Not only are some of the best new stores opening on Newbury Street for men, but these stores have something else in common: The shirts and trousers on the hangers are tailored to a body-conscious fit.
But is the average gent in Boston — those who are too often seen in generous wide-leg jeans and baggy shirts — ready for fitted clothes?
“I think there’s been a change in men’s fashion over the past few years,” says Andy Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos, which opened a store at 85 Newbury St. earlier this month. “It used to be that you wore whatever was comfortable, and that was the norm. I think that’s evolved to where guys are now caring about how their clothes fit. American guys are catching up to the clothes of a lot of European cultures.”
No doubt that news strikes fear into the hearts of that consort of Boston men who have been hiding their bodies under boxy shirts and pants. These are the pants that Dunn says result in a condition called “khaki diaper butt.”
“A lot of guys are just swimming under layers of clothing,” he says.
Formerly an online-only store, the Boston outpost of Bonobos is the first to open outside of New York. The brand has grown over the past five years by specializing in fitted trousers for men.
It’s not the only fit-conscious addition to the local menswear scene. Earlier this year Rag & Bone, which started as a men’s only brand before designing for both sexes, opened at 111 Newbury St. The Dutch company Scotch & Soda, also specializing in European fits, is interested in opening a two-floor store in the former J.P. Licks location. And this week, Fred Perry, the British company best known for snug-fitting casual clothes, also opened at 301 Newbury St. It is the brand’s only location outside of New York.
“For the past 60 years, we’ve always had a very slim aesthetic, and we’ve never moved away from that,” says Richard Martin, director of global marketing for Fred Perry, on the phone from London. “So it’s great for us that men’s fashion is moving in this direction.”
Martin says the shift is happening in part because men, who are notoriously slow to adapt to trends, are more aware of their appearance. It’s nearly impossible for guys not to feel self-conscious about their bodies when a very taut Channing Tatum is about to display his merchandise in the male stripper film “Magic Mike” and Michael Fassbender is stripping down just about everywhere.
Local menswear designer Jeff Lahens, who started the label JL Men’s and runs the website DressCode Boston (www.dresscodeboston.com), says men are also learning that they look better in clothes that are fitted to the body. In baggier clothes, guys tend to look boxy and shorter, no matter what their size, he says.
Just to be clear, Lahens and others are not advocating that men wear skinny, peg-leg jeans and gut-hugging tees. But they are saying that fitted clothes are the current fashion tide for good reason.
One local entrepreneur is so sure this is the silhouette men want that he started a company focused on making slim-fitting clothes for fit men in their 40s. Mark Paigen, the founder of Osmium, started selling clothes online (www.osmium.com) in April from his Stoneham-based headquarters.
“Some of the influence is the younger generation,” says Paigen. “I think those styles and that aesthetic start to travel north as time goes on, and some of the older brothers and uncles start to look at kids and think, ‘Maybe my pants are a little too baggy.’ That’s generally how a fad is adapted.”
Osmium is not yet in stores, but Paigen is hoping to sell the brand at pop-up shops this summer. He thinks the brand will sell because there is a population of men who are ready to ditch their dodgy wardrobes.
“The truth is that there are guys who are taking care of themselves,” he said. “If you’re going to do that work, you might as well show the results.”
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.