2 Davies Street, London W1K 3DJ; 020 7853 4440
Superdry: 103/113 Regent Street, London, W1B; 020 7440 5100
Tommy Guns: 020 7734 5700