Men & Fashion

An Esquire blogger takes issue with Google’s new “Boutiques” shopping site:

Shopping is hard enough as it is. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The reason men don’t get quite as excited about buying clothes as our female counterparts comes down to information — we need options, often easy ones, to make the right decisions. And the Internet doesn’t have a lot of easy options, which is why men aren’t currently going quite as crazy hunting for Black Friday deals, nor do many of us even know what that “Cyber Monday” exists.

Which is also why we got excited to wake up this morning to an e-mail from Google, the Internet’s kingmaker of simplicity in the information overload, about… fashion. Boutiques.com, we were told, “uses computer vision and machine learning technology to visually analyze your taste and match it to items you would like.” Sounds nerdy, but totally brilliant, which is basically why The Times’ Cathy Horyn gave Google’s new e-commerce site the rave review we read on the train this morning.

And then we logged in. Google’s machine learning asks for Your Boutique Preferences, followed by not one but a dozen pictures of…. wait, this is only for women? Now, we understand, ladies love to shop online, and for our half of the species, well, it’s kind of a pain in the ass right now. But as Michael Williams over at A Continuous Lean lamented the other day, guys want to shop online, and there’s a missed opportunity in having fantastically curated clothing sites that are more or less “deliberately designed to repel men.”

A Google spokesman told The Style Blog this morning that the company had “no other specifics to share at this time” beyond its blog-post announcement that right now “Boutiques is only available in the U.S. and only for women’s fashion, but we plan to expand in the future.” Well, men might as well start making their voices be heard. There will be other sites — good ones, without repellants — but this Google thing is going to be a big deal, and it’s going to get better. Tell them you want a whizbang, mind-reading fashion site of your own — or at least a tab on there somewhere. In the meantime, Gilt Man has some nice shirts on sale today.

Maybe I’ve been in New York for too long, but most men I know are interested in fashion, and shop extensively online, and care quite a bit about how they look. I realize Google is operating out of t-shirt-and-flip-flop land in Palo Alto, but this is a pretty big misstep (and missed opportunity). I’ve been playing on Boutiques all morning, and dudes, you are missing out. Rise up!


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46 comments for “Men & Fashion

  1. November 18, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Shopping online is hugely convenient. You can search for exactly what you want, order it without hunting it down, forget about it, and then be pleasantly surprised when it arrives.

    Unless of course, something’s wrong with it. =/ Then it’s a pain to return and check that they’ve refunded you.

  2. November 18, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    What is he talking about? I don’t shop online for clothes, ever, because I don’t want the inevitable hassle of waiting for the mail to come, realizing it doesn’t fit, mailing it back, and waiting for a new size to be mailed back to me. If we could get the sizing of women’s clothing to make more sense, I just might become an enthusiastic online shopper. As it stands, I’ve got 4 different sizes of pants hanging in my closet, all of which fit me perfectly, and shirts ranging from XS to L that all fit me identically, as well.

    At least men’s clothing sizes are fairly streamlined. Maybe he’s going to the wrong websites.

  3. November 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I use the measurements they sometimes have in those charts that define their sizes.

  4. Cf
    November 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I just watched the trailer for this. Um… I’m from Canada, and sometimes I go camping. Backwoods camping. Dear TV world: can there be a television show about me now? I camp in winter too! How about now?

    I also recently learned that Bristol Palin is a contestant on “dancing with the stars.” I just don’t get why these people get to keep being in the public eye, except to spout out conservative crap that makes some of us angry.

  5. syfr
    November 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Because men never shop. Which is why my boyfriend can spend hours wandering around Home Depot looking at things…

  6. Michael
    November 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    You’ve been in New York too long.

  7. Kit Kendrick
    November 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I find the measurement charts on most websites useless. My bust, waist, and hip measurements inevitably put me in three different sizes and I never know which to pick.

  8. November 18, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Ah Kit, once I ordered a dress and all they had was a waist and bust size, which were matched up for you (so you couldn’t even pick a different bust size than the waist they had!) and was a bit infuriating because it was the assumption that everyone has this proportionate shape. Also, because this was a site where you could customize the design. Luckily my waist and bust size fit their proportions and so I ordered… unfortunately my height did not. They expected a woman with a 25 inch waist to be six feet tall. I had to cut off a whole foot.

