The Working Man: Men Shopping?

by Rachel Yeomans | November 30th, 2011   

By Alan Neff

This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us.  Apparently, they’ve gone well enough to set records and cheer “The Markets“, which are usually fretful and skittish these days, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Men probably made a lot of purchases on those two days.  Your correspondent bought two pairs of jeans online, though not on Friday or Monday, probably due to a contrarian streak.

My current jeans are wearing through in…uh…places, so I went trawling for replacements.  I found jeans that fit my 32″ waist and 28″ inseam.  My size is an odd combination – all but impossible to find in stock in brick-and-mortar retailers.  I felt victorious – victorious enough to buy two pair, partly because Spouse said, “If you find something you like, buy two.”

People Shopping The Working Man: Men Shopping?

Spouse can be Delphic, but she gives great clear advice when she’s in the mood.  “Huh,” I thought, “that’s a sound suggestion.”  So I bought clothes, and more than the minimum one pair of jeans, because I found stuff I liked, even though I’m a male and I’m often irrationally frightened of clothes-shopping.

Yes, that last sentence included the phrase, “irrationally frightened of clothes-shopping.”  I’m one of the men who find it daunting to shop for clothes. Thus enters the common question: Men shopping?

It’s widely thought that men don’t like to shop for clothes.  From personal experience, I can confirm that clothes-shopping does not induce in many men in my circle the giddy sense of possibility it evokes in most women I know.  Generally, most of my male friends find in clothes only the desirable prospect of a convenient portable repository for coins, flash-drives, and lint-covered antacids.

I asked Google to find data for me on whether men don’t like to shop for clothes.  At first, I didn’t find any actual studies, but I got hits for articles about websites and firms that offer shopping services for men, including those explicitly premised on the assumption that men don’t like to shop for clothes.  I won’t identify them here, because each firm is entitled to its marketing plan.  If you’re curious, you can Google “Men don’t like to shop for clothes” or “Men hate to shop for clothes”.

Why is this conventional wisdom?  I imagine there are insecure straight guys who think showing any interest in public in their wardrobes will cause strangers to conclude they’re – wait for it – “gay.”  As I write this, I also can hear Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander repeatedly declaring, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”  The Seinfeld episode in which they introduced this catch-phrase is “The Outing,” the fifty-seventh episode of Seinfeld, the 17th episode of the fourth season, first aired on February 11, 1993.  ( By the way, does anyone out there besides me find it dumbfounding that a single episode of a situation comedy has its own Wiki-page?  The world never ceases to amaze me.)

But is there a specifically male reluctance to shop in particular for clothes?  Men of any given age, class, or other demographic might or might not like to shop for clothes, but they like to shop.  If you don’t believe me, calculate the male-female ratios in your local purveyors of computers, sporting goods, or home-improvement hardware.

And men don’t just sneak into these stores, furtively submit their orders, and run out, sweating.  No, men browse.  Men graze.  Men, dare I say it, window-shop and bargain-hunt.

As I looked a bit deeper, I found a site that wants to blow a hole in the assumption that men don’t like to shop for clothes:

“…Men like shopping[,] according to a two-year study by Foote, Cone and Belding and Leo J. Shapiro and Associates.  72% of men buy their own clothes.  Men like to shop, but they hate to shop the way women shop.  They see their shopping as purposeful.  Men do expedition shopping or go into a store looking for a specific item.  Unlike women[,] they browse, but after their main goal.   Men prefer stores that have open spaces, logical layouts and well-marked sections. (Remember[,] guys don’t ask for directions[.]).  79% of men shoppers like information cards at the point of sale and prefer well known established brand names.”

Hidden in that quote is a nugget I found fascinating: “72% of men buy their own clothes.”  28% of men don’t buy their own clothes?  I would guess that the percentage of women who don’t buy their own clothes is vanishingly small.

Regardless, it’s okay to shop for clothes.  I do it, and you can, too. If you’re worried about appearances, go in with a list and look “purposeful.”  It won’t be as traumatic as you might expect, and you just might find something that fits. And, if you find something you like, you just might buy two.