Technology and Fashion
One of the things that interest me about men’s clothing is not just the clothes themselves, but also the business of fashion - how things are produced, marketed, and even sold. In 2013, there were a couple of interesting stories about how developments in technology might affect the way we interact with and buy clothes.
Online Fitting: Our friend Jeffery Diduch had a post last year about developments that could improve our online shopping experience. The biggest difficulty with online shopping, obviously, is the inability to try things on before you buy, which is why it’s helpful to do business with stores with generous return policies. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce that return-rate, however. True Fit, for example, is creating a database of garment measurements across companies, so that if you’re shopping at, say, Ralph Lauren, you can get a suggestion on which suit you should buy if you already know that the Brooks Brothers suit you have in your closet fits you well. You can already see how this works at places such as Nordstrom. 
The Store is Everywhere: There were a couple of stories last year about potential smart phone developments that would allow people to take pictures of others on the street, and then be able to identify exactly where they can buy the clothes and accessories they saw. This would essentially make the entire world a store where you can instantly purchase almost anything you see. Business of Fashion - a fashion industry trade publication - had some interesting thoughts on what this could mean for traditional retail.
Science Fiction: There were also some more futuristic predictions. Ray Kurzweil predicted that we’ll start to see 3D printing for clothes by 2020 (surprisingly not that far away) and Business of Fashion wrote about how the emerging field of “digital biology” - which enables biologists to not just read, but also write genetic code - could allow companies to design “synthetic life” materials. This could allow us to “grow” things such as self-repairing, self-cleaning garments, or create garments that can reproduce themselves and receive “updates” (new colors, patterns, etc), much like how software updates on our computers. 
Of course, many of the advancements in technology will affect fashion in ways we won’t immediately see or realize. Increasing computing power and the digitization of data has allowed companies such as Zara to react faster to consumer trends, and as companies grow in their ability to marshal "big data," we’ll likely see fast fashion get even faster (a speeding up of trends and a continuing drop in prices). For better or worse, the idea that men’s style moves at a glacial pace might not always hold true. 
(Pictured above: an early prototype of "body scanning" pods used for custom tailoring. This contraption was made in the 1940s)

Technology and Fashion

One of the things that interest me about men’s clothing is not just the clothes themselves, but also the business of fashion - how things are produced, marketed, and even sold. In 2013, there were a couple of interesting stories about how developments in technology might affect the way we interact with and buy clothes.

  • Online Fitting: Our friend Jeffery Diduch had a post last year about developments that could improve our online shopping experience. The biggest difficulty with online shopping, obviously, is the inability to try things on before you buy, which is why it’s helpful to do business with stores with generous return policies. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce that return-rate, however. True Fit, for example, is creating a database of garment measurements across companies, so that if you’re shopping at, say, Ralph Lauren, you can get a suggestion on which suit you should buy if you already know that the Brooks Brothers suit you have in your closet fits you well. You can already see how this works at places such as Nordstrom
  • The Store is Everywhere: There were a couple of stories last year about potential smart phone developments that would allow people to take pictures of others on the street, and then be able to identify exactly where they can buy the clothes and accessories they saw. This would essentially make the entire world a store where you can instantly purchase almost anything you see. Business of Fashion - a fashion industry trade publication - had some interesting thoughts on what this could mean for traditional retail.
  • Science Fiction: There were also some more futuristic predictions. Ray Kurzweil predicted that we’ll start to see 3D printing for clothes by 2020 (surprisingly not that far away) and Business of Fashion wrote about how the emerging field of “digital biology” - which enables biologists to not just read, but also write genetic code - could allow companies to design “synthetic life” materials. This could allow us to “grow” things such as self-repairing, self-cleaning garments, or create garments that can reproduce themselves and receive “updates” (new colors, patterns, etc), much like how software updates on our computers. 

Of course, many of the advancements in technology will affect fashion in ways we won’t immediately see or realize. Increasing computing power and the digitization of data has allowed companies such as Zara to react faster to consumer trends, and as companies grow in their ability to marshal "big data," we’ll likely see fast fashion get even faster (a speeding up of trends and a continuing drop in prices). For better or worse, the idea that men’s style moves at a glacial pace might not always hold true. 

(Pictured above: an early prototype of "body scanning" pods used for custom tailoring. This contraption was made in the 1940s)

The Economist: The Lounge Suit, Battle-Dress of the World’s Businessmen, is 150 Years Old - Possibly
This is a totally fascinating history of the suit from the 18th century to today.

The Economist: The Lounge Suit, Battle-Dress of the World’s Businessmen, is 150 Years Old - Possibly

This is a totally fascinating history of the suit from the 18th century to today.

The Economist has an excellent summary of what to look for when you’re buying cashmere.  In the past 15 years, cashmere has become a mass-market product.  Previously, only the best fibers were taken from goats, and those fibers were milled and woven by artisans in places like Scotland and Italy.  Today, standards can be much lower, and garments are often milled, knit and finished in China.  In the past, cashmere was made from only the longest, finest fibers from the goat’s underside.  Today, there are no such standards, at least for mass-market product.
Here’s how the Economist says you should differentiate between the good stuff (which lasts a lifetime) and the cheap stuff (which can pill in a matter of weeks):
"Look for tension in the knitting: stretch a section and it should ping back into shape. Hold it up to the light and you shouldn’t see much sky: paradoxically, the best cashmere, though made from the finest hair, has a density to it. Examine its surface: fluffiness suggests the yarn was spun from shorter, weaker fibres and will pill. Be sceptical about softness, too. Over-milling can make a garment too soft and silky, and therefore prone to bobbling and losing its shape. More expensive cashmere may be harder to handle in the shop, but will ease up with wear and hand-washing. The best cashmere actually improves with age - so long as the moths don’t get to it."
The whole article has been transcribed by a thoughtful StyleForum member here.
As for myself - when I’m buying cashmere, I focus on older sweaters (think 1980s and earlier) made in England and Scotland.  They can often be had on Ebay for $30-60, and the density and softness of the wool is unparalleled.

The Economist has an excellent summary of what to look for when you’re buying cashmere.  In the past 15 years, cashmere has become a mass-market product.  Previously, only the best fibers were taken from goats, and those fibers were milled and woven by artisans in places like Scotland and Italy.  Today, standards can be much lower, and garments are often milled, knit and finished in China.  In the past, cashmere was made from only the longest, finest fibers from the goat’s underside.  Today, there are no such standards, at least for mass-market product.

Here’s how the Economist says you should differentiate between the good stuff (which lasts a lifetime) and the cheap stuff (which can pill in a matter of weeks):

"Look for tension in the knitting: stretch a section and it should ping back into shape. Hold it up to the light and you shouldn’t see much sky: paradoxically, the best cashmere, though made from the finest hair, has a density to it. Examine its surface: fluffiness suggests the yarn was spun from shorter, weaker fibres and will pill. Be sceptical about softness, too. Over-milling can make a garment too soft and silky, and therefore prone to bobbling and losing its shape. More expensive cashmere may be harder to handle in the shop, but will ease up with wear and hand-washing. The best cashmere actually improves with age - so long as the moths don’t get to it."

The whole article has been transcribed by a thoughtful StyleForum member here.

As for myself - when I’m buying cashmere, I focus on older sweaters (think 1980s and earlier) made in England and Scotland.  They can often be had on Ebay for $30-60, and the density and softness of the wool is unparalleled.