When I first got married, dry-cleaning was part of our weekly expenses — and it wasn’t cheap. The bulk of the costs were incurred by my husband’s work attire, which consisted of dress pants and dress shirts. We justified this spending because neither of us dared to iron — in fact, the iron is still unopened in our basement, with a ribbon from our wedding shower. Fast forward a few years and his work offered “casual Fridays,” which morphed into casual every day, and then COVID hit . . . I’m sure you get the picture.

The pandemic accelerated the movement already taking place towards more casual and hybrid wardrobes. Today, traditional menswear categories —including casual and dress pants, suits, sportscoats, jeans, and other non-active apparel — are at a pivotal point. These categories made up nearly half (48%) of men’s apparel sales revenue in the U.S. from January through May 2022. Sales grew 10%, versus last year, and gained 2 share points, remaining a large portion of the men’s business that can’t be ignored. This sphere of influence also means brands that typically dominate these categories need to act now, before more sports-focused brands creep into this space.   

This year, traditional menswear sales are being led by bottoms rather than tops. This is because the consumer focus has pivoted from “above the keyboard” dressing to the complete outfit, once men returned to in-person work and events. Nearly $1 out of every $5 spent on men’s apparel this year is being spent on jeans, casual pants, and casual shorts. And, over the next three years, each of these categories are expected to generate more revenue than pre-pandemic times, according to the “Future of Apparel” study from NPD — setting a new bar for purchasing when it comes to men’s clothing.

As the best-selling men’s apparel item purchased thus far in 2022, jeans are the shining star in menswear today and have become his everyday go-to item — similar to what active bottoms have become for women. The percentage of men reporting that they wear jeans 5 to 7 days a week increased by 7 points in the past six years. The ability to dress jeans up or down is truly making them a versatile piece to complete his attire.

Although the shift towards more casual and hybrid wardrobes did not bode well for my local dry-cleaner (which unfortunately closed), it has inspired apparel brands to set new trends that align with men’s needs. As consumers reemerge from the pandemic, menswear is at a pivotal point as he invests in pieces that span work, personal events, and everyday activities —ultimately altering the mindset of how he puts together his wardrobe.