What men's clothing stores in the SF Bay area have salespeople who are helpful and willing to listen?
January 30, 2010 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I need a fashion update. I'm in my mid forties. I know zero about fashion. Clothes bewilder me. Macy's and Nordstroms have nice clothes (I think?) but the salespeople are just kids and they don't give a rat's ass what you look like or whether they've actually helped you. In fact they're all laughing at me behind my back, obviously. Little bastards. Anyway, I need help from someone who knows what's what.

I terms of style I could go for a kind of vaguely professorial look maybe. I like shirts with collars and buttons. Polo shirts are OK. I like to wear blazers and slacks. I only wear athletic clothes when I'm actually exercising. I never wear jeans. I like solid colors or subtle patterns. I stay away from light or bright colors. They just bug me. Maybe I need to loosen up.
posted by eeby to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Since the title asks about MEN'S CLOTHING, I'd say it's fair to assume that OP is male, or wants to look male.

Speaking as a 46-year-old man, I've had some luck lately with finding how much more put-together I look with pants that fit. This is the sort of thing you'll need help with, and as an anti-fashion person I promise it doesn't come naturally.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2010

You could certainly luck out and find an awesome salesperson who would be willing to dress you.

Another potential route is to do some research online and develop a sense of what you want going in. A couple days ago I followed a mefi link to Put This On, a blog about clothing and fashion.

Check it out, as well as the other blogs that they link to. After an hour of poking around, I've literally had a paradigm shift in my thinking on clothes. It's been quite empowering.
posted by dualityofmind at 1:03 PM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Brooks Brothers? Conservative and fairly expensive, but they have a reputation for knowledgeable and customer-service-oriented salespeople. It could be a good place to start and get some questions answered.

I agree with something something that smaller boutique-style stores are also good; that's where I (female, not in San Fran) usually receive the best guidance.
posted by sallybrown at 1:06 PM on January 30, 2010

I used Nordstrom's personal shopper service once when I had to get a bunch of professional clothes in a hurry. I would guess the woman who worked with me was 40ish, but regardless of the personal shopper's age, it's a service slot in which it makes good business sense to have a salesperson with better-than-average interpersonal skills. Since you've got such a clear idea what you like, you'd be able to give the shopper good guidance, and they should be able to offer you some suggestions for expanding your look. It's a free-of-charge service (or it was when I used it), and done by appointment, so it's pretty easy to get a slot between 9-5 on a weekday, in my experience. Macy's offers this service, too.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:06 PM on January 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

I also wanted to chime in that person shopper service is a great start.
posted by Zophi at 1:09 PM on January 30, 2010

The sales people in the men's section at Nordstrom at Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo are adults. And nice, helpful ones too.
posted by purpleclover at 1:10 PM on January 30, 2010

but the salespeople are just kids and they don't give a rat's ass what you look like or whether they've actually helped you

Don't assume that young salespeople are useless. I've been one, and I've dealt with a lot of them, and we cared about helping our customers. If they've been in the job long enough, they've seen a lot of people try on a hell of a lot of clothes. They may offer great ideas about what would work best on you.
posted by sallybrown at 1:13 PM on January 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

In fact they're all laughing at me behind my back, obviously. Little bastards.

If you have that kind of attitude, it's no wonder they don't want to help you.

Getting a personal shopper might be good for you. They'll be able to advise you across several stores and won't necessarily push you into buying the most expensive item.
posted by Solomon at 1:27 PM on January 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm surprised you had that experience at Nordstrom's. I'd just ask the unhelpful salesperson if he can find a more helpful person to help you, or whether he's prefer you ask the manager yourself. Nordstrom prides themselves on customer satisfaction.

That said, it sounds like you have a good idea of what you want. Are you sure you need help? When I started noticing my own style late in life, say in my mid-30s, I just bought a basic few things that exhibited that and found that my subsequent purchases hewed closer to my person taste. I mean, it sounds like your look is pretty conservative (casualish) anyway, so starting with building blocks isn't going to make you look like a doofus. For what it's worth, Banana Republic is good for pieces that are a step up in "stylish" (read: youth) at about the same price, though I've found their salespeople to be a bit too deferent to really offer any real opinions or advice. Point being, once you get a few things you'll be looking in the mirror and getting a sense of how things look on you and whether you might want a bright red sweater or a maroon one.

