When it comes to fashion, menswear has long been relegated to the backseat by the industry. And with women’s fashion driving trends and sales, and women themselves making the majority of purchases across all categories, it has always stood to reason.
So it only makes sense that creative advertising for men’s fashion has remained a relatively untapped arena. But times are changing, and we’re now witnessing a seismic shift in both the market and the mindset. According to recent estimates by Bain & Company, men’s fashion is now the fastest-growing sector in the industry -- estimated to increase by about 14% per year. The driving force behind all of this? The Millennial male -- with a whole new emphasis on personal style.
Men are now taking a broader interest in fashion and style, using their wardrobe as a way to express who they are. Through accessories (scarves, watches, bags, etc.), irreverent details, unexpected patterns and vibrant colors, men are dressing with the aim of communicating individuality. It’s no longer acceptable to own just one plain black belt. Men are purchasing accessories that portray their daily mood. Club Monaco is a good example of a brand that recognized this change, and has started to produce menswear that is easily mixed and matched—still masculine in cut and color, but delivering personality through textures and forms.
There’s a new desire to stay current without crossing over into "trendy." The "frat-boy" uniform of a baseball cap, graphic-tee and jeans is a thing of the past. Men now want a look that is both casual and stylish -- and one formula for success can be found in the form of classic standbys that have been updated with a modern twist. New Balance achieved this blend through partnerships with brands such as J. Crew, delivering well-made, stylish shoes in vibrant colors and textures that flex as footwear for work or play (particularly in an age where less and less of us require a separate "work wardrobe"). Dockers has also taken note of this trend, aiming to reinvent the previously stuffy khaki category by rolling out new items like their "Alpha Khaki" pants -- a streamlined, comfortable iteration of the classic khaki with a jeans-like feel.
One of the biggest shifts is a renewed appreciation for quality and a mainstream move toward spending on pieces that last. Creativity is a new form of currency, and success today is defined by having something to say. The idea is to present yourself in a way that reflects your inner drive. Nobody wants to blend in, in the same mass-produced grey suit -- that’s no longer aspirational. Successful men stand out and their style tells a story.
As a matter of fact, the definition of success has undergone a fairly radical shift. New role models for men are those who have defined their own paths. They’re far less serious. Whether it be in entertainment, music, sports, or even politics, there is a line of humor, flexibility and defining outside-of-the-box thinking that comes through in the way that they dress. Millennial men look to emulate these new role models by combining what’s current with their own distinctive taste.
It’s impossible not to note the fact that young men today have access to nearly unlimited online shopping options and male-centric blogs. Men are able to see a new pair of sneakers on Facebook, track them down on an e-commerce Web site and have them shipped to their doorstep in record time. Endless inspirations, options and increased accessibility have redefined the way in which men are exposed to style.
So the question becomes: What are brands and marketers doing to capitalize on this shift? Realizing that men are becoming more fashion-conscious and shopping for more than just an occasional pair of socks, brands now need to change the way that they reach and engage these men through marketing strategies. Sex used to sell. But today’s consumer requires far more substance to give a brand their loyalty. The millennial male is interested in exclusive content -- an insider POV that entertains and makes him feel in-the-know, empowering him to be a trendsetter.
Ultimately, men today have come to embrace style and fashion as essential components to a successful and fulfilling life. And as a result, the brands that target these men must recognize this shift and adjust their marketing strategies accordingly, in order to complement this increasingly savvy and growing category.