we heart shops campaignPeople love good shops. It might not be cool to admit it, but watching the hordes of people flocking after each and every lockdown to their local high-street is testament to this being true. While online shopping has seen record growth over the past year, nearly £7 in every £10 is still spent offline. According to the UK Government’s Office of National Statistics internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) (%) hit a record 36% in November 2020. Online had been growing steadily towards 20% of total retail sales, but, thanks to lockdowns and the COVID outbreak, it has leapt to above 30%. But, eventually the growth with slow and then will plateau. So, where is the optimism around physical retail? 

Left - Do we need a national campaign to remind people how good shops can be?

It sometimes feels like, come results days, retail CEO after retail CEO laments their store networks like it’s a problem they have to deal with, and the press report accordingly. Describe like a millstone around their necks, where are the ones standing up and saying, ‘We love our shops and staff’ and really give them the backing they need and deserve? It’s like they’ve capitulated to online, held their hands up and just surrendered. All shops, big and small, need a ‘We (Heart) Shops’ campaign. Good shops, independents or chains, will never be dead and there is still lots to play for, particularly post-COVID.
Eric Musgrave, fashion industry commentator and former editor of Drapers, says “I cannot fathom how anyone could organise a comprehensive campaign to make people or encourage people to use shops. This is better done at local level.”
Musgrave cites campaigns such as ‘Independents Day’, ‘Save The High Street’ and ‘Small Business Saturday’, but many of these were very much slanted towards the David (Small Independents) against the Goliath of large national chain stores. What has changed is these both need to team up and work against online TOGETHER.
“Shops appear in many different locations, from the traditional city or town centre high street, to covered shopping centres within those settlements, and then on purpose-built out-of-town sites. All have different challenges.” he says. “The one under most pressure, I suppose, is the traditional high street, but as a nation we are over-shopped – in many sectors we have too many physical retailers before we start considering the effect of online sellers. There is not enough money in the UK for all these retailers to prosper or even survive.
“I sincerely believe shops will survive, but how and where will end up being hundreds and thousands of local stories. I believe we as humans are social creatures and shopping is a social activity. I want to examine something closely before I buy it – clothes obviously, but also books or electrical equipment. When I want to buy a power screwdriver, for example, I want to talk face-to-face to someone who knows about them, which is why the local hardware store or Homebase is vital.”
While we don’t like to admit it, shopping is part of our culture. It’s not just about acquiring stuff in the most efficient way. It’s about socialising, history, tradition and feeling inspired. It’s about something as simple as leaving the house. Browsing in real and browsing online are two vastly different experiences. 
It feels a mistake for a large, national chain like John Lewis & Partners to have the ambition to become a 60%-70% online retailer by 2025. Their shops really should be their best asset. They should look to balance and grow both avenues of their sales.
Yvonne Courtney, Founder, CollageLondon,  a bespoke clothing label, says, “People do still love shops, as they offer an alternative sanctuary – for fantasy, serendipity and surprise! 
“The trouble began when chain stores mushroomed across the country, pushing out independents due to opportunist landlords, and making every high street the same. Then they were highjacked by ruthless equity funds who asset stripped their property estates and under invested in the brands, making their stores completely joyless places. Everything is cyclic however, and the return of the independent is being much hailed!” she says. “However this will necessitate landlords taking a reality pill, to reset rents to realistic levels after 20+ years of upwards only extortion!”
Musgrave says, “The economics of running a shop in the UK is very expensive. I do not see any prospect of this government or any government abolishing the business rates system because it brings in so much money. In the post-COVID-19 world, the government will want as much money as it can get.
“Related to finance is the apparent need of local councils to use parking as a revenue stream. BIRA (the British Independent Retailers Association) has had parking charges on its action list for years. Why drive to a town centre to pay over the odds or risk getting a ticket when you can park for free at an out-of-town complex?” he says.
Why do we need a 'We Love Shops' campaign?
It worked wonders for New York back in the 1970s,” says Courtney. “Paid for by their tourism board, it makes millions every year from merchandise sales. Not only is this perfect timing, during/post Covid, but also with the onset of Brexit - shopping local will be the way to go.” she says.
“A ‘We Love Shops' campaign would give a sense of pride, hope and belonging to communities everywhere. We have such a wealth of history in the world of shops, it would be a crying shame if this disappeared. 
“Surely it’s everyone’s interest to keep shops in business, given that online platforms avoid paying full taxes, so reducing coffers for education, health, etc. If brands are talking down shops, I think this is an attempt to veil their laziness/ineptitude for evolving. So many stores come across as being on autopilot, under investing/appreciating their staff and making the whole experience pretty poor.” says Courtney.
“It’s too easy to blame online retail (or COVID) for a shop’s demise - when we know that they’ve either been under invested in or have simply not upped their game in what they are offering.” she says.
We’ve had the best of both worlds over the last few years; being able to browse offline and ordering online, but the balance is swinging and with fewer shops will this wake consumers up to appreciate what is left more? In exclusive TheIndustry.fashion data, when we asked consumers the question about where do you most prefer to shop for clothes, 51% (pretty consistently month-on-month) say physical shops. Yes, they can’t go to them now, but that doesn’t mean to say they won’t when it’s possible.
So, what makes a great shop?
“The recipe has to be product, people and location. Just as people will drive a long way to a decent pub or restaurant, so they will travel to find an interesting shop that satisfies their needs. Conversely, a lot of shops should prosper because they are very close by their target audience.” says Musgrave.
“A great shop is somewhere that draws you in with its shopfront or window display…or somewhere off the beaten track - making it a destination in itself. Somewhere you might not come across online…somewhere that encourages browsing, or even a bit of rummaging (so many stores are over-curated now, leading to same-y displays of merchandise, objects and plants - yawn!) Somewhere where you might get into an unexpected conversation.” says Courtney.
“I myself am looking to open a ‘multi-purpose atelier’ for my CollageLondon label that will also offer a repurposing clothing clinic and mini kiosk of ‘covetables’. Physical shopping has the potential to boom once we've seen the back of Covid as people will yearn that sense of discovery!” says Courtney.
“I suspect there will soon be a backlash against the environmental damage caused by thousands of vans driving around delivering e-commerce parcels. I wonder if anyone has yet measured the difference between, say, 100 people going to a John Lewis store and JL sending out 100 parcels to individual addresses.” says Musgrave.
“I like talking to experts in shops, either sharing knowledge if I know about the subject or learning something new and getting advice if I don’t. Long live shops.” says Musgrave.
This pandemic has ignited a passion for physical retail among young consumers. They were the most enthusiastic online shoppers, but now that’s older consumers as they are afraid to go out and have been introduced to the joys of e-commerce. Older consumers will stick with e-commerce now they’ve discovered it and youngsters will be desperate for human connection and experience. That is a good thing long term. It’s the experience of stores that people have that makes them special, and just seeing them as an expensive overhead misses that point completely. 
For the good retail stores remaining, it’s okay for us to say out loud, “We Heart Shops”.
 
