THE PROS AND CONS OF CLOTHING SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES
Written by Ivan Yaskey in Stockists on the 2nd February 2021 / The Pros and Cons of Clothing Subscription Services
What do you do if you like style, but don’t particularly like the act of shopping? It’s a quandary men of all tastes find themselves in: They like looking good but wish to bypass the tedium of trying on shirts that don’t fit well or trousers that bag around the ankles. In the past, this excuse could be covered by a wardrobe strictly of high-quality classics. You aimed for an above-High Street retailer that offered decent construction but didn’t come with the price of tailoring, and you stuck with a few key pieces. Maybe you added a button-down shirt or new peacoat every five years or so. On the other hand, while this combination exudes timelessness, it can also become boring, making you feel as if you’re boxed in or missing out on something.
Enter the menswear subscription box. Subscription boxes as a concept took off just over a decade ago to provide convenience and a broad introduction to things – grooming, snacks, and even vegetables – that you ordinarily might bypass or tell yourself you’ll try them another time. Clothing isn’t exempt, and today, boxes of all types – from basics to strictly underwear to even vintage and plus sizes – can be found if you work hard enough.
In general, menswear subscription boxes excel in a few key areas. One, they’re a way to refresh your wardrobe without spending too much time on browsing and shopping. Especially when you’ve got a demanding job and other commitments, they streamline this process. Then, unlike an ugly produce box, where you don’t always know what you’re going to get, menswear subscription boxes offer a degree of customisation, based on your size, style, brands, and how much you’re willing to spend. It’s not a total crapshoot, and through the guidance of a stylist, you’ll likely end up wearing most of what you get. Also, on the subject of working with a stylist, your box can go in a couple of directions – exploring something new or finding what works for you. Even the most stylish or put-together men out there can feel as if they’re winging it at times, and this assistance can provide a degree of direction – particularly if you find areas of your wardrobe lacking. For instance, you’ve aced effortless weekend casual but still look a little off when you’re dressing for the office or a formal occasion. If you’ve considered trying out a menswear subscription box, here’s what you should know.
There’s Something for Everyone
Subscription boxes specifically for menswear – and not, say, men’s grooming products – go back to the Trunk Club. Owned by department store Nordstrom, the Trunk Club had – and still has – a different format from more recent subscription services. More similar to Knot Standard or Suitsupply with a mix of online and in-store services for finding the right size and fit, Trunk Club lets you work with a stylist in person at one of their physical locations in the US – found in major cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and Dallas – or do everything online. During these appointments, you discuss with a stylist your preferred style or look, get measured for your size and fit, and talk prices. Trunk Club set the stage for today’s bigger players. Stitch Fix spans men’s and women’s styles across a broad spectrum of brands, Bombfell has turned into the go-to box for smart-casual fare, and Amazon Prime, predictably, has gotten into the game after launching its own in-house menswear brands. Beyond these big three, plenty of other options are geared more toward a specialty consumer. French Canadian-based Frank & Oak presents a more sustainable option, offering garments made with organic cotton and recycled polyester and giving local brands some visibility. Basic Man, meanwhile, is exactly what it sounds like: a box full of essentials that you’ll likely run out of at some point or another, including briefs, T-shirts, and socks, with options for bright colours. On the luxury side, Italic has started a similar members-only service for access to higher-priced styles and accessories. Then, options like The Winston Box exist for plus-size men, and even vintage boxes, like Comma, can be found out there. Beyond this spectrum, the subscription box model extends to men’s accessories. SprezzaBox lets you explore various sunglasses, ties, pocket squares, and other accents, while Bespoke Post pairs high-quality clothing from brands like Grayers and Taylor Stitch with various accessories, from shoes and grooming products to knives and cooking supplies. Basically, if you’re interested in any style facet or angle, there’s likely a subscription box service out there to help you get started.
Offerings are Comprehensive
Before your box gets delivered to you each month, you typically meet with a stylist and fill out an assessment about your own personal preferences, price range, and what you’d like from your box. This approach, partially influenced by machine learning in the present, is crossed with an extremely broad selection of apparel and accessories spanning several in-house to partnering and higher-end brands to deliver a selection that has a higher likelihood of appealing to you. Stitch Fix alone, for instance, works with over 100 brands and offers XS to 3XL sizing. In short, whichever service you’re working with tries hard to provide you with as close of a match as possible.
In line with the points stressed above, menswear box subscriptions can be cost-effective to a degree – and they can also fit into your more luxury-leaning budget. With certain services, clothing can start around $20 to $30 per piece and spans upward past $500 for tailoring options and designer digs. When you break it down, you end up spending less on your wardrobe, even with the styling fee included, than if you decided to purchase everything individually. In general, sticking with the service’s in-house brands can significantly drop the price, whereas, once you start exploring name-brand options, the amount starts to increase. On top of this, as already mentioned, your box isn’t limited to clothing. With certain services, from specialty-centric ones like Bespoke Post to mainstream options like Bombfell, you can supplement your selection with accessories and grooming products.
The Cons of Menswear Subscription Boxes
In spite of the points listed above, a clothing subscription box isn’t for everyone. It can take a shipment or two to find the right fit when you’re working exclusively with a digital stylist. Especially if your torso and height aren’t a sample size, you may find you’re having to send the box back and make adjustments. Subscription box services aren’t like an eCommerce storefront – there are no sales to take advantage of. Some buyers have reported similar gym subscription-like arrangements after signing for a box service. You know what we mean: You get teased by the lower rates and then find yourself in a two-year contract that requires legal assistance to break. In the meantime, once you want to halt the arrangement, you’re still receiving stuff in the mail. Even with luxury-end services, you’re not going to get access to every single drop out there. Added to this, the streetwear-centric options for subscription boxes are surprisingly slim, considering market demand. HypeBox is the only strong contender out there. ThreadBeast follows a distant second by mixing some streetwear brands like Elwood, The Hundreds, and 10.Deep in with more basic offerings. If you’re looking for a truly standout piece, you’ll have a better chance combing through Grailed or a similar marketplace.
Have you ever tried a clothing subscription box service? #fashion— Menswear Style (@MenswearStyle) February 2, 2021
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