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Shopping stereotypes are out of fashion for men

I was in Paperchase the other day and happened across a generic greetings card that, for whatever reason, encapsulated perfectly one of our industry’s most widely recognised stereotypes.

The card depicted a cartoon scene in which a man of about 45 and a child of about six were standing at the entrance of a clothes shop. A Sale was on in the store - how very current - alongside a section clearly denoting where the intrepid duo could find such exotic wares as ‘sweaters’. The man was leaning down, speaking to the little boy, saying:”Remember son, we’re men. We walk in, we buy, we walk out. No browsing.”

A few days before, Drapers’ editor-in-chief Caroline Nodder and I were talking with a student who was putting together her dissertation about men’s shopping habits. We discussed online versus bricks and mortar, what men look for in products and how shopping for men isn’t a social experience like it can be for women. There’s no smoke without fire, but on reflection I think our conclusions and this odd greetings card are a little outdated.

It’s true that if you hang around the men’s departments at Marks & Spencer or Next long enough you’ll see a pattern develop - wives either flying solo or dragging their bewildered and bored middle-aged husbands around in the search for comfortable slacks and the aforementioned ‘sweaters’. And for a time this was the only widely recognised way a man came about his clothes - via his other half.

But now, with a generation of young men who are far more style savvy than their predecessors and with new technology at their disposal, men’s shopping patterns are surely set to change. In the past five years it’s noticeable how many more conversations I’ve had with mates about style choices, so while ‘shopping with the boys’ may still be some way off, it’s not as far away as some might think.

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