For even the most style-inclined, this year has wrecked all sense of what it means to get dressed in the morning. For the lot of us working remotely, that might mean we end up…not changing. Or changing into workout clothes and not changing out again. Or, it means wearing a pair of jeans and heading into an empty office, because wow, I need to feel like something in the world is working, even if it’s just me in these pants.
But thinking about clothes differently doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about them at all. The office has been getting progressively more casual since long before the pandemic. Now it is just on display.
Just think about Ted Stafford, the fashion director here at Men’s Health and a lifelong Style Guy.
“I used to wear a suit and tie every day to work, even as suits were becoming less of the in-office rule,” says Stafford. “And I definitely still appreciate that. But right now, working remotely or taking quick trips to the office, I am looking to feel good. I want to be comfortable.”
Comfortable used to be style editor cringe language. Comfortable meant sloppy. Comfortable meant wearing lounge clothes in, gasp, public. Comfortable was for the meek, not for the stylish.
That’s all over now. Comfortable is for the wise! Especially when you think like Stafford does. Recently, he found out that Stitch Fix—a place he knew helped people refresh their wardrobes—had recently gone full force with its performance and athleisure clothes. Stitch Fix recently started selling brands Ted already knew and loved (like Rhone and Four Laps), as well as some brand new to him (like Stitch Fix’s in-house brand Algo).
Stafford used this opportunity to expand his own wardrobe, which needed a few more pieces that looked as good as they felt. Here are some of the pieces he received—and what he can’t wait to wear the most.
Here’s How Stitch Fix Works
Stitch Fix is a tech brand that curates clothes. An algorithm and a real-life human stylist learn your style and put together some pieces they think you’ll like. You keep and pay for what you like, send back what you don’t.
The process starts with a survey and a pretty in-depth one at that. They ask some basic questions—what colors do you wear the most and what would you never touch—but they get into more complex ones, too.
“They are very thoughtful from start to finish,” says Stafford. “I’m always the person who wants to get through the questionnaires as fast as possible. But in filling this one out, I was surprised how often I thought, ‘Oh yeah, they should know this!'”
Those “they should know this” moments included how much money he’d normally spend on individual pieces of clothing, like T-shirts, jackets, or shoes. This kind of detail is essential for someone like Ted, who loves a good T-shirt deal but is willing to spend more for a durable jacket.
In each shipment, you’ll get five pieces sent home. You try them on. You keep the ones you want, and send back the ones you don’t. You’ll only get charged for what you keep—and the returns back are free. (There is a $20 styling fee for each Fix, which covers your expert’s time and advice. It gets credited to any items you keep.)
You’re not tied to any recurring shipments, either, unless you want to be. Ted, for example, wanted to start slow with just one shipment to see what he thought. He loved—and needed—almost everything he received, like the puffy Save the Duck vest and a pair of waterproof Danner boots.
He’s contemplating when he’ll get his next shipment, and he has a range of options to choose from. He can do it as a one-time thing or opt into a single fix every time he feels like it, or he can put deliveries on a schedule: every 2-3 weeks, every month, every other month, or every three months.
Of course that first shipment is fun to go through. But that algorithm gets even better as you keep working with the system.
Stitch Fix’s power is in its algorithm: They ask you questions about your style, habits, and preferred activities, and a stylist curates a set of clothes to fit it. As you move through the process, keeping the clothes you like and ditching the ones you don’t, your profile becomes smarter and better understands your taste. It’s like your progressively improving Spotify weekly playlist, only for clothes.
Algorithms aside, the options are expanding, too. When Stitch Fix Men launched back in 2016, there were 50 brands and 160 fit and size combinations. Now? There are more than 100 brands and more than 800 of those fit combos, sizing up to 3X shirts and 48 x 36 pants.
Outdoors and Activities
After Ted received his first Fix, he couldn’t wait to test them out and do to so outside. Some of his favorite pieces were ripe for all that socially distanced, outdoor activities he’s gotten into.
