“Retail is tough. You can create something really cool and have the best looking label, but you have to ask yourself, are you actually selling anything?”, asks founder of The Tailored Man and menswear expert, Dalton Graham.
Fashion is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, and with men’s fashion online sales rising 26 percent in Australia, you can argue that there’s no area in fashion changing as quickly as menswear at the moment.
“It’s all about the bottom line. Designers need to listen to their customers. Guys are getting more and more fashion conscious every year, but also, consumer and retail behaviour has changed too,” says Dalton.
From humble retail beginnings, Dalton has gone on to become one of the biggest menswear bloggers in the country, drawing in over 100 thousand Instagram followers, and is no stranger to what it takes to make it in the word of men’s retail.
“You see a lot of stand-out pieces on the runways of top-tier labels and international brands, but the average guy won’t buy half of those looks,” he says.
According to Dalton, the evolution of menswear is largely consumer driven, trends now reflecting the more practical and comfortable clothing desired by men. This has created a ripple effect causing men to become more active, and excited shoppers.
Studies show that men aged between 18 and 29 are more likely to think of styling as a means of ‘self-expression’, whereas men over 60 still may consider it a ‘pain’. In fact, 48 percent of men now fall into the first category, leaving only 33 percent of men who feel tasked with shopping.
According to Dalton, this new wave of shop happy dudes stems from a combination of men taking more pride in their look, having more expansive sources of #fashioninspo through platforms like Instagram and developments in the market too.
“The evolution of menswear is really apparent in so many facets. I’ve worked in everything from retail to manufacturing to advertising, and definitely, guys are taking more pride in what they’re wearing. They are also more open to things.”, he says.
“Now, guys are getting inspiration online and shopping more online too. Previously the stats would be heavily on the side of women shopping online. But guys don’t like to shop for long, or too often; we’re all very loyal. Most men have a regular shop, label or piece they can go to every time.”
The economy has also caused the menswear industry to adapt.
“The retail space is skewed heavily to reflect the current economic climate and people want bang for their buck,” says Dalton. ” So there’s a big push towards buying good quality pieces and being able to inject them with some more affordable pieces, which is awesome. You could pair a Hugo Boss jacket with a pair of Uniqlo jeans for example.”
International labels and high street retail stores have also caused smaller labels and boutiques to get smarter with their product.
“Australia has seen so many international labels coming over and injecting cash into our economy because they can. H&M, Zara and Uniqlo, all have the backing so, this is probably where the biggest change has come from,” he says. “Boutique designers have to be more curated in what they’re putting together so that people actually get practically out of it. Not everyone wants to spend $500 on a one-off piece, it’s just not sustainable.”
According to Dalton, menswear is now less about following trends and more about what is comfortable and practical while being appropriate for the environment you’re in.
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“I think, as far as trends, you can say there are checks in suiting and this, that and the other, but that’s been the same for the last five or six years. I think now there’s a big push towards comfort, practicality and making that as tailored as possible.”
“Trends can be dictated by what’s happening in the work place, or what a particular industry wants. For example, banks are almost having casual Friday every day now, but there is still a certain togetherness required when dressing.”
While maintaining a tidy aesthetic is important, you can still have a little fun with your outfit and add some personal flair.
“Dress for the environment you’re in, but look for opportunities to show your individual flair. If you’re a quirky guy, look for ways to jazz up your look,” he says.
Dalton recommends looking to celebrities and influencers, or any guy’s style that you like, while also not being afraid of taking some fashion risks.
“Take inspiration from everywhere, Instagram is great. Whose style do you look up to or think is cool? Take inspiration from that. If you love a certain person’s look, but don’t think it will suit you, look at what you can incorporate. Be it a blazer, or the shoes or the chinos. But also, don’t be afraid to give it a whirl,” he says.
So what should every guy have in his wardrobe? Here are Dalton’s staples:
“One is a jacket you can be really flexible with, in a navy or a black. This can be a bomber, a blazer, a trench, just a jacket you’re comfortable in, and that’s versatile.”
“A great pair of chinos or jeans will always take you far. Make sure you’re comfortable in them and you’ll be able to wheel them out for most occasions.”
“You can’t go wrong in a basic white t-shirt and a crisp shirt. Sneakers and all the rest of it are just the add-ons. But, a jacket, a pair of jeans or chinos and a white tee, these are your core staple pieces,” says Dalton.
And one final pearl of wisdom?
“One thing that’s really important is togetherness and tidiness. If your hair is cut properly, you’re taking care of yourself, and if your clothes fit, people will perceive you positively. The little details apply in every facet of life.”