Perhaps obviously, and being a unstyled person for a good portion of my life, I'm a big fan of being empirical and finding one's own way. I mean really, when you get down to it, everything in a given section of Nordy's, BR, J. Crew, etc. pretty much goes together. Furthermore, when I think I might be shopping from a position of vagueness, it can help to find the gayest salesperson. Just sayin'.
posted by rhizome at 1:38 PM on January 30, 2010

Nordstrom's and macy's both have personal shoppers . I know several people who are satisfied with both. One is a guy who uses nordstroms twice a year. He just makes an appt and the guy has stuff waiting when he shows up.
posted by sio42 at 1:40 PM on January 30, 2010

In terms of education, allow me to recommend Put This On.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:46 PM on January 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Thanks for all the great suggestions so far. I'll probably give the Nordstroms personal shopper a try. I didn't know about that. Sounds perfect.

Just to clarify: I was *kidding* about the kids laughing at me. I don't really think that. It was supposed to be a joke. I'm always as nice to the salespeople as I can possibly be. Be polite to people who are handling your food and your clothes is my motto.
posted by eeby at 1:56 PM on January 30, 2010

This may not be your style but you might want to check out Banana Republic or JCrew as well.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 2:12 PM on January 30, 2010

Banana Republic is not a bad idea. I have a lot of their stuff - they have tons that fits in with what you say you like, and basically everything in the store goes with everything else in the store so you kinda can't go wrong.

(Personally I don't like the men's clothes at the Nordstrom's here in Chicago. They have two categories: the cool high-end designer stuff that I love but cannot begin to afford, or affordable clothes that are all the sort of thing only retired old men on golf courses wear. Banana Republic is much more "hip," I think.)

The only thing I think you might consider "loosening up" about is the jeans. There's an almost bewildering array of jeans styles out there nowadays. A high quality pair of dark (even black) jeans wouldn't be all that far a step from your usual slacks, but would really open up your look options - good jeans allow for looking both youthful & relaxed, yet stylish and put together at the same time. Dark jeans, brown corduroy blazer over either shirt & tie or sweater - it's a great look. (I wear it a lot myself. I'm the only one of my friends who seems to like wearing blazers. Oh, and I'm 40 myself.)
posted by dnash at 2:46 PM on January 30, 2010

I, too am bullish on nordstrom's and their personal shoppers. consider asking them to help you build ensembles. as in these two shirts with those pants. (I think two-to-one should be a good ratio but you could also consider three-to-one.) consider colors.

look at your pants in the mirror. they should fit (=not be too loose) on your behind and the read rise of your upper legs and be just right in length. many pants at nordstroms will be cut free of charge.

for shirts I would recommend advice I heard tom ford give: tailor everything all the way down to a $10 shirt. maybe their a bit too wide on your arms? have that fixed. maybe just a little too loose around your chest? have that done. check out a couple of local dry cleaners and once you find one that can take an inch off here or there in a decent way bring all your new clothes always to them first. this is a very small investment but it makes a huge difference. clothes that actually fit you make you look infinitely better.

also colors. look at colors you like. black with what? blue with what? grey with what? bring in a few ideas. anything you give to your shopper is of help. perhaps get a magazine from the newsstand and just rip out a few photos you like. a shirt here, a pair of pants there. the items listed in gq may be too pricey but they give hints as to the style you'd like.

and hey, you already made the big step. you realized you need to figure this out. most people don't ever do that.
posted by krautland at 3:42 PM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Since you asked about the bay area and people are recommending Banana Republic and J. Crew, I will recommend the locations in Westfield in San Francisco. Friendly customer service, though not sure about the advice because I never solicit it. Might fulfill rhizome's suggestion of finding the gayest salespeople, though!

