clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

An Honest Conversation About Those Clothing Subscription Boxes

Three men on Stitch Fix, Five Four Club, and even MeUndies.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

It's possible that what they say about guys is true: We hate shopping. I mean, this Instagram account dedicated to dudes sitting around in malls is not George Soros-funded #fakenews. But most guys do care about looking nice. It's this middle ground demographic that the Five Four Clubs and Stitch Fixes of the world are slobbering over.

I talked to two men in their mid-20s, Mitch Ginsburg and Greg Laabs, about getting clothes sent to them every month. One is 5'6", the other 6'3", and both are relatively slim. They look like they could be two of the Real Life models in a J.Crew presentation, but they work in the heart of the tech world at Tesla-owned SolarCity.


Cam: We're here talking about subscription services. Mitch, you signed up for Five Four Club, and Greg, you are a Stitch Fix customer.

Greg: I dress better than Mitch. Typically. Today, we're about on par.

Cam: That's what we're here to talk about. So is Mitch catching up to you because of Five Four Club?

Greg: He's catching up to me maybe three years ago.

Mitch: Oh, cool, okay.

Greg: So, you're getting there. Five Four Club was always my second-tier clothing option. It's my Nordstrom clothing that's my favorite stuff.

Mitch: Nordstrom is way too expensive for me.

Greg: Yeah, their shirts are, like, 200 bucks.

Mitch: Yeah, I'm not shopping there.

Greg: You're paying for Italian wool something-something. Fashion stuff.

Cam: But you're using a different service now, right, Greg?

Greg: For now, I'm using Stitch Fix. It just opened up for men. They are a very popular service for women. My best friend has been using them for years. She has a blog and every single time she gets a set, she shows off all of the new stuff. I really liked the quality of what she was getting, and how their system works. It's very, very different from Five Four. I signed up as soon as they offered the men's service and I really like it.

Mitch: He got a swanky shirt with feathers on it.

Greg: Got an amazing shirt that has gotten me more compliments than all of my other clothing in my entire life combined. I'm pretty sure that's true.

Cam: And are they Stitch Fix clothes? The way Five Four Club makes its own stuff?

Greg: So they work with a whole bunch of labels, and their shipments are specifically curated for a person because the [recipient] is going to pick and choose what they want to keep. Presumably, the stylist earns a commission on what they actually keep, so there's a little incentive there [ed note: Stitch Fix stylists do not earn commission, as per a company spokesperson]. As opposed to Five Four, which has three fixed style options [and another ed note: "Casual," "Forward," "Classic," and a bonus option, "Mix," a combination of all three].

Mitch: What I recently came across, though, is they actually have a full-on store you can buy items from at a discounted rate. Like, 70 percent off.

Greg: Five Four's whole pitch is that you're getting stuff for 50 percent of the label cost.

Mitch: But it's their own stuff —

Greg: But it's their own stuff, so it's bullshit.

Cam: Five Four Club is direct-to-consumer, like Everlane, which means the middleman is cut out so that they can sell higher quality goods at a seriously lower cost.

Greg: Yeah, I liked Five Four. But there was no real feedback and iteration to it. You got what you got, so if you liked the clothing that they offered, then you get pretty good stuff and it's a neat way of not having to go clothing shopping. With Stitch Fix, every item that I keep, I'm paying the label price for it — Stitch Fix is not cheap. The attraction of Five Four is that it was $60 bucks a month, flat rate, for getting regular new wardrobe options. That's pretty appealing. And you're going to get two to four items each month. I like that. My first Stitch Fix package cost $300.

Men’s subscription box breakdown

Mitch: Jesus.

Cam: Do you jump on the phone with a person beforehand? Do you meet with them? How did they know what you like?

Greg: There was a lengthy questionnaire for Stitch Fix that was like, "What kind of clothing do you wear?" You picked a bunch from pictures, what sort of things matched how you feel, and different things.