First on his list? A Save the Duck puffer vest, Danner hiking boots, and a waterproof The North Face jacket.
These items were perfect for hiking, something Ted has gotten into lately. Plus, they still look sharp enough to take him to brunch after that AM hike, without feeling like he’s in anything too bulky.
When putting this outfit together, he took a note from Stitch Fix’s Direct Buy page. It’s a sneakily helpful service for those looking to lean into certain looks or need a little help putting one together. It curates whole outfits (!!) around some of the pieces from your Fix.
This was especially helpful for something like hiking boots—would they really look good with a flannel or pants that felt active but didn’t look it? They sure did. And Ted didn’t even have to try them on to see it.
The page can be to buy those extra items directly or just for styling help on what to pair together. Plus, the combinations change, so you can look at it every time you need a new way to wear your favorite jacket.
While all that outdoor gear is great—and has already gone to good use—Stafford was also looking forward to trying out some pieces that hit the more performance (or not) category. Some of his favorite brands from this pick: Rhone, Public Rec, Bonobos, New Balance, and Stitch Fix’s in-house brand Algo.
“I love wearing Rhone performance workout gear when I’m at home but going for a run or errand later,” says Stafford. “And all of the pieces look great with a pair of the New Balance sneakers—and for either occasion.”
One of the most important things Ted has been keeping in mind throughout this wardrobe refresh is clothes that fit the specific situation, which might include a Zoom meeting from home and then a quick photoshoot at the office.
“They sent this great henley, which has become one of my favorite first layers,” says Stafford. “You can be comfortable all day long on Zoom calls, but you can also go out and feel confident that you’re not in a ratty T-shirt.” You can layer a sweater over it, or swap out joggers for a pair of jeans without having to take that henley off.
Another one of Ted’s favorites for those work-from-home outfits is an athleisure-y feeling polo shirt, which provides even more structure than a henley.
“The collar really makes it feel put together,” says Stafford. “Plus, everyone’s only seeing you from the chest up anyway, right? When you have that bit of structure, you can still feel like a guy who cares about the details. These kinds of athleisure fabrics never feel sloppy.”
Ted’s goal for his wardrobe refresh was to have some more items that he didn’t dread wearing all day long. And his items delivered–most notably, on some of the softest, sturdiest fabrics he has worn.
“If I look back 10 years ago in fashion, the fabrics weren’t as technical and modern as they are now,” he says.”These new fabrics make all the difference they amplify your look.”
That includes a super soft Four Laps hoodie—mostly cotton with a touch of stretch—and Public Rec joggers, which feel stretchy but never stretch out.
And that go to henley from Algo? It’s quick-dry, moisture-wicking, anti-odor, with UV SPF 40—and it’s made from recycled water bottles.
“Even if I’m not always in a suit, I still want to pay attention to the finer details of getting dressed,” he says. “But I appreciate that today I can find those in softer jackets, unlined pieces, and stretchy shirts.”
That’s because these brands—Stitch Fix’s low-key masterpiece—have leveled up their fabrics without pulling down the fit and style of the pieces.
“For example, the shirts and joggers have stretch, but it’s not some weird, stretchy fabric,” he says. “There’s an elevated sophistication to it. They’re always looking to make fabrics to make technical but look lifestyle and sharp.”
There’s one more bonus section Stitch Fix just launched: The Extras. Well, Stitch Fix calls it The Extras. We think of them more like essentials.
This section includes the basics, like socks, underwear, and face masks. That way, when you buy an outfit, you’re buying a whole outfit—and don’t have to spend any mental energy completing the package.
Ted was especially happy to see some of his favorite items here for easy purchase, too, like Mack Weldon’s boxers and Tommy John’s undershirts.
“Now, we’re really learning how to dress for the day and for how that day evolves,” says Stafford. That means having shirts and pants that can do remote work and in-person dining, and a mask on hand at all times.
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