Bonobos, the popular online men’s shop, are much softer and more luxurious than the ones I order from my old catalog. Yep, I’m a mail-order shopper, which puts me one posture point above the Snuggie purchaser on the evolutionary ape-to-flaneur chart. Nothing terrifies me more than a store clerk asking if I need help. Which is why the opening of the brick and mortar shop in Flatiron is such a mystery to me. And, similarly, why has Piperlime, the online bastion from Gap Co., gone and built a walk-in catalog? It seems to merge all the comfort and ease of leisurely browsing online with everything that’s not that.
The Guide Shops, as they’re called, aren’t exactly retail stores. They require an appointment (you can make one online), and instead of browsing alone, a Bonobos guide spends forty-five minutes helping you try on pants and jackets. Please, you may think,I can try on pants myself. No, you can’t! For example, I’ve been under the impression for the past five years that I wore a 32 by 34 trouser. Nuh-uh. Lauren, my guide, fixed that shit right up. With an eyeball, she diagnosed my waist as a 31. I tried on a 32 out of stubbornness—sure enough, there was an inch between my thumb and the button! Now I’m rocking a 31, and I feel brand new.
As for the jacket, I’ve been a 40 L since my 18th birthday (first suit). Not true! Lauren handed me a 38, and it was like leaving the Republican Party for the Party Party. Also, I’m not a Republican. Next cool thing: they give you beer. Even if your appointment’s at 11am. And there’s just something awesome about having a card in your wallet for the professional pants-fitter. Especially when the only other card in your wallet is for the dermatologist (mole checks, naw mean?). The point is, I went into the Guide Shop experience terrified of being assessed by a stranger, and by the end, I was ready to open a tab. Lauren told me that some customers just text her personal phone asking her to send them trousers, which works. You can also hire the guides to come to your home or office and throw a Pants Party, which is like a Tupperware party but with colorful chinos. “We were just at Facebook this week,” Gina, the PR rep, told me. Presumably helping them change out of pajamas.
Their clothes do indeed have some crucial details. The waist is curved, “which gets rid of that khaki diaper butt.” The shirts are cut to eliminate “billowing muffin top.” And you can get a lot of the clothes in a slim version if you’re on the ectomorphic side. But the main draw is the cool pocket lining, which comes in prints like houndstooth and paisley, so when you walk around, the design peeks out your back pockets. What does your back pocket print say about you? If you’re sharp, it should say “a professional helped me pick these out.”