I love menswear. I mean, I loooooove menswear. I’m not sure how my fascination began, but it may just be genetic. My paternal grandfather owned a menswear shop in Peterborough before I was born, and my father was predictably well-schooled in the fine art of wearing a suit and tie. My brother is as comfortable in a tux or tails as he is in jeans and trainers (he lives in London, so he uses words like “trainers” and “mobile” instead of “sneakers” and “cell phone”), and I have always envied him his cufflink collection.
I hang out at The Sartorialist for fun — and I could do without the women’s clothes features there, lovely as they are. Give me a loving treatise on the proper shirt sleeve length or the Milanese predilection for cutaway collars any day.
Alas, I do not possess the kind of boyish figure that looks good in men’s clothing, so I content myself with accompanying my male friends and family members when they shop. And I have roughly a million times more fun (and patience) shopping for them as I do when I’m looking for clothes for myself.
This weekend I took a trip to Victoria with a dear friend, and I had the great pleasure of tagging along with him to a truly fantastic menswear store called Outlooks. We must have spent two hours in there while he tried on a gorgeous Drykorn suit and examining a plethora of shirt and tie options to go with it. While he ducked in and out of the changeroom, I perused their collection of witty cufflinks and pocket squares (including one with a subtle skull-and-crossbones pattern, which made me rack my brain for a potential giftee), and chatted with the staff. And here’s where the store went from being a well-curated collection of beautiful items for purchase, to a place I know I will return at the earliest opportunity: every employee I spoke with was not only charming and intelligent, but profoundly well-versed in their stock and obviously passionate about men’s fashion. (If you want to meet a young man with an infectious love of old-school chic, go in and ask for Ian. He can rock a cardigan with so much style you’ll forget all about Mister Rogers.) Each had his or her own style and personality — we got the clear impression they were given sufficient autonomy to shine in their own unique way — while providing a consistently high level of service.
My grandfather would definitely approve.
Experiences like this one drive home to me just how crucial it is for boutique businesses to hire exactly the right people. A store like Outlooks has a niche market and thrives when its customers are loyal; that kind of loyalty is earned through consistently fabulous service (along with great selection, obviously). Without the right staff on board, the shop would be just a shop; but because of their incredibly smart staffing choices, I (who can’t even buy menswear!) am sitting here writing up a glowing blog post.