  9. November 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I wish they would come out with the men’s fashion section so I could look at clothes I actually like.

  10. Mikey
    November 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Next time you see me in sweat pants and a t-shirt with a unicorn howling at the moon, you’ll understand.

  11. November 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Cf: I also recently learned that Bristol Palin is a contestant on “dancing with the stars.”I just don’t get why these people get to keep being in the public eye, except to spout out conservative crap that makes some of us angry.  

    LOL! Bristol Palin is also doing “public service announcements” with “The Situation.”

  12. November 18, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I myself don’t have much patience for clothes shopping, I think because there’s something intensely frustrating in the fact that there is absolutely no standardized size for pants. A 38 inch waist is sometimes a 40 inch waist or even a 42 inch waist. My female friends have told me that it is even worse for women.

    Men do shop, but for items usually not found in a department store. They’ll pour over a hardware store, for example. Some of us will do the same at a bookstore. I myself can get totally lost in a guitar store.

    I think many heterosexual men would balk at the very idea of shopping for clothes, internet or no. Gender roles insist that male clothing tastes be practical and simplistic, though some men fit the category of “dandy”.

  13. Matt
    November 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Bad form google. Bad form.

  14. t-ster
    November 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I totally agree. Men need the aid of fashion-robots just as much as women.

  15. Jim
    November 18, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    What Michael said.

    And April, what Comrade Kevin said. Hell, lots of men’s shirt come in exactly four sizes: Small/Medium/Large/XLarge/ XXLarge – and you get to guess what the sweatshop meant by the sizes.

    Shopping on line for clothes, where you can’t tell anything about the fabric, is pretty foolish. It’s fine for books or medications or whatever is standardized, but that sure isn’t clothes or shoes.

    “Gender roles insist that male clothing tastes be practical and simplistic, though some men fit the category of “dandy”. ”

    That, or the gender roles just license practical and simple, which is what I happen to prefer anyway, along with any number of women I know, who don’t get that leniency.

  16. November 18, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    That site is fun…I wish they asked what materials you like, though. They are showing me a ton of leather stuff and I’m vegan :(

  17. Dank
    November 18, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Michael: You’ve been in New York too long.  

    +1

  18. Kristen J.
    November 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Ahem, some of us women also shop for our male partners who would if left to their own devices leave the house in the exact same clothes every day of the year. Also, it would be nice if there were ethical filters as someone said for animal products or for where the clothes are made (for those that have the ability to make different choices).

  19. Sid
    November 18, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Maybe I’ve been in New York for too long, but most men I know are interested in fashion, and shop extensively online, and care quite a bit about how they look. I realize Google is operating out of t-shirt-and-flip-flop land in Palo Alto

    1. Google is based out of Mountain View, but men in both Palo Alto and Mountain View (and at many of the Bay Area biotechs) seem relatively appearance-concious despite the lax corporate culture.

    2. And 2 on the New-York-uniqueness of male fashion-obsession. You certainly see it in LA, and to smaller degrees in Chicago, San Fran, DC, et al, but the attitude is on steroids in NY.

  20. November 18, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Mikey: Next time you see me in sweat pants and a t-shirt with a unicorn howling at the moon, you’ll understand.  

    I want that T-shirt.

  21. Athenia
    November 18, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    My boyfriend is online shopping for clothes all the time.

    He’s from New York.

  22. Me
    November 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    I like shopping online because stores I can afford are often overwhelming. translation: I like boutiques, but not boutique prices; likewise, I will eventually be able to find what I need in a department store but it takes time, stress, too many people, too much stimulation, and a stiff drink afterwards. This looks fun, and playing with it briefly is kind of validating: it says I have an actual style, and when I look at the stuff it recommends, I think “Huh, yeah, I do actually like that stuff.” I mean, it’s nice to know I’m not the only person on the planet that doesn’t like sparkly-frilly-bows-on-everything. Now if only I could afford what it recommends and wasn’t planning on selling everything I own in the next three months …

  23. exholt
    November 18, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    I think it is a combination of NYC and the possibility of your being in neighborhoods where fashion consciousness is particularly high such as NYU*, the Village, etc.

