Men shop for fashion accessories after slow recession

He is back.

The male shopper, who was pretty much in short supply at the start of the recession, is buying again. And to the delight of retailers, it’s not only sourcing suits and dress shirts, but also doing something women have been doing for years: gorging on accessories.

Wristbands. Bags. Hats. Umbrellas. Men are buying so many accessories that some forecasters are predicting growth in men’s clothing and accessories sales in the first three months of this year will hit a 20-year high.

“This guy had been out for a while during the most difficult times,” said David Witman, general merchandise manager for Nordstrom’s men’s division.

To make traditional women’s accessories appeal to men, some designers give them manly names and styles. It’s not really a bracelet; it’s wristbands. And it’s not a handbag, nor the dreaded wall, but a tote.

“It doesn’t look like you borrowed it from your girlfriend,” Nicolas Travis, 24, a business school student who runs the Style Flavors blog, said of his favorite inhabited styles. “A little more bling, and you run the risk of it looking a little more feminine.”

The return of the male shopper could have broad implications for the economy. Retail sales fell during the recession, with sales of men’s clothing falling almost twice as fast as women’s in 2009, according to an analysis of retail data from IBM Global Business Services.

Women started buying again, which helped drive the recovery forward. But men delayed buying clothes and accessories until last year, when men’s estimated sales rose more than 8%, outpacing women’s sales growth.

Spending on accessories is driving the men’s category: those sales rose 14% in the last half of 2011, to around $6 billion, according to market research firm NPD Group.

Credit…Régis Colin/NowFashion.com

“Men were the last to start spending coming out of the recession,” said Eric Jennings, director of menswear at Saks Fifth Avenue. “If they’ve learned one thing during the recession, it’s that looking schlumpy won’t help you keep your job, get a promotion, or get a new job. I think they take their looks more seriously.

The rebound in shopping may also reflect an improved employment picture for men, who have been disproportionately affected during the recession. The gap between male and female employment rates was about as wide as ever when the recovery began in June 2009. It was only last month that male and female unemployment rates reached the same level.

Male models walking the catwalks at New York Fashion Week this month wore, among other adornments, scarves that could double as blankets; fur belts, pouches and scarves; caps and handbags; feather collars; and metal cuffs.

Jewelry designers and fashion executives say the trend comes largely from Italy and Japan, where men don silky scarves or pile on bracelets and berets nonchalantly. With the proliferation of street style blogs, young men in particular can quickly embrace trends from overseas. Mr. Jennings of Saks also mentions TV shows like “Boardwalk Empire,” where cool characters dress with panache, as a big influence.

“Where before wearing a leather jacket and jeans was a way to rebel,” he said, “now you see guys on the sidelines, more edgy characters, wearing suits, pocket squares. suit and tie clips.”

He added: “Men feel more confident to experiment and realize they have more options, and it shows in the numbers – it shows in the sales.”

At Burberry stores, for example, sales of men’s accessories were up about 50% in the six months to September 2011 compared to the same period a year ago. Coach, which makes items like men’s briefcases and tote bags, says global sales of men’s products doubled to $200 million in the fiscal year ending June 2011, and s expects sales to double again, to $400 million, for its current fiscal year. year.

The bracelet is perhaps the most striking example of the accessory craze.

It’s hard to imagine the archetypal businessmen of the past decades – the power-suited broker of the 1980s, the wearer of khaki and oxford-blue shirts of the 90s, or the hoodie-clad tech titans 2000s – picking out a piece of jewelry each morning as they dressed for work. But now, fashion executives say, sales of men’s bracelets, especially the thin leather or metal versions, are growing at a rapid pace.

“Bracelets are on fire right now,” said Tim Bess, who analyzes menswear for the Doneger Group, a trend forecaster. “I would say this is the #1 look for the young man.”

Tateossian, a London-based jewelry designer, says sales of its men’s bracelets increased 30% in 2011.

“Globally we are known as a cufflink brand, but over the past year our sales have evolved such that we now sell more bracelets than we sell cufflinks” online and in Tateossian’s own stores,” said Robert Tateossian, the company’s chief executive.

When he saw sales start to pick up, Mr. Tateossian said, he started pushing U.S. retailers to increase inventory. Saks, after testing its men’s bracelets in a few places, is now wearing them more widely, while Neiman Marcus has agreed to wear the bracelets this spring.

“You can go to a meeting, and it will be discreetly tucked under your sleeve with just a piece showing,” he said. “You’ll look sharp, you’ll look professional, and you’ll get that complete look. In a way, that’s how to look polished without looking like a banker.

Designers keep accessories as far away from feminine as possible, for the most part.

“It’s not necessarily a big statement saying, ‘I wear jewelry for men,'” Evan Yurman, design director, menswear and watches, at David Yurman said of the company’s bracelets that can be hidden under a sleeve.

Miansai makes its men’s bracelets from thin rope, similar to what a rock climber would use, and uses a metal anchor as the clasp. David Yurman sells one in braided brown rubber, and Diesel produces metal-studded leather cuffs.

“It’s leather; it is material; it’s a military aesthetic,” said Theresa Palermo, chief marketing officer of Fossil Inc., which holds the license for Diesel accessories.

Mr Tateossian said his brightly colored bracelets, in shades of orange and red, sold nowhere near as much as more subdued versions. Men, after all, can only be pushed so far.

“The colors that are exhausted? Guess,” he said. “Black, blue and brown.”

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