Men are quite often utilitarian shoppers who want to spend as little time as possible trying on and buying clothing.
But if retailer anecdotes from the past few years are accurate, there are signs of a sea change in menswear shopping.
“Something has changed culturally where now it is okay to talk about [clothing] and to care about it,” says Andy Dunn, CEO and Founder of Bonobos, which is now open at Buckhead Atlanta. “It used to be there was this American cowboy ethos where you don’t want to appear to be vain…but at the same time, if you want to feel confident in what you are wearing, it probably isn’t good to be wearing khakis you are swimming in.”
Dunn never learned about clothes when he was growing up. His dad was a history teacher. Clothing was not the topic of dinner conversation. But in 2007, Dunn founded Bonobos with biz school buddy Brian Spaly and an evolution was born — for them and for menswear retailing.
They began as an e-commerce shop selling chinos. Their goal was to create pants that actually fit and the secret was in the curved waistband. Add to that, special attention to how the pants fit in the crotch and the thigh, and guys could end up with clothing that approximated a custom fit.
With three styles, the standard (a basic fit), the slim (midway between standard and European fit) and tailored (a European fit), men also had the option of changing up their personal style. When they added of shirts, suits and other items to the mix, Bonobos offered men full wardrobe options. In 2011, they began opening Guideshops — physical locations that offer customers the chance to see, touch and try on clothing before they buy.
“Atlanta is a huge market for us,” Dunn says. “We were wondering where is the right place to plant the flag in Atlanta.” The answer came with Buckhead Atlanta in a space located just across from the Shake Shack.
Guys who make an appointment (or just show up at the store) are led through a 15 minute process — which includes lifestyle questions and current wardrobe options — to determine their size. Once the customer has been sized for pants and a shirt, he never has to try on anything else. Ever…unless he wants to.
Bonobos guides then use the pant and shirt sizing to help the customer find or upgrade his personal style. Is he interested in a more fitted style of shirt? Does he want to overcome his baggy-bottom khakis syndrome? Guides can offer assistance in building an entire wardrobe or just finding the perfect pair of pants. When a guy has decided on his options, he can pay for his items and the guide will make the order in-store or men can choose to go place an order online. Shipping is free and purchases arrive in one to three days.
If it seems strange to walk into a physical store and leave empty-handed, know that is the only way Bonobos can offer such a large assortment of colors, styles and fits — more than 10,000 unique items (3,500 of which are variations on chinos), Dunn says.
“You don’t need stores to carry all your stock, but what you do need stores to do is deliver amazing customer service,” he says. So guys can sip SweetWater while they shop at Bonobos. And their friends and family can lounge on comfy couches.
Most guys don’t have clothing in their closets that fits, says Ron Thurston, Director of Retail. And tailoring is something most men would rather not do. What they want, is a made to order feel, off-the-rack, he says.
Bonobos pros use body type as their guide to fit and can find ways to make the different fits work for different sizes — like the guy with a 38-inch waist who wanted (and got) a slim fitting pant.
One of the most popular items is the Bonobos Tuxedo. There are also pants called Weekday Warriors with the days of the week embroidered in the waistband. The Daily Grind shirts offer wrinkle-free everyday shirts in a range of patterns. The Maide collection appeals to golfers (and non-golfers) with shirts and pants in patterns and styles made for the sport.
Sweaters, dress shirts, denim, suits and more are all available for guys to buy and guides are there to help them learn how to wear it well. They’ve been known to show customers how to wear a newly purchased suit five different ways. Or answer pressing style questions about the protocol of wearing blue with gray (it’s okay) or black clothing with brown shoes (also okay), without making guys feel ridiculous.
Prices range from $88 – $98 for chinos and dress shirts up to $740 for a wool suit or $798 for a cashmere blazer. Jeans are $98 – $108, everyday shirts are $85 and a plaid tuxedo jacket is $695 (the pant is $265).
The Guideshop serves men of all ages, styles, frequent shoppers and men who prefer to shop once a year. Wherever a man falls on the spectrum of shopper, at Bonobos Guideshops, with a minimal amount of time and the least amount of effort, he can find clothing that actually fits.
Bonobos, 3035 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta.678-215-1617. Hours: Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sun: 12- 6 p.m.
Bonobos is giving a special discount to our readers who make a purchase at Bonobos Guideshop Buckhead Atlanta www.bonobos.com/guideshop.com. If you book your appointment by December 19th, you will receive 20% off a purchase by referencing AJC either in the notes section when scheduling an appointment or during your appointment.