Below - Office for National Statistics Graph showing percentage of total retail sales online

we heart shops campaign

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Tuesday, 01 December 2020 16:30

ChicGeek Comment Lockdown Sizing

lockdown sizing in fragrance moschinoThere was a time when the sizing of perfume and fragrance couldn’t get any bigger. Brands and designers were piling into flacons of 200ml and upwards, trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of consumers for their hit ‘juices’. Two hundred millilitres is more conducive to the drinks cabinet than the bathroom.  Then came lockdowns.

Left - Brands such as Versace and Moschino are producing 'lockdown sizes' of 10ml fragrances for £20

A McKinsey report in May, 2020, said, with regards to the global beauty market, “2020 will be one of the worst years it has ever endured.” The report said consumer retail spending on beauty products was experiencing a sharp decline (up to 20%) as well, leading to an unprecedented projected $175 billion USD loss in revenue for the industry this year. 90% of women stated, in the report, they used little to no makeup while working from home.

It said, in May, “based on the scenarios most expected by global executives and current trends, we estimate global beauty-industry revenues could fall 20 to 30 percent in 2020. In the United States, if there is a COVID-19 recurrence later in the year, the decline could be as much as 35 percent.”

Unilever too has reported declining revenues in its personal care division. An update in April warned about shrinking personal care sales because more people working from home meant they were washing their hair less often, putting off shaving and even ditching deodorant. Four months on, in its Q3 report, it said personal care sales had continued to slump.

