With a new year comes fresh perspective in the men’s market.
While there is much hope that the supply chain conundrum of last year is resolved in the first half of 2022, retailers are also faced with rising inflation and the challenges of captivating consumers amid a resurgence of COVID this winter.
Overall, though, most storeowners are optimistic, and retailers are expecting to see a continuation of trends that blossomed during the last two years. Sneakers are continuing to dominate the footwear business, and tailored clothing is on the rise.
Here, menswear executives open up about their top performing categories, what they want to add to their stores in 2022 and the brands to watch.
What are your top-performing men’s categories right now?
Louis DiGiacomo, SVP/GMM of men’s at Saks: “Sneakers remain dominant in men’s footwear, with skate and runner styles as the most popular subcategories. We are also seeing growth in various subcategories of boots as men are increasingly purchasing more boots to round out their wardrobes for any occasion, including Chelsea boots, combat boots, and weather-resistant boots. Puffer shoes have also become one of the most coveted trends of the season following the popularity of puffer coats. Designers such as Prada, Dior and Moon Boot have reinvented the styles that were popular in the ’80s to bring in a fresh, cool spin on the trend. One of our top selling styles of the season is the Prada Lug Sole Leather Combat Boot. The Christian Dior Puffy Slippers have also been a standout.”
Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman: “Right now, we’re seeing lots of interest in all things menswear. I know that sounds vague, but it’s just absolutely true. We’ve seen a real return to interest in tailoring – that’s a huge category. Sneakers continue to be on fire. The designer market and runway driven sportswear is incredibly robust.”
Justin Berkowitz, men’s fashion director at Bloomingdale’s: “Elevated transitional items that bridge the gap between casual and dressy, such as shirt jackets and easy pants, are quite popular with our Bloomingdale’s shoppers. There’s also a strong return to tailoring as our shoppers attend more special occasions or look for new pieces for the office.”
Jian DeLeon, men’s fashion and editorial director at Nordstrom: “Designer continues to be a strong category for us, especially with labels like Dior and Alexander McQueen. We’ve certainly noticed a huge demand for dress shoes, no doubt tied to the return of special occasions and holiday dressing. Of course, sneakers and active footwear remain extremely important for our customer too.”
Ruben Leal, director of men’s buying at Ron Herman: “Top categories for us have been jersey i.e. t-shirts and denim. Suiting has risen to be a standout the past two seasons. With people going back to work and going out more, suiting has been slowly trending up.”
What will you be looking to add to your merchandise mix in 2022?
DiGiacomo: “The boot is on track to become the next sneaker in terms of variety needed for men’s multi functional wardrobes. We are seeing our men’s customers buying a different pair of boots for every occasion, whether it be a classic Chelsea boot for work, weather resistant boots for rainy days or combat and hiker boots for casual weekends. We’re also seeing an increased demand for dress shoes and loafers at the moment, and are planning to add a ton of great lug and rubber sole options in these categories to our matrix for 2022.”
Pask: “The sneaker business is driving interest adjacent categories like sandals. The styles with more assertive outsoles that we’re seeing from designer brands are very fashion friendly. Styles like the Prada Cloudburst Thunder or the Loubi Shark or styles from Fendi. I mean, there are so many interesting players in the sandal world, which is really exciting for spring.”
Berkowitz: “Our Bloomingdale’s customers have been responding positively to color and novelty and we’ll see that reflected in the spring assortment especially with woven knits and outwear. Pieces that have more of an outdoor aesthetic are also popular such as technical apparel and utility fabrications. There’s also a rising interest in tailored clothing and sophisticated pieces as shoppers continue investing in more elevated apparel.”
DeLeon: I’ve added a few chukkas and casual oxfords into my rotation — I can’t wear sneakers all the time, after all. Some of the new brands we’ve brought in include hiking boots from Season Three, storied French manufacturer J.M. Weston, and I’m super excited about what we have coming in the mule category, unsurprisingly.
Leal: “For Ron Herman Men’s, I will be looking to add footwear and other lifestyle categories such as premium men’s grooming products to the mix for 2022. Footwear is a key category in the men’s space we want to grow, and we’re seeing an increasing interest in men’s grooming.”
What are the men’s brands to watch for 2022?
DiGiacomo: “Sunni Sunni is a brand we’re very excited about going into 2022. They’re one of the first brands to offer fashion-forward genderless footwear, providing a unique and fresh option for our customers. And, Christian Louboutin continues to provide the best balance of footwear options for men. They’ve mastered their assortment to offer a standout mix of styles for any occasion.”
