Few people are better positioned to chart the evolution of male shopping habits than the gentlemen at luxury e-tail site Mr Porter. We met with Andrew Barker, editorial director of Mr Porter Post magazine, and Adam Welch, daily content editor of Mr Porter’s The Daily, to learn more about changing tastes, hero pieces and the enduring appeal of the pink shirt.
Has e-tail made men shop more?
How are the shopping habits of men changing?
Andrew Barker: I think men's shopping habits are evolving and getting more adventurous. There is definitely an appetite for self-expression.
Adam Welch: The emancipation of menswear is something that has been happening since the mid-2000s, and there has been a lot more conversation about menswear. But things move very slowly in menswear, and now it is being driven by the mood and style of Gucci. It has really shifted the emphasis to this idea of showing of your personality, that you have an opinion and want to say something with what you wear. We are seeing people gravitate towards statement fashion – the edgy, hero pieces, like Gucci slippers or a Vetements sweater. Men tend to be much less varied in their tastes when it comes to clothing, but what we see is that if we present men with options, they want to experiment and try different things.
How do men’s online shopping habits differ from women's?
Barker: What we have done is provide the most efficient way for men to shop. I don't think men don't enjoy shopping, but that it is inefficient going from shop to shop. Now that we can offer a Zegna suit, Church's brogues, an IWC watch and a Charvet shirt all in one place, I think that is enormously appealing to a man who knows his brands, and knows what he likes. In the last 12 to 18 months, we have seen a real appetite for luxury weekend driving-wear like Tod's, Brunello Cucinelli and Tom Ford, by men who know their brands, want the best quality and are willing to pay for it.
Welch: Clearly, the luxury customer is building out his wardrobe and becoming more confident about dressing in a more versatile way. The guy that previously might only have worn smart casual now has the option of a cashmere sweatpant or a shearling blouson jacket. Mr Porter launched five-and-a-half years ago with a 26-year-old customer. He is 31 now, and probably has a bit more money, he has grown in taste, and is upgrading from a sweatshirt to a cashmere knit.
As the UAE is one of the world’s fastest expanding luxury markets, do trends here tend to follow global trends, or does this region create its own micro-trends?
Welch: It's very difficult in this globalised, internet world for anything to happen in isolation any more, but in the UAE there is a high-end, luxury focus on brands like Loro Piana, the new Gucci and Alexander McQueen. It's more the expressive, personality-driven end of the luxury sector.
What were the big trends for spring/summer 2017?
Welch: The mood for a while has been very nostalgic; it’s all about vintage and retro. There is the continuing 1950s Golden Age trend, which is when the male wardrobe first started loosening up – so that loose 1950s Havana style, with lots of pastels.
Barker: There was a lovely Cuban Havana style going on, with pleated trousers and collar shirts at Ami, Officine Générale, Paul Smith and Missoni.
Welch: There is also a strong 1970s thing, with the invention of sportswear, striped tracksuits, retro sneakers and a colour clash at Neil Barrett and Paul Smith. There are lots of specific product trends that are good for this region, such as long, light summer coats at Boglioli, and casual, open-back shoes. Many brands are beginning to repurpose their themes to fit with summer climates, for example taking espadrilles and pairing with a traditional British shoemaker.
And what trends can we expect for autumn 2017?
Welch: I think we’re going to really see the pink trend continue to develop throughout the summer and pre-fall period – it’s really caught on both among celebrities and influencers, as well as our customers. What’s good about the new varieties of pink that are being put forward by brands at the moment is that they’re very dusty and light, which makes them a little more neutral – very easy to wear with other classic men’s colours such as beige, navy, light grey and even black (for a stronger contrast). For somewhere very hot like the UAE, I would recommend looking at slouchy jackets, shorts and half-placket shirts in pink linen that we’ve just had delivered from Italian brand Barena – both the cut and fabrication will make it easy to add a flash of colour to smart casual outfits in warm weather.”