Apps have taken over our digital devices, from laptops to smartphones, e-readers to TVs. They are predominantly how we access information and interact with each other and the rest of the world. As the software has developed from simple word processing and spreadsheet composition to complex ride-hailing and turn-by-turn GPS navigation (RIP Mapquest), they have also transformed the fashion industry and its accessibility.
One of the first apps I downloaded on my iPhone 3GS back in the day was Gilt. In fact, can attribute much of my early infatuation with menswear to this app which, while smaller than the women’s section, had a space devoted to men. It was how I bought my first two designer suits at a sensible price. It was where I discovered Gant, Michael Bastian, and Gant by Michael Bastian. Unfortunately, after the death of the flash sale business model, Gilt’s history has been turbulent, but I will always remember it for what it once was: a gateway to developing fashion knowledge and personal style at a time when there was little of that elsewhere.
Keep in mind that it’s difficult for many men to develop their sense of style. They are already at a loss because they likely don’t have a physical person to ask for advice if they want or need it. For a man, if you care too much about what you wear or how you look, your peers will call you gay. If you don’t care enough, they’ll say you’re a slob. For an adolescent man with self-esteem issues, it may not be easy to take chances fashion-wise and figure out the best way to express himself through clothing, so he may end up barely treading water wearing T-shirts and cargo shorts for the rest of his life. He could progress into adulthood and either never fully appreciate a suit or never learn how to coordinate one with a shirt and tie.
The industry no longer revolves around making new, attractive clothing only for women, and menswear is arguably more integral to fashion now than it’s ever been.
This is where apps are essential. They put information directly in the palm of your hand so you have no excuses for not having it except that you aren’t looking in the right place. The best apps today show not only brands that one should be aware of but also how to coordinate individual pieces into smart-looking outfits. For those men who are interested but don’t want to take a chance on someone seeing that they’re interested, apps and their companion websites can be a lifeline. For the rest of us who love their smartphones and simply want all that power at their fingertips, it is just as important as we are constantly looking for new ways to wear old items. This is why, ladies and gentlemen, I’m discouraged at what I still see in the App Store today. Or, more to the point, what I don’t see.
Rent the Runway has become quite a force since it was launched nearly a decade ago, in November 2009. As the name suggests, it enables women to rent clothes and looks short-term at a reasonable cost from high-end designers as opposed to paying full price to own the same clothes. Finery is a somewhat new business but seems to be making headway. They pull all previous online clothing purchases together to help create a digital wardrobe. It turns out that building a digital wardrobe is one of the many projects I’ve been putting off because it will require so much time and energy. An app like this would be invaluable to me. But, you guessed it, it’s only available for women, so I’m out of luck. These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg, but you get my drift–there are so many great apps and websites being created that are exclusive to women.
Men’s fashion has come a long way in the last decade. There is a portion of each fashion week in the four major capitals devoted to menswear, one of which (NYFW) is going on right now. We also have Pitti Uomo annually, which only keeps getting bigger. Many labels are created every year that cater exclusively to men. Hell, some of those brands, like John Elliott, have branched off into womenswear, so women are now benefitting from styles men have already made popular. The industry no longer revolves around making new, attractive clothing only for women, and menswear is arguably more integral to fashion now than it’s ever been.
I like being able to express myself, and it would be fantastic if I had access to the same tools as do members of the opposite sex.
The popularity of sites like Grailed and StockX, Highsnobiety and Hypebeast, once gave me hope that the future of men’s fashion in the pop culture sector would continue an upward trend. But more and more, I see men are an afterthought or altogether ignored in favor of pursuing what comes easy: promoting womenswear to women who likely already have too much of it. I’m not saying it’s a flawed business model necessarily as conscientious consumerism is much of what drives my writing, but when a service automatically excludes 49% of the world’s population while those people have nothing similar to act as a substitute, I think it is a disservice to the industry as a whole.
I’m going to step down off my soapbox before I get into how promoting exclusivity in the fashion industry is what makes it function (because that would be a little hypocritical), but I hope the aforementioned trends change. I like being able to express myself, and it would be fantastic if I had access to the same tools as do members of the opposite sex. But the future doesn’t change simply because we want it to. A select few have to lead the way and put ideas in front of people’s noses. I hope those talented individuals see the opportunity in an unserved market before it’s too late.