Graham Pitkethly, Unilever’s chief financial officer, said "fewer personal care occasions from going to work or socialising” impacted sales. Skincare declined high-single digit and deodorants declined low-single digit. Though there was a slowing of declines when we came out of lockdown during the summer.

The greedy fragrance industry has been built upon a biggest is best attitude when it comes to their products, and especially gifting, when, in fact, a little should go a long way. Brands have realised that demand has changed and are now launching smaller sizes in 10ml or 20ml editions. Moschino and Versace has 10ml options in many of their fragrances including ‘Toy Boy’, ’Dylan Blue’ and ‘Eros’ for £20. Eight & Bob has added a range with a 30ml (with optional artisan leather case), a size which isn’t often seen in bridge/niche brands. Much of this sizing was ironically called ‘Travel Size’ when, in fact, it’s the lack of travel and leaving the house which is creating the demand. Tocca has a ‘Travel Trio Set’ containing three 20ml bottles, while Goutal Paris is offering a ‘discovery set’ containing four classic 10ml fragrances from their range.

Sarah Binns, Head of Training at KGA, one of the UK & Ireland’s leading fragrance distributors, currently representing over 25 premium perfume brands, says, “Ironically I saw this ‘travel size’ trend start pre COVID-19 in response to the always on the go lifestyle and as a way to entice younger consumers into the category with a lower price point on luxury brands. Retailers had started requesting smaller sizes in fragrances to showcase in their pick ’n’ mix style locations near till points. It is interesting to see how this new size category has become so valuable in the current climate too.” she says.

“I think a lot of brands had started to develop these sizes pre lockdown for other reasons, but they have really come into their own with the current situation. Brands are aware that consumers are nervous to spend on something they can’t try first so this is a great solution.” says Binns.

The McKinsey report said, in most major beauty-industry markets, in-store shopping accounted for up to 85 percent of beauty-product purchases prior to the COVID-19 crisis, with some variation by subcategory. Even online-savvy American millennials and Gen Zers (those born between 1980 and 1996) made close to 60% of their purchases in stores. With the closure of premium beauty-product outlets because of COVID-19, approximately 30 percent of the beauty-industry market was shut down. Some of these stores will never open again, and new openings will likely be delayed for at least a year.

lockdown sizing in fragrance goutal paris

Suzy Nightingale, Senior Writer at The Perfume Society says, “We’re definitely seeing more fragrances offered in smaller ‘try me’ sizes, and although beauty products have been used less in lockdown; we’ve actually seen a huge rise in sales of our discovery boxes and brand sets, which offer sample vials, miniature bottles and travel sizes to try at home. Classic scents have even made a comeback as people reach for a familiar fragrances as a comfort blanket, reminding them of happier times.” she says.

Right - Goutal Paris 4 x 10ml fragrance sizes exclusively available at John Lewis: www.johnlewis.com - £68

“I think there’s been a desperate longing for ‘newness’, and we’ve also had fragrance lovers tell us they don’t want to associate this year with a single scent.” says Nightingale. “Simultaneously, many fragrance houses suddenly realised that, if people can’t get to shops or, when they do, tester bottles aren’t readily available anymore. This fast-tracked something we’ve all been asking for anyway: smaller size bottles we can try before we buy, or use to explore a diversity of scents or fragrance notes out of our usual comfort zones. 

“I definitely see this trend continuing - online previously had the hurdle of being a difficult place to buy your first full-size bottle of perfume if you’d not smelled it already. Nowadays, people want greater choice and the chance to flirt with lots of fragrances. Sometimes more IS more, but it doesn’t always mean a bigger bottle…” she says.

While the term ‘lockdown sizing’ won’t be used by the brands, it’s an interesting twist on the entry ‘travel size’ offer. These prices are keener and entice people to buy before they try. This is the beauty industry's version of a micro-bag; an entry level product aimed at younger and less affluent consumers. 

“Smaller sizes bring accessibility, the signature scent is becoming a thing of the past and it is much easier to build a large fragrance collection with these entry price options. In an environment when you often can’t test the product before you purchase, it’s a smaller risk to invest in a mini size first.” says Binns.

