Dressed for success - we chat to owner of Mode, a Codsall menswear shop
It's a well-known cliché that men hate shopping for clothes. But is it really true? It would seem not as increasingly fashion conscious blokes are investing more time and money on their wardrobes leading to a rapid growth in the menswear market.
Gone are the days when any old t-shirt and pair of jeans will do, men want to look well-groomed, and are proving that it's not just women who want to dress to impress. Comfort is still just as important when choosing what to wear but they are no longer willing to compromise on style.
And retail experts are predicting that this trend is only going to continue with sales of men's clothes expected to outperform womenswear across the globe by 2020.
One man well-placed to witness the boom in men's fashion is Mark Hodgkiss, who has 20 years of retail experience and now owns Mode Menswear in Codsall.
"Menswear has evolved really quickly, even in the past five years it's changed so much. It is far more popular now than ever and many gents love their fashion - they want to feel trendy and dress well. It gives them confidence and makes them feel good," he tells us.
Tweed jackets, paisley shirts, broques, skinny stretch jeans, and Peaky Blinders-style caps are among the items flying off the shelves at the moment.
"Summer collections are so important as it's the time of year when guys almost need an outfit for every possibility due to our great British weather! Colours, bold patterns, florals and pastels are really on trend this year.
"We find that the best way to introduce these if you are not used to wearing them is by pairing a floral or patterned shirt under a nice bright piece of knitwear or by wearing a bold pattern shirt under a simple dark jackets so you get the flash of vibrancy coming through.
"Clothing needs to have shape and fit well so tailored slim denims and chino shorts are really popular. And now that many denim brands use stretch technology you can have a pair of jeans that look great but also feel comfortable as not everyone wants the super spray-on skinny look.
"Technical jackets are also a staple part of a guy's wardrobe so silk soft bombers, lightweight parkas and classic Harringtons in moody shades are a must for summer 2018.
"My top tip for summer products, that you can dress up or dress down, that every guy needs are a nice-fitted polo, chino shorts, bold pattern shirt, smart blazer and a good pair of fitted jeans - classic barbecue, down the pub or date night gear that you can mix and match for every occasion," the 36-year-old tells us.
He has been well-placed to witness the rapid rise of menswear having started his retail career at the age of 16 at Beatties in Wolverhampton and since then has gained 20 years of experience, mainly in men's fashion.
But he had the dream of running his own business an decided to open his own shop, on Wolverhampton Road, welcoming his first customers at the start of this year and stocking brands including Lambretta, Peter Werth, Cavani, Only & Sons, Ben Sherman, Denim Made for Life and Duck and Cover.
"Our mission is to provide the best quality premium menswear branded, well-known labels, at the best possible price point for our customers along with real personal service at a level you can only get from an independent business - my Beatties training really helped with this.
"We provide what we call premium wardrobe essentials so you will always find a great fitting pair of denims, a nice shirt, smart blazers and jackets, great footwear and really nice guage knitwear with us at prices that won't break the bank," adds Mark, who also lives in Codsall with his wife Nina and five-year-old daughter Ruby.
"We have found that Mod-influenced brands are really popular and a new generation of gents are going through a 'Mod-life crisis' so Lambretta with it's paisley designs, Harrington jackets and classic polos fill this well for us.
"The Peaky Blinders look is another hot trend with baker boy caps, tweed and classic fitted shirts along with nice brogues or Chelsea boots, a massive look at the moment. Being so close to Birmingham we had to have products that reflect this in store," he explains.
"Tweed is really on trend because younger guys like that you can dress it up or dress it down and it's a classic for the older gentlemen who like that it's come back into fashion. Brogues are popular because they can be worn with a suit for work and then with a pair of chinos for a night out," adds Mark," who also offers a personal styling service.
He tells us that value for money is very important as well as choosing items with lots of potential to be worn for different occasions. "You want to get your money's worth from your clothes. You don't need to have 10 different outfits, you can have three outfits but made up of items that you can mix and match to create lots of different looks.
"Men are often unsure of what will suit them so they don't really know what they want. I always tell them to just try it on anyway and it's great when I see their face when they look in the mirror and they leave the shopping feeling happy because of what they've bought ," Mark tells us.
Although nobody wants to wish the summer away - especially when it's yet to get properly started - he says it's vital to have an eye on up and coming fashion trends for the following seasons.
"Looking ahead to autumn and winter, we will see a nineties sportswear revival, Mod-styles, corduroy and wool blends and colour pallets of moss green, camel and burnt orange all having a heavy presence on the cat walk.
"We actually have pre-orders with most of our suppliers for September/October launch collections already in place," Mark tells us.
With the menswear sector continuing to grow he is feeling positive for the future but says he is also grateful for the support received since opening the shop.
"Our customer is really at the heart of everything we do and we are so thankful for the support and loyal customer base we have been able to build up in such a short space of time," says Mark.
*For more fashion tips from Mark see www.facebook.com/modemenswear or Instagram @modemenswear