    It was certainly a culture shock to me to have others making snide comments about my lack of fashion consciousness in the Village/NYU area after spending some years in a city where it mostly isn’t as emphasized(Boston) or my midwest SLAC where actually openly caring about fashion got one dismissed as “superficial” and a “bourgeois capitalist tool” by classmates when I attended during the mid-late ’90s.

    * I’ve noticed Columbia students don’t seem to be as fashion conscious or trendy compared to their village/NYU counterparts. More interestingly, some of them actually expressed a sense of inferiority in relation to their NYU counterparts in the fashion department.

  24. Andrea
    November 18, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I have to say, I love how creative many men in New York are with their clothes. There’s just something about saying, “Oh really? Being interested in clothes is only for women? Well watch this.” I don’t know, the idea that men can’t care about clothes because otherwise they’ll be feminine (which, you know, is a fate worse than death. Who the hell would want to be a girl anyway?) really pisses me off. So google should definitely get it together and promote this fantastic NYC trend (Paris and many cities in Italy as well. But oh wait, Europe is feminine too, right?)

  25. JohnA
    November 19, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Sorry ladies, if a man is *really* interested in clothes, he’s probably gay. Most men don’t get excited over what to wear, certainly not like women do.

  26. Adam
    November 19, 2010 at 9:12 am

    you speak the truth, Jill. I understand there are many men who conform to the standard of not even trying with their appearance, but being remotely fashion conscious isn’t confined to the NYC area.

    as mentioned, I’ve been very impressed with Gilt for offering a men’s site (and yes, sizing can be quite variable…in fact, worse for women, however I’ve had a good experience with returns. and, the listed sizes help too)

  27. Tei Tetua
    November 19, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Nah, I’m of the school of thought that says equality is best achieved by women being less obsessed about fashion, not men being more. The term “metrosexual” seemed to die a quick death, but apparently the concept lives on.

  28. November 19, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Tei Tetua,
    liking and appreciating fashion doesn’t mean “obsessed.” And equality is achieved just as much with men liking “feminine” things as with women liking “masculine” things.

    Jill et al,
    While I don’t doubt New York is on the extreme end when it comes to men and fashion, I see a lot of that down here in Houston too (and there was a lot in Austin & San Antonio when I lived in those cities). And the 2 (hetero) guys I know here who are the most invested in fashion and ordering clothes online are from Iowa and Alabama, neither one has ever lived in NY.

  29. November 19, 2010 at 10:23 am

    That said I was playing around on that site all yesterday and for someone who does most of her shopping in thrift stores I was absolutely loving it and it’s suggestions for me!

  30. umami
    November 19, 2010 at 10:29 am

    It seems pretty good but honestly since there’s a lot less variation in men’s clothing and it would be harder to teach a computer to distinguish it in any useful way, plus the fact of there being a lot less demand, I’d be really surprised if they extended this to men anytime soon.

  31. Andrea
    November 19, 2010 at 10:35 am

    You’re right Tei, equality is best sought by telling women what they can and cannot be interested in. My bad

  32. Andrea
    November 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    JohnA, gay men are still men. Just so you know.

  33. November 19, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    JohnA: Sorry ladies, if a man is *really* interested in clothes, he’s probably gay.Most men don’t get excited over what to wear, certainly not like women do.  

    It’s true – real heterosexual men don’t even need clothing. They are attired only in sheer masculine heterosexual dude-musk.

  34. November 19, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Why would I be sorry to find out a guy is gay? I mean, I like the sex and all, but I hang out with men for more and better reasons than just what their penises can do for my vagina.

  35. Gembird
    November 19, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    JohnA: Sorry ladies, if a man is *really* interested in clothes, he’s probably gay.

    You know, I am so glad we have somebody like you to inform us of that fact. It’s not like those stereotypes are both bullshit and unwelcome here.