“I think this trend will continue within the COVID-19 environment as a way to experience new products before making a larger investment in the full size. Once we are able to travel again I’m sure that they will become even more popular for their portability.” she says.

How many people are wearing fragrance at home, or, at least, in the quantity they used to without social engagements and interaction with other people or work colleagues? The cheaper prices are also a factor in their popularity. When fully branded and looking as good as the full size bottles, rather than a simple tester, these items look much more desirable.

“Consumer confidence is low and this always has an effect on spending within beauty. People are reaching for products that make them feel good as oppose to looking or smelling good for other’s benefit. Fragrance sales were hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic but we have seen a steady increase as people rediscover the joy of treating themselves or showing love to others with a gift that encourages wellbeing” says Binns.

Sales in smaller sizes are better than no sales at all for the beauty industry, and the margins will be higher. The fragrance industry will hope these smaller lockdown sizes will encourage and continue the habit of individuals wearing fragrance even if we continue to be on our own.

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Wednesday, 25 November 2020 19:24

ChicGeek Comment The Economy Of Bad Styling

the importance of fashion stylists celine

If a picture paints a thousand words, what does a stylist do? In fashion, they are the story tellers. Stylists, those individuals who decide what and how to dress models and celebrities for many brands’ campaigns and visual assets, have long been taken for granted. Much like photographers and digital cameras, in recent years, their magic of making something look more expensive or chicer than it is has been overlooked and labelled as simply ‘dressing’.

Left - Hedi's idea of cool or just plain bad? Celine

Paula O’Connor, ex Fashion Editor and Consultant, says, “A stylist's job is to tell a story with clothes, to put them into a narrative. This could be for glossy pages of editorial/ magazines or film, or simply co-ordinating everyday outfits to suit someone's lifestyle, whilst understanding perfectly how to translate current trends in fashion into outfits to suit that person’s needs and their lifestyle whilst maximising their image and confidence.”

The majority of people don’t recognise good styling, but they certainly notice bad, and it feels like there’s a lot of it around at the moment.

And, that’s the crux of it, a stylist’s main job is to make, professionally, things or people not look bad. With many brands making cuts or struggling to produce content in lockdowns with less travel, then bad styling is becoming much more noticeable. While some brands may go deliberately for the slightly more ‘edgier’ or grungier look, even Balenciaga has a slickness in its ugliness, there’s a difference between this and simply bad. It’s the fashion equivalent of a hipster venue asking you to drink out of jam jars. It’s a cost saving spun as being cool.

Lockdown has really brought to light the importance of good styling and therefore a good stylist. Marketeers listen up. We became so blasé about perfect images, that, I think, we took them for granted pre-COVID, but it’s only, now, we can really see the difference and it’s coming from even the biggest of brands.

the importance of fashion stylists paul smith

“Stylists are definitely taken for granted and they do not get enough respect for the skills they have”, says Jessica Punter, Freelance Stylist with almost 20 years’ experience, associate lecturer and Ex GQ Style and Grooming Editor.

“Stylists usually have an eagle eye over the whole fashion industry and draw on influences from a wealth of other areas such as art, music and pop culture. They can help steer or hone a collection and create fresh appeal. They can bring a lot to the table creatively, if given the chance.” she says.

Good styling has many contributing factors; concept, art direction, casting (model choice), location, props, looks (outfit choice), lighting, and, finally, how it’s all put together. It takes a refined eye and that’s worth paying a professional for. Many brands look like they’re doing it all DIY and it does nothing for their products.

Like anything visual, what is good and bad is subjective, but there’s a level. It also changes according in local markets and who they are targeting. It’s knowing which images to use when and where. While Europeans may scoff, the images could appeal to Asia or America.

Right & Below - Paul Smith AW20 looking like a hot mess?

“First, international brands cater to different markets. What appeals to one territory might not appeal to the next.” says Punter. “I often think of how different Nike US is to Nike EU. I know which I prefer, but it's all about knowing your market.  Second, in the pandemic era we are seeing skeletal crews and brands needing to improve 'efficiencies'. During the first lock down I heard models were dressing themselves with samples sent to the photographer. I also heard celebrities were wearing outfits they had worn before for public appearances, rather than relying on a stylist to bring fresh looks. Third, there's a lot of dross product around. If a collection is really weak it can't necessarily be saved by styling.” she says. 

the importance of fashion stylists paul smith

Even the biggest brands have trimmed their expenditure. Do you think brand’s making cutbacks can be seen in their visuals? 

