When I asked my son what he wanted for his fifteenth birthday, he stared into space and furrowed his brow. I started thinking about where I could find a Nintendo Switch or if there was room on his Xbox for a download of the Deluxe Injustice 2 game.
“I could really use some clothes,” he finally said.
It took me a second to register what I’d heard, my video game plans dissipating in pixel-perfect clouds. “You have clothes!” I made a sweeping gesture with my hand. “They’re all over your floor at the moment, but you’ve got plenty of things to wear!”
He raised his eyebrows and furrowed his brow simultaneously. It’s a look of pain and embarrassment that I’ve grown increasingly familiar with as he’s matured into his teenage “How do you not get it?” years.
“No, Dad. I need something that doesn’t have a comic book character or Star Wars symbol on it.”
I glanced down at my shirt, with Spider-Man (as depicted on the McFarlane-drawn cover of the Spider-Man “Torment” storyline, thank you very much) web-swinging across it and said “What’s wrong with comic book shirts?”
He rolled his eyes and turned back to his phone. “I need shoes that aren’t sneakers too.”
It was at that point that I realized my son was developing a better sense of fashion than me. My entire wardrobe consists of nothing but graphic tees and a few polos for work. I’ve felt pangs here and there of needing to mature my style; but as evidenced by my previous foray into dressing like an adult, I need serious help when it comes to figuring out where to even start.
That was when I thought of Stitch Fix. They’re a styling service that sends you curated boxes of clothes on a regular basis (anywhere from monthly, to quarterly, to on-demand). My wife used them for a solid year building up her wardrobe. I remember lamenting at the time that there was nothing like that for men. I had found Trunk Club (a similar service, but for guys) and gave them a try. But it was way overpriced and came with a stylist that did creepy things like call me randomly to chat and send me emails about how much she was looking forward to seeing me in the outfits she’d picked out. No thanks. All I wanted was to improve my wardrobe, not participate in some weird Mad Men-type personal secretary fantasy.
With my son’s fashion-forward proclamation fresh in my mind, I headed over to the Stitch Fix site and was pleasantly surprised to see that, at some point in the past three years, they added Men’s fashion. I much prefer Stitch Fix’s style and approach: it’s like getting the occasional care package from a fashion-conscious friend who really, really wants you to reconsider your X-Men board shorts. I created an account immediately.
Account creation is a fun process. Not only do they collect the standard information like height, weight, and other measurements, Stitch Fix asks you about what brands you currently wear and what your style is like now. Then it finds out what your budget is for various items and what you would or wouldn’t wear from their current selections. After that you can give your stylist your social media handles (good luck figuring out my style from my pictures of painted miniatures!) and provide them with a statement about what you’re looking to accomplish.
Stitch Fix charges you a $20 styling fee (that goes towards the purchase of anything in your box, otherwise you lose it). And after your stylist selects some likely items for you within your budget and taste range (unless you’ve told them you want to try things that are outside of your comfort zone), it’s shipped to your door.
Upon opening my box, I found a few shirts, a pair of shorts, some casual shoes, and a personalized note welcoming me to the service. The note is the important part. Not only does it give you your stylist’s rationale for choosing what they did, it shows you how the pieces can be combined, not just with things in the box; but with other items. Stitch Fix’s goal is to build a wardrobe of separates that you can mix and match, not just provide you with one-off outfits.
The element of trying new clothes on at home can’t be discounted when it comes to services like Stitch Fix. At a store there’s a lot of pressure, whether it be from sales people trying to make commission, other shoppers waiting on dressing rooms, or just your own brain screaming to get out of retail limbo. At home you can try things on at your leisure (within the three-day window Stitch Fix gives you before you have to return things). You can also mix and match items with clothes you own to see if they really do work with your wardrobe. It’s a much more pleasant shopping experience than anything else I’ve done.
I loved everything that they sent in the box; but there were sizing issues with the shorts (my runner’s thighs don’t work well with slimmer fits) and the shirts were nice; but the coral shirt didn’t work with my complexion and the light blue shirt was too similar to (and more expensive than) shirts I already owned. The dark blue shirt and SeaVee sneakers though, those were perfect and fit in nicely with my wardrobe. I really loved the shoes because they’re something that I never would have picked up on my own; but just trying them on, I could immediately see how wearing something other than running shoes or open-toe sandals made a difference in an outfit.
After you’ve tried everything on (or maybe before if you want cost to be part of your decision matrix), you can open the sealed envelope that has the prices for each item. Me, I’m a “give me the damage” kind of guy. I might have tried making the shorts and coral shirt work, but after I saw how much they’d set me back, it was an easy decision to put them in the return bag. But I was tempted at first. Stitch Fix sweetens the deal when you buy the whole box. On top of getting your $20 styling fee back, you’ll get 25% off if you buy all five items. That brings the cost down under $150 for the whole box, which is a pretty big bargain, given the quality of the clothes. Overall, the costs were all what I would consider “mid-range” given the items. It all depends on your perspective. For example, $50 may not seem like a lot for a pair of shorts to you; but for me, who only ever buys shorts when there are 2-for-1 deals and I have a coupon, that’s definitely a step up. The stylist does their best in the note to convince you of the value of those items that are outside your comfort zone, budget-wise. But as I learned from my wife’s stint with Stitch Fix, that’s a slippery slope. And before you know it you’re getting single items that are budget busters on their own.
In the end, I went with the SeaVee sneaks and the dark blue shirt—they aren’t transformative, but they’re definitely a step above my usual date night fare of “slightly stained blue v-neck tee from Old Navy.” I included notes for everything that I sent back, including why I chose what I did and what would have convinced me to keep the other items (other than “Why do you consider $35 for a shirt to be a ‘budget’ item?”).
I’m looking forward to seeing what my stylist comes up with for next quarter. I know it will be a little outside of what I’m used to wearing and definitely nicer than anything else I own. Stitch Fix will hopefully be the tool to finally drag my style, kicking and screaming, from the rut that it’s been in since I graduated college.
You can sign up yourself (or someone Dad-shaped who needs style help) over at StitchFix.com.
Thanks to Stitch Fix for providing a credit for my first box. Opinions and Transformer logo shirts are my own.