How the high street is finally helping men to find their fashion mojo

men in suits
The best menswear out there now (left to right): Givenchy, Celine, Louis Vuitton, Mike & Tom's, COS, John Lewis & Partners

‘The way men shop is changing,’ says Peter Cross, customer experience director at John Lewis & Partners, whose Oxford Street flagship is home to the members’-clubby men’s styling suite that opened earlier this month as part of the freshly renovated 20,000 sq ft menswear shopping floor. ‘It feels like this is a moment when men are getting their mojo back. We’re trying to create an experience that encourages them to take a step into the unknown.’

Whether you trace it to social media, Queer Eye, the rise of streetwear or Gareth Southgate and his waistcoat, British men seem to have found a new energy for fashion, shopping and getting dressed, overtaking women in their fervour. It’s an observation borne out by statistics: global sales of men’s apparel and footwear, valued around $583 billion ($450 billion) in 2019, are predicted to grow by 11 per cent through to 2023; womenswear is expected to grow by nine per cent over the same period.

‘The global demand for menswear has accelerated in recent years as male consumers become more image-conscious and willing to spend on fashion statements to help build their personal brand,’ says Marguerite Le Rolland, beauty and fashion consultant 
at Euromonitor International, the market-research provider behind the projections.

Brands have noticed and redoubled their efforts accordingly. Celine released its first-ever menswear collection in 2018, Givenchy designer Clare Waight Keller added men’s couture to her remit when she joined the house in 2017, and menswear designers Kim Jones and Virgil Abloh have converted scores of women over to the men’s department with their visions for Dior Homme and Louis Vuitton respectively since 2018.

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Beating the chill in style. Tap to shop. #gojumpers

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At the other end of the shopping spectrum, BoohooMAN by fast-fashion giant Boohoo has ballooned in popularity since launching in 2016. Marks & Spencer has refocused its menswear in a more stylish, more contemporary, better-fitting direction, which is getting more men through their doors – and not under duress from their partners this time. In September, the retailer promoted its new and improved fits at Mike & Tom’s, a menswear shop that popped up in London’s Soho. ‘Men are more style-conscious and want more from their wardrobe than ever before,’ says Wes Taylor, director of menswear at Marks & Spencer. Back at John Lewis, menswear is the most-shopped fashion category in every store nationwide, with 77 per cent of menswear sales taking place in-store as opposed to online.

Gareth Southgate at the World Cup in 2019

But just because men are purported 
to enjoy fashion now, doesn’t mean they know the right way to shop for it. ‘They 
like to get advice, but without knowing it too much,’ says Mark Lewis, a John Lewis style advisor so dashing, he carries two handkerchiefs (just in case). Men can be more ‘mission-focused’ than women, meaning they know what they want, and they tend to come into the store with a ‘search and destroy’ mentality. They’re creatures of habit, rebuying the same reliable shoe or jacket again and again, until it’s discontinued or someone intervenes. They may even – whisper it – be dressed by their partners. ‘A lot of wives or girlfriends nudge their men our way,’ says Lewis.

To increase shopping’s appeal to men, the store is making it easier, introducing non-pushy styling services such as Walk and Talk (30 minutes of free, low-key guidance as a stylist takes a client around the shop floor), the occasion-focused Event Decode, and the workwear-geared Modern Office consultation. This is gentle enough not to intimidate men who maybe haven’t got the memo that they’re supposed to like fashion now. Like my husband, who still brags about ‘discovering’ Cos after going there once, years ago, and who has bemoaned the lack of a service that would periodically auto-ship him more white Gap T-shirts, so he didn’t have to bother shopping for them. At the other end of the service menu, there’s the Ultimate Experience, trialled by Stuart Heritage for The Telegraph (read his review here)

Every session starts by checking measurements ‘just to be sure’, says Lewis. Sizing is one of the main mistakes he sees men make with clothes – oversized jackets that swamp a man’s frame being a particularly British legacy of years spent growing into too-large school uniforms. (His other most oft-seen style errors include men wearing too-long trousers, and doing up all the buttons on their blazers. ‘The bottom one should always be left open,’ he instructs.)

Their research has found that most men’s least-favourite stage of any shopping trip is trying on, so they’ve created a fitting room you’ll want to move into (all grey-blond wood flooring, with navy, grey and dusty-rose textiles plus a bar). And they’ve also woven experiences between the rails, offering you the chance to take a latte-art masterclass or try the new Beats headphones while you shop.

There’s no pressure to buy, but hey, if you come for the latte art and leave with a velvet blazer, all the better. ‘We just want the customers to be as relaxed as possible and really enjoy their time,’ says fashion buying director Christine Kasoulis. ‘Everybody’s got the right to look brilliant. What comes from great clothes is feeling better about yourself.’

Five easy wardrobe updates for men, as recommended by style adviser Mark Lewis

1. The wax jacket

From the Made For Japan range, this is a cool, elongated update on the typical Barbour silhouette.

Waxed-cotton jacket, £299, Barbour

2. The casual suit

Corduroy is big right now, and I like that you could  wear these as separates.

Corduroy jacket, £210, and trousers, £90, both  John Lewis & Partners

3. The haute hoodie

You might wear this with matching trousers on a flight, but it would also be really good under a long overcoat

Cashmere hoodie,  £225, Reiss

4. The fine roll-neck

This has a retro feel to it, but it’s quite versatile to wear with trousers or jeans, and it’s really nice under a blazer 

Wool-silk jumper, £65,  John Lewis & Partners

5. The dash of colour

I encourage clients to  wear colours a little brighter, like the spices: turmeric, curry, paprika…

Needle-cord slim-fit shirt, £45, John Lewis & Partners

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