Call it The Social Network moment for pants: Andy Dunn watching as his Stanford roommate Brian Spaly, using his girlfriend’s sewing machine, turned a pair of ill-fitting, bloused trousers, into a versatile straight leg chino. Dunn was soon seen sporting a pair of turquoise Spaly trousers—the ‘Turks,’ as they became known—and a buzz around the Palo Alto campus was born, along with Bonobos. In the subsequent four years Dunn and Spaly have expanded, relocated to New York City, and attempted to connect the dots between formal, work, and casual wear—all within the cozy confines of the online community. We sat down with Mr. Dunn to discuss his origins, strategy, and (of course) pants.
The origins of Bonobos—one pair of pants and a dorm room at Stanford—have become well-known in the industry. Tell me, we’re you interested in men’s style prior to this Eureka! moment?
The funny thing is I’ve always been excited about new things, and new things to wear. Some of my worst memories are of shopping with my mom, right? Remember that? But then some of my best memories are showing up to school the next day in all new things. I can distinctly remember getting the Bo Jackson cross trainers with the pink trim. Who had seen pink in athletic gear? Although my most coveted item was my Starter jacket.
Oh, of course, what team?
The Bulls without a doubt. Although my friend had a Dolphins one but that was strictly for the colors. See, I grew up in Chicago which was a very sports and jeans kind of place. Then you had Abercrombie and that moved into the college era. The DNA of our brand is connecting the dots between these.
So before the seminal pant/dorm room moment, in what direction were you headed, career-wise?
I really wanted to create a personalized magazine. You know during the course of the day you’re going to the New Yorker to read this piece, then over here to read this, and to my Cubs blog that I love. I thought, why couldn’t there be a place to save all of this, one place to go when I had the time to come back and read it. This idea was laughed off the face of the planet.
And now there’s…
So yeah, I was interested in using the internet as a service. When the Bonobos opportunity arrived, we wanted to help guys shop. Help them personalize this shopping experience.
It’s interesting that five years ago denim ruled. Guys on Wall Street wore it after 5pm and cool kids wore it all the time. Now you have corporate guys and graphic artists wearing the same pants.
This was the result of the commodification of premium denim. 7 jeans were a revelation. The problem was, there ended up being this after-work uniform: 7 jeans, black blazer, black shoes, button down shirt. There came an urge to reach for a bit more individuality. We wanted to bring that denim thinking, comfort and style, into the non-denim part of your closet. Bring sexy back to khakis, if you will.
When you talk to guys about shopping online, one thing comes up time and again: fit. How do you deal with this trepidation in men?
Fit ninjas, launching this Monday in New York City. Anyone can book an appointment at the Bonobos showroom, or they’ll come to you. Take your measurements and try some styles on—not in some awful fitting room—and it’s a fitting for life.