Why is the menswear category booming?

Men's clothing is going through a "category shift," and it has to do with the pandemic.
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· 3 min read

Men shopping more than women? Until recently, the idea seemed improbable to many people. But things are changing. Recently, both Capri Holdings (parent company of Michael Kors) and Tapestry (which owns Stuart Weitzman, Coach, and Kate Spade) said menswear will become an important area of growth over the next year.

  • Euromonitor predicts menswear will grow faster than womenswear in the next four years, and hit $547.9 billion by 2026.

Staying put: The boom in menswear can be attributed in part to the pandemic, as consumers working from home became accustomed to casual and athleticwear. “The menswear market has been undergoing a category shift in which men are wearing more casual, sporty shirts and clothing to work and are wearing formalwear less,” Sunny Zheng, an analyst at Coresight Research, told Retail Brew.

  • Among the top 10 men’s brands, the athleticwear category “and the top three athletic brands—Adidas, Nike, and Under Armour—have seen the largest gains over the past five years, from a combined market share of 8.3% in 2017 to 9.8% in 2021,” Zheng noted.

Luxury players are also taking note of the growth in the menswear category. Louis Vuitton, for instance, opened a men’s store in Beverly Hills in July. Meanwhile, to pique men's interest, Burberry, Gucci, and Balenciaga have signed male sports ambassadors or hired male athletes to walk in their fashion shows.

On the other end of the spectrum, pandemic-era restrictions have eased, boosting previously overlooked categories like men’s footwear. “Luxury men’s clothing and footwear accounted for around 8.5% of total US men’s clothing and footwear sales, by value, in 2021,” Zheng told us.

The rise of gender fluidity in celebrity icons like Harry Styles have also contributed to the boost in the menswear category.

“Harry Styles is a good example of [someone] who is very fluid, and you just see a lot more people on the street now wearing whatever they want to, and accessorizing themselves however they want to,” Brian Ehrig, partner in the consumer practice of Kearney, told Retail Brew.“I definitely think that's a consumer trend that is going to have some sticking power.”

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Future perfect: But as brands try to capitalize on the growing menswear market, they need to follow a few ground rules. Most male consumers tend to be “creatures of habit,” Ehrig said, meaning they could be looking to replicate classic styles in different colors or patterns.

He also recommended personalized selling, since men “tend to need to be pushed a little bit to try out new types of things into their wardrobe.”

His golden rule for retailers is to understand their customers. For instance, a shoe company making other small leather goods like wallets and belts makes sense. “But if you're a shoe brand, and now you want to offer a suit to go with that, that takes a whole other skill set,” Ehrig said. “You'd have to figure out if a consumer who buys shoes from you today would want to buy [a suit] from you. So brands need to make sure they spend the time doing the work to understand what their consumers would actually want from them.”—JS

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