Buying clothes online is still painful. Here’s what needs to change.

Lately, I’ve grown frustrated with the amount of clothing that crowds my drawers and hangars but is only worn occasionally. I, like many people, have too much clothing that I’ve clung onto. Old t-shirts with previous company’s branding all over them, gifted clothes that I would never normally wear, and the list goes on.

I realized if I cleaned out my wardrobe to just what I really wanted to wear, I’d have a few plain t-shirts and two pairs of jeans. Oof.

So that meant I needed to purchase more clothing after dumping the majority of it in my cleaning fit. I also started to fall in love with the idea of a uniform. A uniform for me would consist of a few basics that fill well and match, but in a reasonable quantity so I don’t have to do laundry every day. That meant they would need to be affordable also.

I decided to start my search for plain dark grey t-shirts. I figured they match for the dark jeans I mostly wear, so might as well buy 14 shirts. But where do I purchase them from? There were some qualifications, of course:

  • Comfortable and well-reviewed
  • The company should have some reasonable ethical standards
  • Reasonably priced
  • Fit well

That’s it! Easy right? Wrong. Here’s what the men’s t-shirt section of Uniqlo (the company that met the above specs and was recommended via the Hustle Trends group):

The Uniqlo Men's T-shirt Category

Yeah, it’s a bit much. Essential t-shirts, active t-shirts, soft touch, design, packed dry, etc. No indication of what these titles are referring to and seemingly multiple versions of the same product in the same product category without any labels.

Are these all the same product?

It’s almost laughably bad. Not that this is a knock on Uniqlo, every clothing manufacturer seems to be going for the same approach. Maybe it’s a whiplash reaction to Amazon’s contining dominance forcing them to try to stuff their virtual shelves full of as much product as possible, even if it’s all the same product. Maybe it’s just what they’ve optimized to through countless A/B tests and iterations. Either way, it’s an awful user experience.

But the problem is way deeper than just poor web design. What happened to the clothing industry that caused it to ignore all the most important lessons of the most brands of today? Here’s a list of everything that’s wrong with modern clothing brands.

  • No versioning: Buy a shirt last year and want to buy the same one again? Check the most recent reviews and people will be complaining about a change in fabric quality.
  • Imagery: Almost no video, photos of only one color with dozens of colors listed.
  • Models look nothing like me: I’m not a skinny Asian guy or a svelte blonde 22-year-old.
  • Subscription options: Many brands don’t offer them, which seems crazy.
  • Absurd descriptions: 3 or 4 paragraphs of convoluted nonsense with trademarked buzzwords.
  • Sizing is still a mess: There’s no standard, a medium shirt can mean it drapes like a dress or wraps tightly around your midriff like a corset.
  • Styles are presented as different products: A v-neck t-shirt is presented as an entirely different product from a crew neck, despite the cut being the only difference.
  • Pricing: Why does the v-neck cost more. Why does anything cost more or less than other products? Where are the feature comparisons?

So then what does the perfect clothing experience look like?

Here’s what I would love to see:

  • Basics are versioned like Apple products with pricing that reflects it. The 2020 tee is slightly better than the 2019 and this is why. 2019 is less money as a result.
  • Consistent photos and videos of each style and color combination, at the minimum.
  • A wide array of models: age, gender, skin tone, and weight. In the future, maybe my body and face scanned in. Let me set my model preferences in the account settings and the site transforms the model imagery to match.
  • Send me a baggy shirt with tape measures sewn everywhere. I pull a cord and the shirt tightens and I read off all the measurements on the body – chest, shoulders, arms, etc. Do the same for all clothing and offer custom made pieces or at least guidance based on my actual measurements of what would fit better
  • Let me toggle styles on a product page. Size, style, color, and version should all be on a single page.
  • If I buy a 3-pack of white t-shirts, offer to send me a fresh pack in 9 months. Easy subscription revenue and makes my life easier.
  • Write descriptions that people actually can decipher. Include how to wash, how long the color lasts, average shrinkage, etc.

None of these changes need an app, constant push notifications, a huge team of devs. Just a strategic rethinking about how the brand and consumers approach clothing purchases.

P.S. If you make something that caters to the above, let me know and I’ll be your first customer.

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