Professional shoppers help men define their style

Professional shoppers help men define their styleFrankfurt  - When it comes to choosing clothes, even a good friend isn't completely neutral.

Women who can afford it therefore have sought the advice of a personal style consultant. But as men become more style conscious, they too are increasingly enlisting personal shoppers who advise them style matters and support them in their search for the right outfit.

"This is a service that is well-established in the United States," said Andreas Rose, a style consultant and personal shopper in Frankfurt.

In Europe, the service is still in its infancy, but demand is clearly growing because men are no longer shy about seeking advice on their personal style.

"Fashion is very much a presence in the media and more and more men are using clothing to underscore their personality."

Not all men hire a style consultant voluntarily. Some receive the service as a gift from their wives, according to Rose, referring to his own experience in recruiting clients.

He recalls one client who had remained in perfect 1980s style. He updated the man's clothing, restyled his hair and replaced his old-fashioned metal-rimmed glasses with an updated version.

"When he met his wife later for dinner, she walked past without recognizing him."

Such a complete make-over, however, is an exception. Most men have the same motivations as women - they want to look good. They differ somewhat from women in that some find shopping too stressful, said Thorsten Geissler, head salesman in the men's department at a major Hamburg department store. Personal shopper services are not only the domain of freelancers. Some large department stores offer individual consultations geared toward the needs of male customers.

"The customer makes an appointment at a time he desires, explains what he's looking for and we come up with a selection," said Geissler. The customer has a chance to try on the items outside the store and he gets an individual consultation.

This evidently has nothing to do with the cliché that men who are interested in fashion are mostly gay.

"Our customers are well informed about fashion. But many businessmen do not have time to shop," said Geissler.

"Some men need the right outfit for a job interview, others want to change their look," said Rose. "And still others are looking for the complete customer service." He said his customers are all ages.

Many men need advice when it comes to fashion, said men's fashion designer Doris Hartwich of Munich and a member of the association of German fashion and textile designers in Wurzburg. Consultants can assist them with things like the belly trouble zone and advise them on the latest fashion trends.

"It's also important to enhance the look with small details. This could be achieved through special cufflinks, a high quality inner lining in a sport coat or the addition of a fine scarf," Hartwich said.

If the right look is achieved, then the consultation is a success. When choosing a style consultant, it helps to ask whether the candidate has to have good knowledge of fabrics. He or she should know which ones are delicate, for example, and should be familiar with the latest trends and be able to assess different types of men.

If a style consultant manages to put together a high-quality outfit for little money, it's a sign of his or her competence. Despite growing demand from men, Rose considers it unwise to focus on male customers only. A style consultant should know how to serve both men and women, he said. There could be times when a consultant must advise a couple and make sure that their wardrobes go well together.

Rose notes that there is no official certification or occupational title for a style consultant. He considers it important that style consultants become well acquainted with their customers' personality, lifestyle and personal attributes before they go shopping for them.

The cost of a personal style consultant depends on what he or she does for the customer. Freelancers such as Rose charge up between 80 and 500 euros (670 dollars) depending on whether customers pay by the hour or for a full day. High-end department stores usually do not charge a fee, rather they want to offer it to their customers as a bit of luxury. (dpa)