In a retrospective on their own wildly popular catalogue published back in 1943, Sears wrote that it would likely serve “as a mirror of our times, recording for future historians today’s desires, habits, customs, and mode of living.” They weren’t far from the mark on that. Today, the 130 year old Illinois-based retailer is as much the focus of American history courses as it is that of business classes in colleges. Their catalogue, launched in the late 1800s, made use of a growing appetite for material goods by a country that was expanding westward from the east coast of the continent at a rapid pace. Looking back at it now, students of history will find in the offerings (everything from mail-order homes to double-barrel shotguns) echoes and impressions of who we were as a country at the turn of the 20th century, and what we aspired to be.
Now, well over 100 years later, we can still find just as much of ourselves in the new frontier of retail – online shopping. Of course, the popular online stores are wildly different from the Sears & Roebuck catalogues; for one, they are simply not as broad in their scope, but what they lack on that category they make up for in specialization in their own niche. Some shops solely cater to the guy who has an affinity for street-wear, others may focus on more formal clothing, and still more make outdoor attire and gear their bread and butter. We assembled a list of what we see as the 15 best online shops for men in order to serve as a helpful guide to this new hyper-specialized world.
Interest in gear designed for everyday carry has been growing steadily over the past 5 to 10 years, so it was really only a matter of time before a shop popped up that was dedicated to exclusively retailing goods ranging from watches and wallets, to keychains and flashlights. Our sister site Gallantry was born out of a genuine love for extremely well designed and meticulously built gear that can stand up to everyday tasks – whether deep in the city or out in the open country. It’s a young shop based out of San Diego, that exhibits as much of a penchant for visually compelling storytelling as it does for American made goods. Whether you are a gear head looking to get your hands on a new pocket knife, or just a fan of reading about homegrown companies and those who love them – you won’t regret signing up for the newsletter.
Iron and Resin
For most of the country, a love for or interest in either motorcycles or surfing is mutually exclusive. Not in California. Not at Iron and Resin. Born in Ventura, a Southern California coastal town located just south of Santa Barbara, this beautifully designed shop channels the aesthetic of coastal living into the types of products they carry and how they present them. With everything from surfboards to riding apparel for the motorcyclist, this shop embraces the idea of ‘one-off’ products, that are built far away from the assembly line and look and feel like something that came from somewhere much wilder and untamed.
Not all great shops begin online. Need Supply started as a brick and mortar store in Richmond, Virginia only a year after eBay first opened its own doors. Their primary focus initially was to sell vintage Levis, but over the years they’ve vastly expanded their offerings to include great men’s and women’s clothing. While much of what they do has changed over the past twenty years, the retailer still embodies a very specific take on the vintage American aesthetic that they began with. Their offerings range from clothing to timepieces sourced from both American based companies and others headquartered abroad. Whether you get a chance to show up at the original location in Virginia or just want to explore their offerings online – Need Supply is well worth your time.
Buying a good suit is one of the few remaining ‘rights of passage’ into bonafide adulthood. Like most traditional rights, it can be a truly difficult and time consuming task to find a made to measure suit – and even when you do just that, it more often than not ends up putting a serious dent in your bank account. Suit Supply, a company based out of Amsterdam, has made it their mission to upend this old dynamic by offering beautiful and affordable suits made with fabrics sourced from Italy. This isn’t some fly-by-night kind of operation, the still young company has gotten glowing reviews from some of the most consequential gatekeepers of the more formal men’s fashion publications like Vanity Fair and GQ. You can get more than just suits here, of course. If you are looking for ties, sunglasses, hats, or even a pair of swim trunks, they have just the right number of pieces for you to choose from.
Best Made Company
An axe. That was the simple but essential tool that gave Best Made its start. Back in 2009, founder Peter Buchanan-Smith felt that he just couldn’t get his hands on a well enough made axe. They had been an essential tool when he was out on the range working on cattle farms in Northern Canada, but outside of that profession, the tool was few and far between. Buchanan-Smith started Best Made with the simple goal of highlighting the inherent beauty of these tools, and added elegant paint-dips and a red X to the tools. The reaction was overwhelming. Axes were highlighted in big publications and even featured in the Saatchi Gallery in London. Since then the brand has applied the same kind of attention to detail and love to a wider variety of products – working with small makers to design striking pieces that range from bags to apparel.
You’d be forgiven if you thought that this famous Japanese retailer hadn’t been around for longer than 10 or 15 years. In fact, the retailer has its roots in the early 1980s when Ogori Shōji opened up a casual unisex clothing store by the name of ‘Unique Clothing Warehouse’ in three different cities in Japan. Time went on, the store grew to 100 stores in just about 10 years, and the name shortened to what we now know it as today. One of the many things that set the brand apart during the turn of the 21st century, however, was the strength of their online store. Their nimble online presence and their affordable and stylish men’s basics set them apart from stalwart brands, helping them break into the American market.
