Beyond Suits and Ties

Suits and ties aren’t the only menswear items in demand. Businessmen determined to dress for success are also investing in dressier socks, belts, and outerwear.

For instance, Jos. A. Bank’s catalogs now offer more men’s dress socks in place of more casual socks. “Socks you bought to wear with khakis you’re not going to wear with a suit,” says Jerry DeBoer, senior vice president of marketing for Jos. A. Bank Clothiers. “So with socks as well as shoes and belts, [the resurgence of office dresswear] has had a rippling effect all the way down.”

Customers are also taking a greater interest in French cuffs and cuff links; Bank’s catalog sales of both product categories are up 10% from two years ago. And as an offshoot of the popularity of French cuff shirts, Bank’s shirt monogramming business is up 20%.

With suit sales on the rise, Bank is selling more wool and cashmere topcoats that can be worn over suits. Until the past year or so, leather coats, which can’t be worn over suits, had outsold topcoats in Bank’s catalog. “We’ve doubled our space in such topcoats this year,” DeBoer says. Two years ago Bank showed just one topcoat in its catalog; last year it featured three, and this year six.

Within the dressier apparel categories, Bank has discovered both some new product innovations and new needs among its customers. For instance, all-cotton wrinkle-free shirts now take up five pages in its catalog, compared with just one page 18 months ago. “The whole traveler product category has grown, so we’re now offering more shirts and slacks to accommodate it,” DeBoer says. Wrinkle-free shirts now make up 40% of Bank’s total dress shirt sales.

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