“Yes, I am sure it is deemed necessary to make cuts, to use in-house staff and to limit outsourcing, but these short term savings inevitably have a negative impact on overall quality.” says Punter.

“There is definitely a noticeable difference in shoots that reflects that cutbacks. E-comm is increasingly shot flat instead of on a model, and there is a simpler approach to selling.” says O’Connor.

Can we put this down to lockdown issues of lack of expensive locations or doing things from home etc.?

“Certainly the impact can't be ignored. At the same time there have been lots of amazing distanced shoots. Self-styled Robert Pattinson for GQ US was a highlight for me. However, the clothes he wore were still selected in advance by a stylist, and no doubt heavily mood boarded and pre-styled into looks, which he may well have adapted. But the overall lesson is really that nothing can replicate a strong creative crew working closely, physically together.” Punter says.

“I think, previously, stylists researched and referenced a lot more.. films, art, photography catwalks .. but now everything is so fast and immediate, so there is a lot of imagery that is 'thin' in content.  Also social media has boosted consumerism.” O'Connor says.

There is no formula for good styling. You need talented people, but it’s also an instinct, especially in something as unpredictable as fashion. A good stylist will be able to make the best of what they have, even if the budgets are tight.

“No one realises how much hard work goes into styling, It depends on the client, but there is never enough budget for what they want, so stylists sometimes have to work miracles!” says O’Connor. 

the importance of fashion stylists superdryThere too isn’t a formula for bad styling, but get a few of those contributing factors - listed above - wrong and the chances are the pictures won’t be very good. It’s a false economy for brands and marketing departments to make cuts in this area, especially if they’re trying to peddle ‘luxury’. They are devaluing the product and the brand.

Left - AW20 Superdry styling looking far from contemporary

A great stylist is “someone who creates trends rather than follows them and has an innate understanding of what makes a great image.” says Punter, and this is something not worth skimping on.

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Wednesday, 18 November 2020 16:04

ChicGeek Comment The To-Wear List

to wear list wearing old favourites in wardrobe

Forget all this overblown hubris on buying resale, most people will be sustainable, in the short term, by simply rediscovering their own wardrobes. Regardless of size, we all have favourites we haven’t worn for a long time and are itching to get back out again. This ‘To-Wear’ list is a mental check list which grows ever longer the more we think about it. If you’re a lover of fashion, you’ll have plenty of items you can’t wait to get on your back again. Add a few future looking events and your To-Wear list keeps getting bigger and bigger.

So, if we’re busy wearing all of our old favourites, what will this mean for new fashion sales?

Admittedly, after each lock down there is a flood of pent up demand. Even this week, as the Welsh lock down ended, there were reports of long queues outside stores in the Welsh capital. One woman told BBC News she was getting it all done now in case of shop closures in the event of a return to lockdown measures. Public Health Wales' coronavirus incident director Dr Giri Shankar warned, "We do worry sometimes when we see such large number of queues outside shopping centres, outside pubs pars, cafes and restaurants.” He said we would see the effect of that “in the next couple of weeks”.

A few post-lockdown photo opportunities outside the nearest Primark and people buying necessities soon fizzles out. I’m talking about items for special events or things you love and hold on to.

The longer life takes to get back to normal, the longer our To-Wear lists become. It will be nearly a twelve months break since we wore our best clothes, add in a few extra lockdown, knockdown online purchases and we won’t need anything new for a while. Well, that’s how it feels.

While new fashion purchases could suffer while consumers work through their To-Wear lists, many people have money burning a hole in their pockets. Consumerism isn’t dead as those long queues testify.

Many people on lockdown have accumulated a lump sum of saved income to potentially splash on a once-in-a-lifetime purchase like a watch, a piece of jewellery or some art. According to data retail analysts GfK, a global leader in data and analytics, watch sales were on course for a perfect V-shaped recovery before the second national lockdown. By the end of October, the total value of sales at all price points for the whole of Great Britain over the first 10 months of the year was just 15.6% below the same period in 2019. And this was without tourist spending.