Cam: So after you got your first box, do you send them notes back?

Greg: You can give a star rating to every item that you're keeping or not keeping and put notes for each one. They want you to give more details, and by constantly pestering you to be like, "Hey, take more surveys, answer more questions," it proves to me that they want more information so that they can get better results.

Cam: So Mitch, how come you signed up for Five Four and not Stitch Fix? Even with Greg guiding you?

Mitch: I've never really done any subscription boxes, let alone clothing ones. But it was a low barrier of entry for only $60 bucks. I feel like 25 percent of the stuff I'm getting I don't really care for.

Cam: Do you send stuff back as part of Five Four?

Mitch: No, you can't, you just get what you get.

Cam: And the sign-up process is way less intense?

Mitch: Yeah it was pretty bare-bones. You pick from different styles. It's like, you "mix it up" or are "tame" and then "bold."

Cam: Which one did you pick?

Mitch: I think I chose "mix it up," so it's kind of edgy but still safe.

Cam: Did you get the fashion-y things that you were looking for?

Mitch: I'd say a gray jacket I got is pretty edgy. It's not something I would typically purchase, but I like it.

Greg: That's how I would describe most of the Five Four clothing I have. It's stuff I wouldn't have bought on my own.

Mitch: Which is good and bad. If it's not something you would have bought on your own, are you wasting that money on something you would have just purchased elsewhere?

Greg: So the reason I stuck with Five Four for two years was that I wouldn't buy it on my own. I'm not going clothing shopping regularly so if I didn't subscribe to Five Four, I would take that $60 and I'd probably spend it on video games or something, and then my wardrobe would be very limited. Especially as things wear out, I'd get annoyed until I'm forced to go back to Nordstrom and buy some nice new items. So the main appeal of Five Four was just getting more stuff without having to worry or think about it because I know I'm gonna leave it 'til the 11th hour when I desperately need new clothing.

I also subscribed to this underwear subscription service MeUndies.

Mitch: You told me about that, too, I've tried it.

Cam: I hate MeUndies. They're so uncomfortable.

Greg: Really? No way, you're so wrong. Modal underwear is the greatest underwear.

Cam: No, it's too spandex-y. I hate it.

Mitch: I tried the really small briefs and I didn't like those so much, but I want to try the bigger ones.

Cam: The boxers are okay, the briefs are horrible.

Greg: They're not my favorite underwear. They were very cheap for modal underwear, which is why I only subscribed to that for a year.

Cam: Are these subscription services a way to avoid shopping?

Mitch: For me, no, I wouldn't say so. I don't mind shopping for clothes. It really was more just my curiosity about this clothing subscription box.

Greg: For me, definitely yes. I don't mind the shopping experience much, but I also don't ever seek it out. So the convenience of getting it to my house is a big part of it.

Cam: Is shopping just taking up too much time, or it's just something you don't enjoy?

Greg: It's kind of inconvenient, but I would say it's more about just not thinking about it. I can stop at Nordstrom on the way home, but the reality is that I just won't have to drive to do so.

Cam: Mitch, where do you normally shop?

Mitch: I'd say my go-to store is Banana [Republic], but with the caveat that I generally will only buy stuff if it's on sale.

Cam: How does Five Four compare to Banana, quality-wise?

Mitch: I'd say that Five Four is closer to Gap than to Banana. It's decent stuff, but Banana definitely feels higher quality

Cam: Would you sign up for Stitch Fix?

Mitch: No, Stitch Fix is definitely not for me. Far too expensive. But unlike Greg, I've been able to find clothes that more or less fit me.

Cam: Greg, are you sticking with it, though?

Greg: I definitely will. I would have updated to monthly, rather than every other, but I desperately need a bunch of new nice socks so I am going to spend a month's budget on that.

Cam: Hot damn! Same final question to you, Mitch: Will you stick with Five Four?

Mitch: No. I'm probably going to call to cancel this week.