I’m not a guy who actively keeps up with men’s fashion, styles, and trends. Here’s how I find out about the newest looks for men – I walk through a mall and stare at mannequins.
For most of my life, malls were the epicenter of suburban living. This was before the indoor shopping centers adopted the business model of attracting stores that look remarkably similar to the store directly across the mall, usually on the other side of an indoor fountain. As a kid, a trip to the mall included stops inside the bookstore, CD seller, candy peddler, sporting goods retailer, and a wide range of lesser-known retail outlets offering something of interest to every shopper. Going to the mall was an event, a hang, a place to be seen.
Due in part to the pandemic shuttering far too many stores and a busy day-to-day, I can’t remember the last time I stepped foot in a mall.
I’ve lost all my passion for shopping for clothes in a mall. To quote one great philosopher, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” So how does a busy guy keep up-to-date on styles and trends without window shopping at the mall among other humans and the unavoidable urge to buy an Auntie Anne’s pretzel?
For these reasons, a subscription box for men like is a logical alternative.
Menlo House is the creation of the Five Four Group and the men’s clothing and accessory subscription box includes most of FFG’s brands like Five Four, New Republic, Grand Running Club, and Melrose Place.
Five Four is a men’s fashion brand inspired by the “lifestyle and journey” of the modern guy. The clothes make an effort to update classic looks and styles but with an eye for a modern aesthetic. New Republic is a footwear and accessories brand where fashion meets function but always keeping in mind that shoes need to be comfortable. Grand Running Club is a men’s active and streetwear brand that blurs the lines between athleisure and athletic wear. And finally, Melrose Place is — according to the Five Four website — the “brand of choice for those who seek understated luxury.” The label makes clothing in small batches, so every handcrafted piece is unique, and the designers go to painstaking lengths to create the most comfortable t-shirt ever.
For only $60 per month, Menlo Club delivers 2 to 3 pieces of curated apparel right to your home. There’s no long-term commitment — users can pause or cancel the subscription at any time — and can exchange any items that don’t fit right or don’t match their style. The company also offers exclusive perks to join the club, like lifetime discounts and early access to new merch drops. Menlo House also provides connections to other like-minded members across the country.
The process begins with a short style quiz. The website asks, “Which day look do you like best?” and requests users to choose a favorite look from three distinct style profiles.
The first ensemble is laid-back, let’s call it a quarantine couture ensemble, complete with a zip-up hoodie, off-white kicks, relaxed jeans, and a ball cap. The second look screams, “This workplace is biz cazh!” and includes chinos, a half-zip sweater covering a collared shirt, and stylish boat shoes should the working lunch end with a spontaneous yacht excursion. The final outfit is a slightly more buttoned-up version of style #1, with the clothes looking as though they fit a little more snugly, complete with a collared shirt covered by a bomber jacket and accented by a trendier sneaker.
For men unable to choose which look is better than the others, or perhaps for men who need outfits resembling all three, Menlo House offers an, “I Like All The Looks” option.
Next, Menlo House asks for opinions on outfits for going out at night, once again offering three distinct wardrobe choices. Outfit one is Adam Levine heading out after a long studio session, outfit #2 is Walter White at evening parent-teacher conferences, and outfit #3 looks like the guy your girlfriend told you is harmless — but you know better.
None of these are knocks on the styles. All three looks are well put together. These are just first glance observations and ways to explain each look in only a few words.
Menlo House then guides men through preferred footwear styles – one sporty selection with Vans and Converse, one dressy option with a suede boat shoe and driving shoe, and finally a trendy twosome of ankle-high boots and Yeezy Boost. Menlo House probably doesn’t offer any of these shoes with their service. These questions are merely to help build a man’s subscription box with similar items. Again, “I Like All The Shoes” is available.
Next, Menlo House asks easy questions like shirt size, pants size, shoe size, and preferred pant cut (slim, straight, or relaxed). And that’s really it. No other information was requested like “how do you like your shirts to fit?” or “do you find it difficult to find the right pant length?”
A little about myself — I’m the epitome of a difficult fit. I stand 5’6″, which makes buying pants a constant challenge. Finding pants with a 28-29 length in stores is like discovering the lost city of Atlantis using just a snorkel. Years of heavy lifting and being blessed with softballs for biceps, buying shirts is also tricky. My girthy chest and meaty arms call for a larger shirt than a guy my height typically wears. This means every shirt either busts at the buttons because it’s too small or fits well up top but has enough extra material tucked below the belt to sail a dinghy.
My first Menlo House shipment included more items than the average user will receive to provide complete transparency in this review. A marketing company helped coordinate my initial Menlo House box. The company provided more clothing options than usual because I’m a writer, and this gig has some perks.
My first box arrived in a few days. The items inside the package included a pair of the Gila Garment Dyed Jogger from Melrose Place ($78), the Rollins Straight Fit Jean in Dark Indigo ($65), Vista Sneaker Socks from New Republic ($9), the Clifford Short Sleeve Shirt in Black from Four Five ($40), the Meyer Long Sleeve Overshirt in Stone from Four Five ($52), the Genesee Slub Tee in Gray ($42), the Flight Pant in Olive from the Grand Running Club ($75) and finally the Stanton Recycled Suede Sneaker in Slate from New Republic ($78).
My eyes and thoughts gravitated toward the suede sneakers from the jump, so I had to take them for a test run. I’m a sucker for smart but simple footwear, and the Stanton Recycled Suede sneakers are comfortable even on the first wearing and go with everything I already own. These kicks are going into the summer rotation tout de suite. The socks will stick around as well, cut perfectly to stay hidden inside the sneakers.
The rest of the items were comfortable but the fit varied from piece to piece. The Genesee Slub Tee hugged all the right areas of my body. The solid Meyer Long Sleeve Overshirt is perfect for fall and winter days when a guy just doesn’t want to look like a lumberjack. The three buttons on the Clifford Short Sleeve make the shirt a good choice for under a long-sleeve button-down or alone.
All three pairs of pants are a tad long, but that’s nothing new, considering all of my pants need to be shortened after purchase. I’m not about to shorten a pair of joggers, so those pants might sit in a drawer until that day I’m too lazy to wash my sweatpants that fit. I liked the fit of the jeans enough to hang onto this pair and pay a couple of bones to shorten. Hopefully, once the brands get established, and the Menlo Club subscription model takes off, the company invests a little more time and website bandwidth to a more extensive onboarding process, diving deeper into a preferred fit of shirts, tees, and jeans.
Unfortunately, my hunch is that my initial Menlo House box was curated for review purposes and not made for a member. My package didn’t come with any paperwork or outline detailing what was sent for review, but I was told by my contact that the typical shipment includes an…