Tuesday, July 18, 2017

There once was a shirt called Untuckit

Admittedly, there are ad campaigns that are MORE irritating. (Bob’s Discount Furniture, anyone?) But surely the TV ads for Untuckit would make the Top (Bottom?) 10, if not of all time, then certainly of late.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing an ad for Untuckit, they feature a voice over from the company’s founder Chris Riccobono. In the initial ads, he talked about his passion for finding a shirt that could be worn untucked and look great.

First off, the introduction of the “p” word – that would be passion – into the business lexicon was, IMHO, an event that will live in infamy. What “life coach”, what HR guru, decided that it wasn’t enough to have a decent career in which you found interesting work, congenial colleagues, and reasonable compensation that let you pay the mortgage, feed the kids, and afford a few decent Brooks Brothers shirts that in your entirely adequate free time you could wear untucked? Why, all of a sudden, did you need to pursue your passion?

Yes, on balance, you’re better off if your career is in sync with something you actually really and truly enjoy doing.

But what about those who I assume are in the vast majority who – if they have a passion to begin with – lack a passion that could reasonably be turned into a career?

You’re passionate about the Red Sox, say. Unless you’ve got the juice for a career in the MLB, you’re never going to play for them. And there aren’t enough jobs to go around to employ everyone who’s gaga for baseball, even if you include the sausage and non-MLB blessed tee-shirt vendors outside the park.

You’re passionate about rose growing, say. I suppose you could become a florist, but good luck with that now that your grocery store has a pretty good selection of flowers.

And so on…

Maybe I’m feeling sour-grape-ish because the current version of my brilliant career – while it could be argued is something (i.e., writing) I’ve somewhat got a passion for – is focused on writing about business applications, something I can assure you NO ONE on the face of the earth, with the possible exception of Bill Gates, has ever been passionate about.

So, while there is an element of who am I to judge someone else’s p-word in here, can anybody really and truly be passionate about a men’s shirt that looks marginally better untucked than a non-Untuckit shirt?

I say this as someone who actually likes the untucked shirt look. Despite the bro overtones – which, admittedly, can get plenty obnoxious – I think that guys with untucked shirts look, well, cute.

And along comes Chris Riccobono with a passion for making those cute untucked guys look a little sharper, a bit more stylin’.

Ecce, Untuckit.

Apparently, Riccobono got some push back on the name. Too obvious, he was told. But it’s memorable, and it sure makes more sense than calling a pair of pants Bonobos. (As everyone knows, real bonobos, a.k.a. pygmy chimpanzees, DO NOT WEAR PANTS.)

Although I think the name is a bit limiting, now that the product line has extended to include other casual clothing, including shorts (untuckit doesn’t apply) and sweaters (untuckit already applied), Riccobono’s clearly doing something right with his branding.

Turbocharged by an infusion of $30 million in venture capital, Untuckit has gone from an e-commerce site shipping out of a spare bedroom in Mr. Riccobono’s apartment in Hoboken, N.J., to a brand worn by high-profile guys like the hockey star Patrick Kane, thanks in part to a steady flow of television commercials on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Two years after opening its first retail shop, in SoHo, Untuckit, which has broadened its line to include shorts, sports jackets, henleys and other staples, is planning to expand to 22 stores nationwide, from nine currently, by the end of this year. (Source: NY Times)

Riccobono’s initial passion was wine, but he couldn’t figure out how to translate that into a job after he received his MBA from Columbia in the depths of the Great Recession.

“You’re always told that the best idea is the one that solves your problem,” he said. “I used to think, ‘What do I need?’” The eureka moment occurred on a trip with friends to Las Vegas, when he found himself wearing the same J. Crew oxford, which happened to be a size small, four straight nights, because it was the only shirt that did not look like a tent when worn untucked.

Coming up with perfection wasn’t as easy as you might imagine.

“No one in the business ever thought much about shirt length,” he said. “It was, ‘Who cares?’ But with Untuckit, shirt length, down to the millimeter, was the whole point. If it’s too long, it’s like any shirt. And if it’s too short, it looks ridiculous.”

Agreed that too short is going to look ridiculous. Think cabana shirt.

And too long? I have seen men wearing shirts that, when untucked, look like tunics.

But mostly, the untucked shirts of the pre-Untuckit shirts that I’m familiar with (and some of those were worn by my decidedly non-stylin’ husband) looked just fine.

Anyway, the more recent ads for Untuckit poke a bit of light fun at whether a slightly better looking untucked shirt is actually any kind of a major breakthrough. I guess if it were a real disrupter, it would have garnered more than a paltry $30M in VC.

I was going to write that I would have to be on the lookout for an Untuckit to open around here. My thinking was that Boston, which has no lack of bros, would absolutely be on target. Sure enough, there’s one just a short walk from my house. Alas, too late for my untucked husband.

Meanwhile, it may not be all that much to be passionate about, but it’s a lot less ridiculous than romper suits for men

Not to mention that we now have a cleaner alternative to the second line of any limerick that begins “There once was a man from Nantucket.”

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