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Gay men holding each other as they look at a tablet
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Shopping From Home!

Source: Corbis

Computer Couture Convenience

Men Don't Gotta Go to the Mall

Why you should care

Because we all gotta wear clothes—and sometimes you just need some direction to look sharp.

Most guys, myself included, hate shopping. Unless it’s waiting in line for a giant plasma TV or the latest iDevice. But clothes? Not so much.

Still. It’s bad news if that aversion starts interfering with potential swagger.

Clothing subscription services are sort of like taking your girlfriend with good taste to the mall to help you shop—without the girlfriend or the trip to the mall.

Thankfully, a number of emerging online subscription services are doing the heavy lifting by recommending styles and shipping boxes of selected clothing to your door, meaning you can shop like a modern (lazy) man from the comfort of your couch—even in your not-so-stylish underwear. Personal retail is a megamarket in fashion (especially women’s), pulling in about $762 million in revenue and growing each year. Successful personal stylists reportedly can earn well into the six figures.

Which is why bringing that service to the Web is a smart biz idea.

These clothing subscription services are sort of like taking your girlfriend with good taste to the mall to help you shop—without the girlfriend or the trip to the mall.

One example of the craze in action is New York-based Bombfell, a monthly clothing subscription service for men. To get started, you input important details like height, weight, body shape, sizes, stuff you’d never wear and what brands you wear today. Bombfell then funnels that data—along with relevant public details (e.g., location and occupation) from your social media accounts—to help narrow down the types of clothes that might suit you best.

It’s part algorithm, part human touch: The system pinpoints items of clothing that might work, but an actual Bombfell stylist makes the final call for what goes into each box. Subscribers set a budget-per-piece category ($50 minimum), so the choices won’t bust the wallet. And each month, guys can also veto the choices, as Bombfell sends a preview email before shipping.

African American man on computer

Source: Corbis

The idea is to make the shopping process as frictionless as possible in a clothing market with so many options, according to Bombfell co-founder Bernie Yoo.

“We take out the need to know what looks good on yourself or the need to bring someone along physically who does, and let you try it on in the convenience of your own home,” Yoo said.

For those who want even more of a personal touch, there’s Chicago-based Trunk Club, which offers higher personalized service but with a premium price tag. Each item from Trunk Club generally costs at least $100, and the clothes are hand-selected. Trunk Club stylists work with customers through consultations via phone, email, text message, or the company’s app and website.

Shoppers have long been over-ordering online and shipping back. These businesses are a wink-nudge-nod of institutional acceptance of the practice.

While Bombfell and Trunk Club pull clothes from brands and designers, other subscription services sell their own branded clothes. For $60 a month, Five Four Club will send a box with clothing worth at least $120. Frank & Oak’s Hunt Club lets its customers pick three of its items a month to try on at home and pay for only those they end up keeping.

Monthly clothing subscriptions are available for women, too: Stitch Fix charges a $20 styling fee, and StyleMint makes each monthly collection in limited quantities.

And certainly, some shoppers have long been in the business of over-ordering online and shipping back. But these businesses are a kind of wink-nudge-nod of institutional acceptance of the evergreen practice. Plus, it’s a sign that clothes are stepping deeper into the online retail market—one that’s burgeoning, along with AmazonFresh being tested for grocery delivery; Warby Parker making it fun to shop for prescription glasses online with home try-on; and companies like Dollar Shave Club, Manpacks and Birchbox delivering toiletries and essentials. Could it be that we might see more than just Macy’s online? Might we be working toward a classier Amazon-for-style?

You might never have to leave your laptop.

That’s a scary thought. But at least there’s no Orange Julius to spill on you from the screen.

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