I do not actually base my purchasing decisions on the sexual orientation of my retail workers, but if you intend on doing so, that shouldn't be too tough in SF :)
posted by tantivy at 3:45 PM on January 30, 2010

Go back to Nordstrom's, find a salesperson, and tell them you need help making sure the fit of your clothes is correct. Lots of men could look better if their clothes fit better. Make sure your clothes are clean, not wrinkly, in good repair. Then start with one new outfit, try dark slacks and a dark-sh blue-gray shirt.
posted by theora55 at 3:53 PM on January 30, 2010

Macy's and Nordstrom's are not equivalent.
posted by amtho at 4:15 PM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wish I had known about Nordstrom's personal shopper since I've been looking on and off for something like that in my area. Unfortunately, I don't have a Nordstrom's near me. I'm in the boonies of NJ (yes, NJ has boonies).

What I recently found, though, is The Trunk Club. (I am not affiliated with the busines other than I'm a very satisfied customer, yadda yadda yadda). Since, according to their business model, men don't like shopping for clothes, they ship the clothes to you and you, along with your personal stylist (who you Skype with), go over the selections, try them on in your living room, etc. What you like you keep and pay for, what you don't you send back.

Also, I'm a firm believer in Casanova's (?) advice: "If you want to dress to impress women, have a woman dress you." So when I want to impress a date, I make an appointment with my stylist (Kristin T. in NC) and, via Skype, we go through my wardrobe and put together an outfit. My lady friends have noticed.

My buddies think it's weird, but they're all married geeks with children whose wives buy their nicer outfits for them so I don't listen to them. Me? I'm happy with the service. So if you don't want to restrict yourself to SF, you may want to try them.

Yeah, I know, this looks like an ad/troll for the business, but I truly am just a (really really) satisfied customer.

Oh, and nthing krautland's nthing of tom ford's advice to tailor everything. My stylist told me the same thing and it really does make a difference!
posted by RevF^2 at 4:52 PM on January 30, 2010

I'm surprised you had that experience at Nordstrom's.

I am, too. I've only been there once, but they couldn't have been more helpful.

The best advice I can give is to ask a woman you know -- someone who is well-dressed, or married to a well-dressed man -- to go with you to pick out some clothes. That's what I do, and it's worked for me.

My next-best advice is to go up to one of the salespeople at Nordstrom's or Men's Wearhouse or Brooks Brothers and say, "I have $1500 to spend, need 6 stylish outfits that look good on me, and know dick about fashion -- help!" (I've never used a personal shopper, but that sounds like a great idea, too!)
posted by coolguymichael at 5:23 PM on January 30, 2010

I recommend the blog "Ask Andy About Clothes" for passionate and expert guidance in the world of men's clothes. You cannot go wrong if you follow his advice. There is a section on his blog with recommendations for local stores, and there are many in SF.


"Wilkes Bashford
375 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA

Comments: The best men's store in the country (although I know Louis Boston has its fans). The service and selection are incredible. For the last 15 years I have been making trips from my home in Los Angeles to San Francisco just to shop there."
posted by ohshenandoah at 6:24 PM on January 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also encourage you to make use of a personal shopper, although it does not necessarily have to be Nordstrom's (it's a good place to start, at least). The best personal shoppers will listen to your sense of style and try to expand it a bit. While bright colors might normally irritate you, try not to let it stop you from trying on a dark suit with a touch of bright color from, for example, the tie or pocket square. It's the shopper's job not only to point out clothes that fit you well in terms of how they hang on your body, but also how to use color effectively for your personal style and needs.
posted by asciident at 7:31 PM on January 30, 2010

Thanks again everyone for the awesome responses. I am really knocked out by the quality and quantity of responses on this site compared to the rest of the Internet.

I've already followed up on several. I did try to sign up with Trunk Club but they haven't gotten back to me. I'm guessing that it's because they're busy.

I checked out the recommended sites. Sartorialist and Put This On are cool. I already learned a lot that I didn't know.
posted by eeby at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2010

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