When Colin Hunter graduated from college in 2004, he landed a finance job in Manhattan and began climbing the ranks. His new lifestyle called for a new wardrobe and that’s where he got stuck: The stores that his bosses shopped at charge thousands for pants that didn’t fit him particularly well. When he lucked out and found a style of pants he liked, it would inevitably be sold out.
“I hated the entire shopping experience,” he says. “It felt dated. And it was.”
Frustrated, Hunter decided to change the way men shop for clothes. In 2004, he and his buddy Peyton Jenkins founded Alton Lane with the strict goal to make affordable custom suits measured with 3D body-scanning technology. Today, they serve more than 15,000 customers and have offices in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Their success can largely be tied back to price: Custom Alton Lane pants start at $110 and suits begin at $485.
In the past decade, Alton Lane, Bonobos, Indochino, and Suitsupply became the go-to retailers for men looking to update their work wardrobes by lowering the price point and offering a wide variety of customizable styles. “It was one thing when you just threw on a loose suit,” Hunter says. “But now that its cool to wear khakis, things like fit and cut make all the difference. Spending $500 on chinos isn’t going to help anything if the fit is bad.” Rather than splurge on designer pants, Hunter’s customers come looking for something designed for them.
“Fit should be your building block for any wardrobe,” said Brad Andrews, Bonobos’ VP of merchandising. “You don’t want to go too far and edge into the skinny territory, but make an effort to stand out from the billowy pant crowd.” Andrews recommends that men choose a versatile fabric that makes sense with their lifestyle. To that end, Bonobos produces the Weekday Warrior line out of non-iron chino that can take a beating. Alton Lane stocks Aquaplan fabric for men who entertain and get entertained and wrinkle-resistant Worsted Wool for those who travel.
Major companies are following suit. Last year, Dockers launched the Alpha collection which is a tailored, updated version of their classic khakis priced at $50 to $68. J. Crew has a collection of slim cords, jeans and chinos designed to look polished but casual called the 484, which runs from $69 to $255. “The idea is to keep it easy,” says Hunter. “If someone finds a pair of pants they love and in 15 years they want that exact same pair: text me.”