The average price paid for every watch sold in Great Britain fuelled a rise in the overall value of sales by 34.4% in October 2020. Average transaction values rocketed by 57% in the month, far higher than the increase in prices of 19.5%. Ecommerce revenue rose by 63.1% in October, up 40.3% for the 10 months since January. London saw a large lockdown bounce back in October, with sales rising by one third.

These figures clearly illustrate a demand for more expensive watches and how people are spending on considered purchases like watches even during all this turmoil. Money that would have been spent on fashion items is going into buying premium items like these. Items like watches require the confidence of having a lump sum, even just for the deposit. Lockdown has given people this opportunity.

The To-Wear list could delay the returning of fashion sales to pre-lockdown levels for a while. Many of our clothes are seasonal and we’ve missed out on nearly all four this past year. The anticipation of wearing our favourite things is an exciting prospect. The kind of items you never want to get rid of and every wear is a reminder how much you like it.

This rediscovery will be fun for a while, but then we’ll be bored again, and off it all starts, but it’s definitely something we’ve all been thinking about. We could wear them them at home, afterall, but it's not the same, Once we’ve worked through our old favourites we’ll be looking for something new, no doubt. Crazily, many of us don’t even remember what we own any more, and this could definitely propel people into thinking about what and how much they own.

What's on your To-Wear list?

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jockstrap goes mainstream Nike Calvin Klein Kust

When Nike released its first branded men’s jockstrap in the middle of October it was an instant sell out. Twitter went into a digital meltdown and demand was palpable. It was the perfect product at the perfect time and was a great debut for Nike’s new men’s underwear range.

Left - The Nike Jockstrap sold out on ASOS (Nov. 2020)

The year before, in April 2019, Nike and PVH Corp. announced a new licensing agreement to design and distribute Nike branded men’s underwear worldwide. It was a natural product category extension for the nearly $40 billion a year sportswear behemoth.

“We are incredibly proud to be working with Nike, as this is an opportunity for two great companies to build on each other’s strengths, making it a win-win for everyone, especially consumers,” PVH’s Cheryl Abel-Hodges, president of Calvin Klein North America and The Underwear Group, said in a statement at the time. It also said PVH Corp.’s The Underwear Group would expand its strong portfolio which includes Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Olga, Warner’s and True & Co.

The men’s underwear category was ripe for a tie-up with a sportswear company and their expertise in technical support, cleaning and fabrics. The new Nike jockstrap was the debut product to make a digital splash while illustrating how this traditional sports style has hit the mainstream.

Troy Daniels, @justcantstahp, says, “Nike has a jock because Calvin Klein released a jock. Calvin Klein manufacturers the underwear for Nike. So the question is actually why did Calvin Klein release a jockstrap?” he says.

“It’s because a cadre of homosexuals who work at the European Corporate Office saw the trend of niche jockstrap manufacturers exploding (Exterface, Bristle, Coyote, Darkroom, Jock, Bad Butt, Gizeppe, etc.) and thought that the world’s most identifiable underwear brand would be remiss not to have a jockstrap in their underwear portfolio. So blame it on the gays.” he says.

jockstrap goes mainstream Nike Calvin Klein Kust

If the branded jockstrap at Calvin Klein hadn’t proven to be so popular, then PVH Corp. wouldn’t have pushed it as one of the first products of the new Nike license. They would have gone for something far safer. Add the huge trend of male exhibitionism, on some social media channels, and its opportunity to showcase branded underwear, and you have a huge marketing opportunity.

The jock straps roots are in sports. Wikipedia states, “The jockstrap was invented in 1874 by C. F. Bennett of a Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, to provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys working the cobblestone streets of Boston. In 1897 Bennett's newly formed Bike Web Company patented and began mass-producing the Bike Jockey Strap.”

Jane Garner Co-Founder of Deadgoodundies.com, an online retailer stocking the best international brands of men's underwear and swimwear, selling to customers in more than 80 countries, says, “Deadgoodundies has always stocked jockstraps. Early on designs were mostly cotton, sporty and practical, but in recent years sexy, colourful and uplifting fashion jocks have taken over and proved very popular. With DGU customers, the smaller the underwear the more popular it will be.”