  36. November 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I’ve never shopped online — even though it would be hugely convenient for me since I don’t drive — because when I’ve looked at online explanations of women’s sizes they don’t seem to tell me everything I need to know. Especially for shirts, since I have really broad shoulders and thick arms, so just going by bust and waist size will probably get me a shirt I can’t fit into.

    So I go into stores, and try everything on. I can’t really conceive of buying something without trying it on — even pants, which are a lot more consistent in terms of what sizes I can wear, because even if something is guaranteed to fit me I still can’t be sure I’ll like the way it looks or feels on me.

  37. Kristen J.
    November 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Nice try JohnA, but the competiton for Feministe’s Next Top Troll is stiffer than that. A swipe about gender performance and sexual orientation isn’t going to even get you on the short list. Perhaps review last years performance or check out Rice’s contribution from a few weeks ago…That was high troll art.

  38. November 19, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I made some mistakes at first, but by now I’m a good judge of if and how clothing that I order online will fit me. I do almost all of my shopping online, clothes or otherwise; means I don’t have to use up resources going into stores and trying to talk to people.

  39. November 19, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Lindsay: I’ve never shopped online — even though it would be hugely convenient for me since I don’t drive — because when I’ve looked at online explanations of women’s sizes they don’t seem to tell me everything I need to know. Especially for shirts, since I have really broad shoulders and thick arms, so just going by bust and waist size will probably get me a shirt I can’t fit into.So I go into stores, and try everything on. I can’t really conceive of buying something without trying it on — even pants, which are a lot more consistent in terms of what sizes I can wear, because even if something is guaranteed to fit me I still can’t be sure I’ll like the way it looks or feels on me.  

    I buy most of my clothes online, and a lot of my friends ask how I do it. I generally explain that I pretty much have no choice. There are only a couple stores in my city that sell plus size clothes. So if I want to dress myself inexpensively and stylishly, that’s pretty much my only option. Just so you know that not all of us shop online because we think it’s better.

    I tried using the website, but it kept giving me vests. I loathe vests.

    But evidently Talbots has cute, colorful clothes? And really good sales sometimes? Weird, and not what I remember!

  40. Alara Rogers
    November 19, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Sorry ladies, if a man is *really* interested in clothes, he’s probably gay.

    Yes, because gay men don’t feel like they have to prove to all the other men they know, every day, how much they hate women and how much everything women do disgusts them, in order to compensate for the obvious fact that they want to sleep with them.

    My ex boyfriend was often accused of being gay because he had a strong (albeit weird) sense of clothing style, liked to cook, and liked Barbie dolls. (He also liked motorcycles, repairing cars, and weapons.) He would typically point out that liking to do things women also like to do gets you the opportunity to meet more women, and increases your odds of getting laid, and he couldn’t comprehend why heterosexual men were supposed to spend so much time proving that they weren’t interested in anything women do. He was kind of a self-centered, entitled ass in many ways, but one good thing about him I have to say: he really never did get the patriarchy’s memo about hating women. It just seemed naturally obvious to him that if you like women, and you like things that women like, it will offer you more opportunity to meet women, who will like you because you like the things they like, and therefore proving how manly you are by hating on everything women do is a self-defeating proposition for the het guy who likes sex.

    But he never got the memo, so he never got the point. The point is not to get laid. The point is to prove to other men that, even though you do want to have sex with women, you can still hold them in complete contempt. “See? I’m only interested in the pussy. All the things women do are yucky and femmy and girly; I’m a manly man, so I hate everything about women except having sex with them!”

    Gay men, since they do not have sex with women, and since most of them have gotten thrown out of the patriarchy anyway, are under no pressure to hate women. And thus, oddly enough, most of them don’t. You may get some weird misogynistic-sounding commentary about women’s *bodies* from gay men, in part because gay men have been pressured to find women’s bodies desirable when they really don’t and may thus end up backlashing against that pressure, but you almost never get the kind of misogyny about women’s personalities and interests that het men display all the time.

