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Where the Boys Are

Coach, the luxury leather crafter, opens a men’s boutique.

Author Sarah Horne Photography Courtesy of Coach

Image – Courtesy of Coach

YOU KNOW THE SCENE: A befuddled male shopper wanders through the sparkly maze of a chic boutique. A rugged washed canvas weekend bag catches his eye, but he hesitates, noting a display of peep-toe pumps a few feet away. His brow furrows as he wonders if he’s really stumbled upon the men’s section after all.

In the last five years or so, fashion-forward retailers have begun catching on to how men prefer to shop, banking on the fact that fellows feel at ease in unabashedly masculine spaces uncluttered by pencil skirts and evening clutches. Surrounded by old leather club chairs, goes the logic, gents will happily splurge on boat shoes and calfskin billfolds. Throw a hunting rifle and some antlers on the wall—even better, serve neat single-malt Scotch—and they’ll pick up rugby shirts without a care in the world. A slew of boutiques have followed that model, keeping their men’s and women’s shops entirely separate. When J. Crew launched a boutique in downtown Manhattan in 2008, the gruff ambiance at the resulting men’s shop was underlined by its setting, a former liquor store, where sherbet-hued cashmere sweaters lined the heavy oak bar.

This summer, the trend has gathered steam, led by Coach, the luxury leather goods and accessories emporium. In May, the label opened its own clubby men’s-only spot on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street where this season’s preppy- cool accessories come in casual materials perfect for a sailing getaway. But though the Bleecker Street shop clearly caters to the outdoorsy, All-American Coach customer, that doesn’t mean the guys are afraid to get a little trendy. “The male customer has evolved over time, taking a more adventurous and global approach to fashion,” says Mike Tucci, the company’s president of North American retail. “Historically they gravitate toward staple shades like black and mahogany, but I think that’s changing as we introduce more offbeat colors, like cranberry and chambray.” Bring out the single malt—we’ll drink to that.

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