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Job searches, style changes drive apparel sales

Suits are offered for sale at a Jos. A. Bank store March 18, 2009 in Chicago, Ill

Some good news from haderdashery today. Apparel sales are up! That’s great news for the economy, but it could be even better news for the ladies. It seems the engine behind the rise in sales is not women shopping for blouses and pantsuits, but men smartening up and buying jackets and ties.

The Wall Street Journal pulled data from an NPD Group report today that said total U.S. men's apparel sales rose 6.5 percent to $53.7 billion in the year through September, outpacing the 1.2 percent increase in women's apparel sales.

“Spurring the growth, men's tailored clothing, including suits and sport coats, jumped 10.8 percent, ties and other neckwear rose 10.3 percent, and men's shirts gained 2.3 percent,” the Journal reported.

It seems there are two dynamics driving the improvements in men’s wardrobes. The recession is pushing men to do whatever they can to get an edge in interviews. A good first impression can make or break an interview, so men are spending money to give themselves an edge in their job searches. But there also seems to be a cultural shift in the works. Younger males appear to be more interested in dressing up more.

Macy's Inc. has observed male customers dressing up more, spokeswoman Elina Kazan said, adding the return of velvet jackets, textured shirts, bow ties, coated denim and slim suits are leading men to dress better. "There's a new customer saying 'I've never worn a sweater,"' says Tim Bess, men's fashion trend analyst for trend consulting firm Doneger Group. "They don't want to look like their parents, who are so dressed down. They are starting their own look."

Well, whatever the reason, it’s got to be good news for the economy. With a bit of luck, it’ll be the end of casual Friday as well.

About the author

Paddy Hirsch is a Senior Editor at Marketplace and the creator and host of the Marketplace Whiteboard. Follow Paddy on Twitter @paddyhirsch and on facebook at www.facebook.com/paddyhirsch101

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