Right - Polish underwear brand, Kust

Regarding the Nike launch, Garner says, “We love any brand launch that encourages men to discover and try new underwear shapes, styles and fabrics. Male shoppers are not always the most adventurous when it comes to men's underwear choices. If a guy starts wearing jockstraps as everyday underwear, rather than purely for sport or exercise, they will start to seek out the best, most comfortable and most carefully shaped designs.

“In mainstream fashion there has been a strong trend towards sporty clothing, so maybe the jockstrap's increasing popularity is part of that - not that too many men will be discussing their new undies as much as a pair of hot trainers.” she says.

The jockstrap definitely taps into the ever present sportswear category and as such is styled by many brands with trainers, caps and sports socks to illustrate this link.

Jakub Stachowiak, Founder & Owner of Kust, www.kuststore.com, a cult Polish underwear brand based in Sopot and specialising in modern and sustainable underwear, says “We do sell jockstraps. It was always one of the bestseller since we launched in 2018. Our version is minimalistic, with a wider waistband, inspired by retro aesthetic and what’s most important made of sustainable, organic cotton. We are targeting millennial + customer, who is looking for minimalistic, well designed and premium quality products.

“As the jockstraps’ origins are from sports, this is kind of matching for NIKE. Most of the brands now have a jockstrap in their offer. It has only been a few years since it became more gay and a fetish product rather than sport underwear. So it really depend how you present it in your offer.” says Stachowiak.

Versace and Armani already have jock straps in their range. For a product that is pure branding and combines sex and near nudity, it is being picked up by an increasingly younger group of male fans, particularly amongst gay men. The Nike jockstrap taps into this market while making a step into the mainstream.

Alex,@retr0fag, says, “I think that the Nike jockstrap is probably most popular amongst gay men. Jockstraps have become a staple fashion item in most gay men's underwear collection. Sportswear brands are fetishised by gay men, so it figures that a Nike jockstrap would sell very well with gay guys.”

He says, “I’m not sure why Nike would release it, whether it was a clever marketing strategy or just worked out well by chance. Exhibitionism on the internet has become quite a normal thing, with many guys posing in their underwear. And all the guys posing in their Nike jocks has heightened the appeal and made it a desirable fashion item.”

Alex P, @notorious_twub, says, “I think it’s a good idea from Nike, they’ve obviously analysed the jock market and have realised that they’re very popular with gay men. It’s a great idea as Nike’s already a pillar brand and I’m kind of surprised that it’s taken this long.

jockstrap goes mainstream Nike Calvin Klein Kust

It’s kind of putting this predominantly gay thing, which is fetishised, and bringing it to the main stream and taking the jockstrap back to its sporty origin. I’m not sure what their angle is, if it was meant to be seen as this revolutionary moment to bring jocks to the heterosexual male as a sexual look, or if it’s capitalising on a product we already know sells well and just using Nike’s brand popularity to boost sales. I feel that it’s great that a major brand are getting behind it. It’ll definitely cause some waves in the underwear industry.” he says.

Left - Men's underwear brand, Charlie by MZ, showing the connection between contemporary sportswear & the jockstrap

One thing is certain, men now knows that Nike does men’s underwear even if they're not ready for the jockstrap style . While women have had sophisticated and sexy underwear for many years, men haven’t, or have felt embarrassed about it showing off. It was a choice of boring, mundane styles or tacky, fetish type underwear. This is being readdressed by niche underwear brands, like Charlie by MZ, Kvrt Stvff and Kust, offering provocative yet cool imagery which proves to be cat nip on social media channels. The large license partners and brands have seen this and want in. They are tapping into this demand, particularly amongst young gay men.

The jock strap is an opportunity for a brand to make a splash online, but looking at Calvin Klein’s continual expansion of its jockstrap range, it must be selling. They also wouldn’t have risked producing a product for a new license partner that they didn’t think would sell well.

Thanks to social media, there is an increasing trend in demand for sexier underwear for men. By linking it back to sports will appeal to a broader range of guys. The jockstrap is now a must-have addition in any brand's underwear category. Expect brands like Tom Ford and adidas to follow.

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