    Or, in other words, JohnA: yes, we know. The average man who is sexually attracted to us has been put under enormous pressure, his entire life, to prove how much he hates us and everything we do, so the average man who is attracted to women will never admit to being interested in looking good, as looking good is culturally designated as being for women. You don’t actually need to point this out. It’s in fact one of the things this web site exists to fight. That being said, if a poster on this site mentions that her boyfriend or a guy she knows really likes clothes, he’s probably not gay. He’s probably just a feminist. And he’s probably getting more and better sex than any non-feminist guy could imagine, because the benefit of sex with someone you don’t have to pretend to hate should be immediately obvious to everyone, but I do understand that men like you can’t allow yourselves to realize that fact, or your heads would explode from jealousy.

  41. David
    November 19, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    JohnA is a troll and feeds on people’s tears. I will refrain from saying more lest this post become yet more food to be thrown into his green, rubbery, toothy maw.

    Alara, you are partially right, although I would say that the heterosexual male fear of appearing feminine stems from that man’s belief that anything he does to make himself more feminine will put him at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting women.

    However, it is also a slightly more complicated issue. There are two other things at play here: 1. Women and girls are given more images and toys that promote interest in fashion from an early age. Barbie and “dress-up” type dolls are very rarely given to boys. 2. The array of garments and jewelery that are considered masculine acceptable are smaller than those offered to women. Thus, if someone considers that the number of different ways in which they can possibly combine their clothing is more limited, they might find less interest in it.

  42. Emily S.
    November 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Yep, you’ve been in NY too long – not that the men out here in CA don’t look good, they focus more on making themselves look good and then throwing on appropriate clothes rather than carefully selecting outfits (then again, the men in CA are more likely to be found with fewer clothes on than the men in NY due to climate differences).

    Although rolling this out just to women at first makes sense, because you’re not going to want to develop EVERYTHING and then discover that your algorithms don’t work, you’re going to want to do it one category at a time. Women are the largest demographic, and the most likely to use a fashion tool. In addition, women’s fashions are much more diverse than men’s fashions, providing the developers a better ability to fine-tune their algorithms.

  43. banisteriopsis
    November 22, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I’m a het cis dude and I shop on the internet a ton, but usually for things like shoes, where I don’t have to care as much about exact fit, or if I want something specific from a lot of options, like art polos or weird tshirts. Most clothes I still get at Ross, because I can see how it looks and is just as cheap.

    Who are these guys that are getting lots of attention from women and can’t put together an outfit? It seems deliberately stupid to choose to make yourself less appealing. So it’s hilarious to see dudes here who insist they can’t be bothered.

  44. Sarah
    November 27, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Wow, so many things wrong with this article I don’t even know where to begin:

    1. I’m female and I hate clothes shopping. Also never heard of “cyber Monday” before just now, and spent “Black Friday” sitting around meditating. I spent the vast majority of my life in NYC, too–but then again I’ve always hated NYU trendoids.

    2. You can’t shop for clothes online. They won’t fit. This is why stores have dressing rooms, because sizing information never tells you anything.

    3. Why would I want a computer program that thinks it can read my mind “suggesting” stuff I should buy based on my “taste”? It’s already bad enough being stereotyped by marketers based on my gender!

    4. But if guys really want to get clothing that they don’t need and that doesn’t fit marketed to them by Google…good for them! Why should girls have all the fun?

  45. timothynakayama
    December 1, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Thanks Jill, for posting this up. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people tell me, both men and women, why I like to spend a little bit more money on better quality clothes – you know, slim fit, well-tailored. I refuse to wear clothes that I don’t like wearing just because “the other guys don’t care about fashion!”. Nor will the “But you’re a guy!” stop me from spending a little bit more money on a hairstylist who knows how to cut Asian hair right.

    But meh, I don’t know. I’d rather have more brick-and-mortar stores for men. As well as more skin-care/make-up stores that are guy-friendly. When it comes to clothes, you’d want to see how you look in it, before buying. How it looks under different lighting, and how it looks when you pair it with something else they’re selling in the store, how it feels against your skin. When it comes to online clothes shopping, you can’t do any of that.

  46. I am Man
    December 2, 2010 at 2:38 am

    I hate shopping for clothes, not because I am a man, which I most certainly am (see name above), but because shopping for clothes is the step you take before wearing clothes which I really hate because it covers up my exquisite naked-ness. Thanks alot fashion/patriarch/industrio complex!!

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