This week in our menswear dialogue series we speak to Andy Gilchrist of Ask Andy About Clothes. Andy probably knows more about clothing than any one man on the planet. After all he did write the book on the matter. We discuss the past, present and future of online style forums with Andy. If you're into lurking around on chat forums, then you'll want to hear what Andy has to say.
What is your title/occupation/trade?
Andy Gilchrist -
I’m the creator of the most popular website for men’s clothing advice in the world and the author of The Encyclopedia of Men’s Clothes. The website started August of 2001 as a vehicle to sell the book, The Encyclopedia of Men’s Clothing. The Forum was added later and immediately took off driving traffic to the website.
The Ask Andy site (devoted to men's clothes -- what to wear, how to properly wear it, and the history of why we wear what we do) is averaging daily: Unique Visits: 29,156 Page views: 393,741 Hits: 1,378,772 The Forums have over 59,000 members plus 81,000 threads and over 1,000,000 posts, plus hundreds of thousand readers who have not officially registered.
Is there a rivalry between the online style forums? There are several out there but it seems that AAA and Styleforum are the two biggest and brightest. SF just celebrated its 10 year anniversary and although AAA has more members, more traffic, and is a year older it seems that SF is the media darling and gets the lion share of attention. Is this a true or perceived reality? How so?
Since I’m on the inside here... SF has a more varied membership – there is a segment that may be younger and interested in street clothes, sneakers and club dressing. The AskAndy Members are more into classic clothes including Trad.
Most business evolve over time. How has the forum and your role within it changed over the years? Where will the forum be 5 years from now? What are your plans for strategic growth and/or expansion?
We’re totally re-designing the website. Forums will exist for a long time if not forever – especially men’s fashion forums. It’s doesn’t seem socially acceptable for men to talk to other men about fashion. Men are culturally conditioned not to care about their appearance. But smart gentlemen realize that your image makes a huge difference in how others (ladies, your boss, the airline boarding staff, waiters, etc.) treat you. And with a Forum you can anonymously discuss the finer points of a pocket square with other gentlemen.
How can a clothing novice avoid the intimidated factor of the forum? Some of these guys are the best dressers in the world and take clothing to another level. What would you suggest the best path of action be for a newcomer to your forum?
Most of the members at AskAndy are well aware of this and really try to treat the newbie with respect even if he’s asking “What are cuff links?” (true post!)