Who's the boss in the style stakes?

Sydney men like to be told what to wear, Melbourne lads prefer to mix and match, Perth's guys are highly flamboyant and their Brisbane counterparts are the nation's most conservative.

That's the view from inside menswear retailer Hugo Boss, which retails its corporate, formal, sports and casual menswear in all four markets.

Speaking at the launch of the company's refurbished flagship store in the heart of Melbourne's style-focused Collins Street, Hugo Boss Australia managing director Matthew Keighran says one constant across all its 13 Australian stores is an insatiable appetite among stylistically aware men for more knowledge.

“Men are a lot more open to suggestion, and colour and fit and different fabrications and patterns,” he says.

“I think in the past 4-5 years there has been an explosion of information, and guys are just a lot more tapped in. Men are very influenced by their peers than by the fashion magazines that females might be more in line with.”

And it's not just the fashion-forward types leading the charge. “When you look at footballers, or guys in very masculine jobs, they're not scared to do their hair, wear a bit of colour, wear a tighter suit. In Europe they've been doing it for years,” Keighran says. “The knowledge of what's available in the market has given rise to better visibility into what's happening.”

The men's section of Hugo Boss stores are segmented into a number of “collections”, from formal suits and corporate day wear, to sports, casual and streetwear themes; each more popular in certain stores depending on their location.

“Melbourne customers in general like to mix and match things, they're more comfortable buying a beautiful jacket here, then a pair of jeans down a little laneway shop they know and a pair of shoes somewhere else,” he says.

“Sydney customers definitely like colour, but it's almost like they're a little time poor. 'Deck me head to toe, give me five outfits and I'm out of there.' They certainly like to take style advice, whereas the Melbourne customer likes to mix it up a bit.


“Perth is doing incredibly well for us, we opened a shop in Hay Street in April. They actually sell a high component of Hugo, which is our very fashion-forward direction. So that's, as a percentage of business, the highest in the country. It's like, they're there, they've got money, they just want something to spend it on.

“Queensland tends to be a little more conservative. The Brisbane market likes things that aren't too tight-fitting, they like a bit of colour but not over the top.

“Canberra is a very successful store for us, it tends to be more corporate, both men and women.”

No matter the location, though, Keighran says his customers have an insatiable appetite to learn. “We're finding we're having to coach guys into how to put colours together. It's gone from a suit, shirt and tie, which was complex at the best of the times, now they're adding in another colour or another texture,” he says.

“You've got to know the rules if you want to break them and that's what we've been trying to educate the customers around.

“Men want to know the guidelines, and they'll stick to it. Women tend to go by the visual but men want to know, 'how much longer does my cuff need to be?' and 'why can't I mix this pattern with this pattern'?”

Keighran says Italian men are the world's most knowledgeable when it comes to “what just works” but Australians are slowly catching up.

Leading the pack are artistic types such as architects, interior designers and chefs, and people in the public eye such as top-level sportsmen.

“As the next generation grows up, their fathers – who are today's young guys – are already all over it. I would say in the future it will be a given,” he says.

“It's probably taken the Italians about a thousand years or so to have this almost ingrained sense of what works and what doesn't. But in general, guys do like a one plus one equals two (solution). 'Just give it to me in simple form and I'll remember that'.”

Menswear tends to move more slowly and predictably than women's fashion, making it easier to follow. “The move to jackets in the last five years has reactivated a component of the business that was dormant for a long while,” Keighran says.

“Another big one is that rather than denim, guys are buying chinos again. I suppose the next one we're waiting for is double-breasted (jackets), that will come back, which is a change from two buttons that have been in for 10 years now.

“Double-breasted we haven't seen since the 80s or early 90s, but of course the younger generation have never seen it or worn it, so they're the ones who come in and want it. It's a different type of silhouette, it's not the big shoulders, big baggy thing. It's a slimmer, more of a late 60s version of it.”

When buying any item, Keighran says fit is the primary consideration. “Go in, get the advice of good sales advisors, get a suit that fits you, make sure the things fit you properly,” he says.

“There's lots of little details about things like how you put ties and pocket squares together. But most importantly, take one quality thing over five crappy ones and get it to fit you properly. And get the right shoes to go with it.”