What would happen if you combined a designer clothing store with an internet supergiant? Evidently, East Dane. The shop, founded only three years ago in 2013, set its stake in the online retailing world by taking a very straightforward approach to offering men’s clothing from heritage brands like Marc Jacobs to newer designers like Alexander Wang. With big backers like BOP LLC, a subsidiary of Amazon, this store is great for guys who are looking for a one-stop shop for all different types of men’s fashion.
Most all of us have at least come across those boutique shops in cities that carry beautiful and wildly expensive pieces of clothing from niche designers. Well, this is one of the online corollaries of those types of stores. Based in Montreal, Canada, the shop is known not only for carrying the cutting edge in independent and luxury brands, but for its content-commerce strategy. While the website may look humble from the outside, it has a good deal of power and influence in the fashion community with 22 million page views a month and a serious global reach. To get a sense of what that means in real terms, back when Kanye West released his first capsule collection the site did half a million in sales in under an hour. Yeah. Wether you just want to browse offerings or read their articles – visiting Ssense (pronounced “essence”) is a great way to keep your fingers on the pulse of high fashion.
America’s expansion into the west coast of the continent changed more than just the political boundaries of the country; it changed its sartorial inclinations too. Now, more than half a century after the west has been neatly paved over with highways, there are still retailers like Stag Provisions who are carrying the flame into the most recent frontier opened up by the west coast – online retailing. Whether it is shoes, sunglasses, tools, or clothing – the Austin-based Stag Provisions offerings all fit the aesthetic of a new west informed by old style icons like James Dean and Steve McQueen.
Not all shops that put a focus on old-American aesthetics and style are tied to the look forged in the west. This San Francisco based retailer embraces an early 20th century look and feel with their selection of goods from a wide variety of suppliers. According to the retailer – their name conveys exactly what they’re all about – collaborating with others and working together to put well made and visually striking products in the hands of those who appreciate them most. Their site is as visually striking as their three stores, highlighting their goods in an easy to navigate and straightforward way.
For those who love some of the more hard to find offerings from brands like Acronym, Common Projects, Junya Watanabe, and others – Haven is much more than just the name of this Vancouver based shop, but a honest to god descriptor. While the shop has a good deal of brick and mortar stores, one in Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto respectively, they’ve taken real advantage of the ability to sell internationally by setting up one of the more striking and influential retail portals online.
Christiaan Ashworth and John Parker met as a couple of university kids in the early half the 2000s and bonded over a love of small clothing brands. That shared interest, paired with their own specialties in IT and Economics lead them to both identify a gap in the market for smaller, more niche brands, and then build a brand around stocking and supplying them. Now, years along, END is the go to store for a huge number of people who are looking to get their hands on some of the hottest releases of the season. An industry leader, they’ve even taken on the task of beating robot sneaker buyers who immediately turn around and resell rare kicks for wild markups.
The inspiring story of a small but scrappy web-based startup out of San Francisco may be one of the more clichéd narratives a person can draw up about a business in 2016, but it’s hard to do anything but talk about Huckberry in those terms. In 2011, a couple of good friends decided to ditch their comfy jobs and do something they hadn’t quite seen anyone else do up until that point – mix the thrilling and engaging storytelling of quality outdoor journals and magazines with well crafted menswear and gear. As even the briefest look at their site would suggest, their combination was a winning one. Totally bootstrapped and free of the craziness of VC funding that so much of Silicon Valley is caught up in, they’re building one of the most interesting and engaging stores on the internet.
A lot of ink has been spilled on the struggles of new media (or is it new new media? maybe new new new media) in this new era screen-first publication. It’s dead. No! It’s just video-first now. Well, while everyone has been arguing over what exactly things mean or how exactly they’ll turn out, a lot of our natural inclination to tell stories has found solid footing on online retail stores like Mr Porter. As much a fashion publication as it is a store carrying some of the more talked about and desired designers of the day like Raf Simons, Alexander McQueen, and A.P.C, it’s quickly become one of the most highly regarded retailers in the men’s fashion space. Esquire referred to them as a powerhouse – and with offices in both London, New York, and up to 2.5 million unique visitors a month – it’s hard to argue with that phrasing.
While a lot of really good stores have found themselves content with offering a combination of compelling storytelling through writing and visuals paired with unique offerings, retailers like Taylor Stitch are taking it a step further by getting their customers to not only buy their products – but to help make them a reality. Taylor Stitch has their own in-house crowd-funding infrastructure that allows them to gauge the interest in specific designs in real time with real buyers – not in some focus group. The result is a really genuine interaction between this team and fans – and a chance for customers to get their hands on unique items ranging from basics to outerwear and suits.
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