Fashion is for wimps ... and for divorcees

November 16, 2001

The failure of one in three marriages may be a bleak statistic, but it appears to be very good news for men's fashion shops.

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University's Business School, investigating patterns of shopping, discovered a curious blip. Men tended to buy a lot of clothes from the ages of 15 to 24, but then bought virtually nothing until they were about 35, when buying peaked again.

"We wondered, does divorce bring men back into fashion buying, and very clearly it does," said Christopher Moore, Scotmid professor of retailing.

Interviews with more than 100 men across the country revealed that a "huge proportion" of them had not shopped for clothes since the day they married.

"Whenever the woman had gone, these guys were completely lost," Professor Moore said.

Many did not know their basic measurements, and had no idea which shops catered for their age range. "Dress down Friday" caused great stress because the majority could buy standard suits but could not cope with coordinating casual wear. Some copied other people in the office, while others resorted to mail order.

"This gave them more confidence once they had experience of sizes and colours, and they could venture to retailers. (Most of the interviewees) became quite good shoppers and started dispensing advice to other people."

But the expertise could be short-lived. One of the key reasons men cited for taking care over their appearance was to find a new mate and, once they did, they let her buy their clothes.

Professional men in particular felt "shopping was for wimps", and their integrity would be undermined if it was known that they liked fashion shopping.

Professor Moore said the message for shops was clear: better customer service and advice.

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