In my slightly obsessive following of menswear trends (and their marketing mojo), I found this businessy tidbit:
Not being a huge fan of the hoodie, this caught my eye. I mean, seriously: Why a hoodie? I like a bit of wool in my outer layers, because it keeps me warmer. A hoodie? I was raised in an era where sweat clothes were too casual to leave the house in (ok, so I took a pass on the whole velour tracksuit thing when I was growing up.) (No, maybe I just wasn’t the right demographic for it. My friends were wearing thrift-store jean jackets and army shirts.) But ok, so, a hoodie. Useful at the beach, or around the drafty house, or for those spring days when you’re running errands.
I know I’m out of sync with the world around me. Because I see younger (as in “under 35″) guys wearing hoodies under jackets, with jeans and they look hot and kinda semi-casual. Can it be that the hoodie is stepping up in the world? Is it the anti-fashion to the jacket-and-tie’s new hyper-fashionability? Or is fashion just moving on and the hoodie is slowly replacing the jacket? Is this an example of the world getting more and more knit-centric? Will wovens retire to the background in this century?
I began reading this article about the profitability of this particular hoodie. Every reviewer stresses first that it is actually made from a heavy weight of pure-cotton fleece. Woo hoo! At last someone is finally complaining about the progressively lighter (i.e. wimpier) fabric weights that we’ve been slipped year after year. The standard T-shirt weights now shipped are see-through compared to what was standard when I worked in the industry just 20 years ago. And if you look at a concert T from the 70’s, the finishing on it is a whole ‘nother category.
And this hoodie is apparently “shockingly well made” (quoted from the American Giant website testimonials). When was the last time you saw a garment that shocked you by how nicely finished the details were? For less than $100? I’m not saying that $89 is inexpensive for a hoodie, but if it were made like old army-issue, hmm, maybe?
So I can understand why the writer at Slate raved a bit. Yeah, I’m in favor of a better quality standard item. I want that item to be jeans or a denim jacket or a good black wool skirt, but ok. Hoodie it is.
Bayard Winthrop, who began the company, says that the reason he’s able to keep the cost of his items down is that his company spends no money on marketing or distribution.
How will this play out over time? Is it a sustainable business model?
They make said perfect hoodie for women, too, although we don’t know what sort of perfecting they did to make it better suited for our rather different shapes. Women are offered two versions: the heavyweight one the lads get, and in nearly the same grim (i.e. “basic”) color range. Or a lighter “mid-weight” version that comes in basic colors and two fashion colors. “Seaglass” is the one shown above.
The other super-cool thing is that these items are manufactured in the United States. And the company is profitable. Not just profitable, but the men’s basic hoodie is back-ordered for months. And people keep ordering them.
So here is another question: Many companies have made their mark on the retail world by selling American-sportswear-styled basic garments. I give you the Gap, Ralph Lauren, Levis, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Diesel, American Apparel, among others. Each works at a different price point and from a different business model. Will this new business model remain successful? Or will the company need to create an advertising program in order to sustain interest in their products?
If these garments are so basic and last forever, what will they come up with next to keep enticing new customers into the fold? How many hoodies does the average person need? How will they be able to maintain this business model with respect to distribution channels, if they begin selling abroad, where American-styled sportswear is hot?
What do you think?