It isn’t often that men talk about their fashion problems. But that didn’t stop Chris Riccobono from voicing his own concerns with an old favorite: the button-down shirt. This traditional shirt that looks good tucked in rarely looks quite as polished untucked. It’s too long and too baggy. When he asked hundreds of other men for their opinions, they agreed, and the vision for a new product was born.
Riccobono’s shirts, created under the Untuckit brand that he founded in 2011, have all the marks of a well-made shirt: comfortable fabric, quality stitching and an attractive fit. But they represent something else, something that has taken his business from a $150,000 startup to a $200 million company in less than ten years. They represent a fundamental understanding of the modern man.
Understanding the Modern Man
If there’s one thing that Untuckit has demonstrated from day one, it’s a profound understanding of the client. Trends in the market and particularly across Millennials and Gen Xers, indicate that business people are less interested in formality and tradition and instead, are more interested in innovation, responsibility and relationships.
I link this shift to the popularity of Apple and its founder, Steve Jobs, who eschewed the traditional business world of stuffy suits and organizational hierarchy in favor of efficiency, consumer-friendly technology and the ubiquitous black turtleneck. For many people, his approach was a refreshing return to what matters: a quality product without the pomp and circumstance.
With that shift, current generations have questioned the ways of their fathers and mothers and have redefined tradition. Do employees need their own desk? Do they have to work from an office? Is business travel a thing of the past? And do shirts have to be tucked in?
If you’ve watched men’s fashion in recent years, there’s a strong movement away from the traditional, tucked-in button-down shirt. And yet, modern men want to look sharp. Therein lies the problem. We’ve all witnessed the sloppy un-tucked button-down that just doesn’t convey a sense of business acumen and success.
Whereas some companies might devise an entirely new product style or work on customer perceptions of an old favorite, Riccobono took a different approach. He made the traditional shirt shorter and more proportionally fitted. The resulting product is both more attractive untucked as a stand-alone shirt and also an elegant, conservative solution with suits or blazers.
Consumer-Based Business Model
However, as Riccobono discovered, though a quality product that meets consumer needs is essential, it’s simply the first step. A company’s business model must also address how consumers want to experience the product.
Whereas Untuckit was originally an online-based business, overwhelming feedback indicated that men want brick-and-mortar retail locations where they can touch the shirts and try them on. Thus, Untuckit launched its first store in Soho.
In keeping with its focus on the modern consumer, all of the company’s shirts are named after wines - a trendy passion among modern men - and customers can sip Bourbon while shopping in Untuckit’s retail locations.
But the company hasn’t just succeeded because of its needs-based product solution and its fine spirits. Untuckit has made regular, smart marketing decisions along the way. The first of these was a year-long study that Riccobono conducted before starting the company. Rather than offering men a product that may or may not be conducive to their needs, he went out and polled hundreds of men to determine what the company should produce.
Second, instead of placing the company’s logo in the traditional position on the breast of the shirt, Untuckit placed its triangular sail logo alongside its signature feature: its clean-cut, shortened shirt tail. Thus, when other potential consumers observe the refined and modern cut, the brand is simultaneously gaining consumer recognition.
Third, in 2017 Untuckit conducted another marketing research study to uncover popular perceptions about the brand. In doing so, they discovered that some consumer beliefs were inconsistent with the company’s goals and the product’s performance. The company had targeted men between the ages of thirty-five and sixty-five. They discovered that many of these men believed that the un-tucked style that was so popular with hipsters and younger men, wouldn’t look good on their body types.
In response, Untuckit launched a 2018 television campaign, “Every Body Welcome,” in which they demonstrated the attractive fit in 50 different size combinations. This addressed the consumers’ fears and reassured them that the style that they found appealing was also one that they could wear.
And fourth, Untuckit hired a marketing analytics service, TVSquared, to determine exactly how much traffic was driven by a specific TV ad. This research gives the company data by airing location and by day and time. By tying this to online traffic, Untuckit has been able to predict the most cost-effective means of advertising to different markets.
All of these initiatives sound great, but of course, the proof is in the pudding. That said, consumer response has been very favorable, including a GQ review by Sean Hotchkiss, in which he refers to the length of Untuckit shirts as “perfection.”
As such, in under ten years, the company has already been able to open over sixty stores across America, including stores in New York, Austin, Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles and even one international store in the Toronto area.
And all of his smart marketing has impacted the bottom line. Riccobono has produced a profit since his second year in business and has doubled Untuckit’s sales every year since then. The company is currently worth over $200 million.
What’s so remarkable about this isn’t that the product is well-made, though it is, but that, with the right marketing and a focus on the consumer, even just a small tweak to a perennial favorite can make for big company success.