Berkowitz: “Prada has been doing an incredible job in the sustainability space with their Re-Nylon project and it’s a program that’s resonating with our Bloomingdale’s customers. Balenciaga has been having a strong moment in terms of interesting product development and the revolutionary ways Demna communicates his brand vision. Alexander McQueen’s intersection of toughness and beauty is stunning. Also, it will be interesting to see where some of the fashion houses currently in a state of creative transition take their design ethos in 2022.”
DeLeon: “New Balance continues its upward trajectory, really firing on all cylinders—high heat exclusives, in-demand core staples like the 900 series and 2002R, and silhouettes that walk the line between performance and lifestyle. On Running shows no signs of slowing down either, and neither do Salomon or Crocs, which are starting 2022 on a strong note.”
Leal: “Brands to watch for 2022 are Reese Cooper out of Los Angeles and Teddy VonRanson from New York. Both are Made in the U.S. with different aesthetics but each hitting on relevant themes in menswear right now.”
Which designers are on the rise?
DiGiacomo: “Amiri is very much on the rise right now. The brand has dramatically expanded its footwear assortment which is now just as popular and coveted as its ready-to-wear line.”
Berkowitz: “The Scandinavian menswear market as a whole, especially with the advanced contemporary brands, has been pushing menswear in a forward-thinking direction. Brands like Sunflower, Séfr, Norse Projects, and (di)vision — the last two are launching at Bloomingdale’s this spring — are excelling at sourcing special fabrics, introducing novelty, and executing at an advanced contemporary price point that is approachable.”
DeLeon: “Salehe Bembury’s behind some of the year’s most hyped releases, and they couldn’t be more different! His New Balance 574 “Yurt” reimagines a trail shoe with a working whistle on the back, and the demand for his Crocs Pollex collaboration was as frenzied as any covetable sneaker—if not more. He also shares the distinction of being the the first Crocs collaborator to literally break the mold—creating a brand new shape for the footwear company. Getting any corporation to reinvent the wheel is real influence.”
Leal: “Reese Cooper has been getting a lot of attention lately and is going to be big in the coming seasons. They have a cool way of mixing an outdoor performance vibe with interesting silhouettes and fabrications that look and feel modern and relevant.”
Are there trends you would like to see go away in 2022?
Berkowitz: “The hyper-casualization that was taking place last year has slowed down as customers shift their interest towards polished pieces that work in their home or out of home experiences.”
DeLeon: “One thing I’d love to see is more men opting out of the hype race and really finding classic silhouettes that resonate with them. In sneakers, brands like Salomon and New Balance are experiencing high demand with general releases, and I think that’s amazing. It also speaks to how some recovering sneakerheads are rounding out their rotations with other casual footwear options like loafers, chukkas, and Birkenstocks.”
Leal: “Overall, I have seen demand slow for fleece, especially full hook ups like matching tops and pants. Fleece will always be important, it will just be more premium and worn as sportswear outside of the house.”
What are your favorite footwear brands at the moment?
DiGiacomo: “Louboutin and Prada are two of my favorite brands in footwear right now. Both designers offer shoes that cater to the lifestyles of every type of man, whether that be classic, casual, active or fashion forward styles. Brunello Cuccinelli is another one of my favorites as the brand always delivers the ultimate elevated classics for the luxury man.”
Berkowitz: “I love what Prada, Valentino, and Lanvin are doing in the sneaker space by introducing novelty and exploring subcultures like skate. Diemme has incredible trail sneakers and hiker boots with outdoor aesthetics. When it comes to a footwear brand that delivers more of a fashion take on dress shoes, Vinny’s comes to mind with their two-tone loafers and interesting colors on classic silhouettes. There are also brands like Birkenstock, Salomon, and New Balance, that have boomed in popularity the last couple of years and have established themselves as go-to footwear.”
DeLeon: “One sneaker I can’t stop wearing is the Salomon ACS Pro Advanced. I can’t wait for future colorways to come out.”
Leal: “My favorite footwear brands right now are Hender Scheme from Japan and Adieu and Paraboot from France. Each focus on handmade quality construction in styles that have a classic feel but in a new way. In the case of Hender Scheme, they reinterpret classic sneaker styles in natural veg tan leather. Adieu does a classic style creeper that looks cool and modern. And each season, Paraboot reinvents their well-known style Michael in new colors and fabrications like a brown spotted pony hair.”