Hetail Therapy

Posted on January 27, 2011 by Karina Meckel

This is the third in a series of five. See Euro RSCG Worldwide PR’s latest white paper, “Male in U.S.A.,” for more analysis about the state of men in America today.

As I continue to do some serious “CSI”-style forensics on gender roles, I’m discovering that—almost a decade after Euro RSCG Worldwide helped introduce metrosexuals to the mainstream—today’s man likes to shop. A lot. And all that retail out there that caters to the Y chromosome contingent? I’m now calling it “hetail.” This is not Home Depot or even local or gourmet hardware stores. This is a whole new crop of brick-and-mortars as well as online establishments that appeal to men who appreciate a nostalgic quality, American craftsmanship and just plain old cool stuff. Here’s some of the best of hetailing today:

The mighty online shop Supra-Quintessence Co. also has a physical space in Belgium with major hetail appeal. Miles away from the States, this spot has a bespoke Americana vibe mixed with a casual aesthetic. It stocks denim motorcycle wallets from Denim Addikt, vintage Rolexes, nifty DJ-quality TMA-1 headphones, and tons and tons of jeans and cool sportswear for the urban man on the go, plus sunglasses from New York’s own icon of geek chic, the century-old Moscot, and more. This is the destination for cool guys the world over.

For more tweedy types, American brand giant Gant has opened up shop at Yale, to channel that ever-popular “Taking Ivy” aesthetic. Housed in a historic building, the shop carries everything the Yale man could ever want out of a wardrobe, and all within a stone’s throw from campus. What could be more convenient in between study sessions than to sneak in a little hetail therapy? (Girls have been doing this for years.)

Much of this trend has to be credited to none other than Andy Spade, whose well-curated shops (called Jack Spade) attract a steady stream of Spade fanatics who can’t get enough of his classic laptop bags and duffels but also like to browse through collections of vintage pingpong sets and postcards. Spade noticed early on, and brilliantly so, that men like to shop among the things they think are cool, only adding to the hetail experience. John Varvatos caught on to this, too, with his storefront that was once home to the legendary rock venue CBGB’s. The whole store pays homage to music, with rock posters everywhere, black-and-white photos of rock gods like Keith Richards and record players for sale for all the vinylheads out there who’d like a piece of history along with their distressed-suede chukkas. And we can’t leave out J. Crew, which sells Barbour jackets interspersed with field notebooks, slingshots and astronaut ice cream to provide a well-rounded hetail environment. The company has even set up shop in an abandoned liquor store in Tribeca and a former bank uptown to amp up the cool factor a notch.

Fear not, men who don’t live in New York or Belgium: GQ’s roundup of America’s 10 best independent men’s stores takes us to Confederacy in Los Angeles, Context in Madison, Wis., and Stag in Austin, Texas, a sweet shop with a manifesto on its website that could very well be a hetailing mantra:

“STAG blends the best of many unique elements and ideas into an emporium of essentials for leading the life of a modern gentleman. (And, by gentleman, we don’t just mean the Cary Grant sort of gent. We include style icons like Steve McQueen, James Dean, Keith Richards, and Willie Nelson into that definition as well). We pair high end with low, mix vintage classics with new collections, and add the unexpected right alongside the nostalgic. If we love it, we stock it, and if we don’t, you’ll never find it here. Above all, every item we carry personifies our commitment and passion to providing products with authentic, red-blooded style. Along with our offering of top shelf brands (Levi’s, RRL, Red Wing, Rogues Gallery, Penfield, Life After Denim, and Burkman Brothers to name a few), we also feature one-of-a-kind vintage furniture pieces, artwork, local poster designs, taxidermy, bags, belts, vintage books, classic vinyl albums, and a whole lot more.”

In the words of Tina Fey, we want to go to there. Basically everything in the store is for sale, and there’s a whole lot that appeals to the gentleman who has an interest in being a curator of cool.

Also awesome is Nashville’s Imogen + Willie, which sells the requisite rare denim brands and hosts live music nights at the store—a converted gas station.

Intrigued by all this but need a bit of a primer on how to achieve this unstudied yet studied cool? For men who want to explore the world of hetailing and style in general, look no further than blogs such as A Continuous Lean and The Selvedge Yard, whose photos of male style gods grace their pages, and which speak to the stylish man who might know a thing or two about the joys of diving for vinyl or wearing the same watch Steve McQueen rocked back in the day. Both blogs are immensely popular with men (and a guilty pleasure for women who dig men who dig such things). The creator of A Continuous Lean, Michael Williams, a self-described “native son of Ohio,” also created a pop-up flea market in New York as a bazaar for men, complete with whiskey and all sorts of knickknacks that speak to an Americana sensibility. Williams has a shop on his blog as well and has collaborated with a variety of hip retailers, like Tellason and J. Crew.

And for men looking for something that’s a bit more spendy than a shirt or a bag, the reinvention of the classic British sportscar, the Lotus Esprit, is intriguing. In an article in The New York Times, we met Dany Bahar, “a handsome 38-year-old chief executive, who plans to expand the venerable British auto manufacturer into a fashion label.” Bahar wants to turn Lotus into a 360-degree luxury brand, with multiple men’s and women’s clothing lines, a magazine and a London concept store. Because of the brand’s iconic status, there will of course be a Heritage collection, a tactic very popular with iconic brands needing a little marketing boost (L.L.Bean and Lands’ End come to mind). This Heritage fashion collection will be inspired by none other than, yet again, manly man Steve McQueen, with snazzy leather snap-collar men’s driving jackets among other items. The article says, “There will also be a less expensive casual line called Lotus Originals and a sportswear collection called Lotus Performance using more technical fabrics. Lotus will also put its name on an array of quotidian objects like key fobs, cellphone holders and laptop bags, which a Lotus publicist described as ‘cool, high-end pieces that provide an entry level to the brand.’”

We also like Uncrate, an online shop full of items—from headphone stands to performance hoodies to groovy gadgets—that men, especially those who don’t like setting foot in any store—will just adore. (Women will also adore it as a perfect place to look for gifts. You’re welcome.)

In sum, it seems men like to shop at places that offer a little bit of everything under one roof and amp up the cool quotient ad infinitum. Just don’t try to get them to go to Bloomingdale’s for a Saturday shopping sojourn. This is hetailing, after all.

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