A New Look For A New Era
Today is a big day for us. It marks the beginning of an exciting new era for He Spoke Style, ushering in a myriad of changes, improvements, and new developments. It is truly a massive leap so I want to take this opportunity to get you up to speed. And since I can barely contain my excitement, let’s get right into it.
How We Got Here
I started He Spoke Style over a decade ago. The story of how and why I created HSS has been oft told — a chronicle of my personal style journey that coincided with an online men’s style and lifestyle vanguard. It was relatively uncharted territory that seems so terribly quaint in comparison to where we are today, but back then a small handful us were at the tip of the spear defining whatever this thing was. It was a special time.
The timing of all of this activity was both fortuitous and auspicious for me personally. At that point in my Army career, I was a middle manager under the thumb of an unproductive and less-than-supportive leader. HSS provided me with a much-needed creative outlet that kept me happy, balanced, and fulfilled. I was also buoyed by the realization that it could be a viable business.
As HSS began (and has continued) its upward trajectory, so too did my career in the Army. New leadership embraced my media savvy and spirit of innovation and I soon found myself in high-risk positions with increased levels of responsibility.
Suddenly, as you can imagine, it became a lot more difficult to balance and manage all things HSS-related. I had about 15 years of active duty service at that point so not sticking it out another five years to retirement was a complete nonstarter.
So we did what we could when we could.
And I think we did a pretty good job. But we definitely had to pick and choose where to direct our focus and energy. Having experienced the level success we had early on, Rob (also in the Army and also now retired) and I would often lament and commiserate — “if we only had more time, where could this have been right now?”
I realize as I’m writing this that it might be coming off as, “man, the Army was such a drag” but nothing could be further from the truth. Being able to do something I loved for a living that had the incredible power to heal, inspire, and unite people along with having the honor and privilege to represent Soldiers, the Army, and the nation was an incredible experience that I would not trade for anything. And that’s not just years and years of PR and media training talking.
I got to do some really cool stuff. But it was time for a change. And here we are.
In our current era of disposable short-form content, going all-in on a massive website redesign might seem anachronistic, out of touch, or worse, just plain stupid. I could wax poetic all day about the evolution and state of men’s style online and in the influencer-verse, but suffice it to say, I believe we’re reaching an inflection point.
And possibly a reckoning.
Now please don’t get me wrong because while there is certainly an upside to the ease now with which people are able to create and be seen and heard, this abundance of short content often feels devoid of intent, meaning, or a point of view. There are more “look at me” people than “listen to me” people than ever before. I’m getting a little tired of it, aren’t you?
Personally, I feel the pendulum swinging and I believe now is the time to lean into substance and thoughtful, well-crafted content. That is exactly what we plan to do here. All while continuing to adhere to and espouse the same core values that have underpinned our brand from the beginning — quality, approachability, timelessness and integrity.
Finding a Unicorn
Planning for this project began well over a year ago. For something of this scope and complexity it was imperative that we work with the right partner. It’s one thing for something to look nice but quite another for the entire back-end operation to be just as elegant.
Finding an agency that understands design, tech, and brand equally and can also successfully put those three things together to achieve what a client is looking for (and more) is difficult. You might even feel like you’re hunting a unicorn.
Well, we found our unicorn in the form of Toronto-based digital agency, Article.
I have to give Ryan and the entire Article team a big shout-out here because, as you can clearly see, their work is remarkable. I’ll be diving into some of the biggest features and upgrades to the new site and shop below, but I must say that their ability to problem-solve, innovate, and leave no detail unconsidered was (and is) inspiring, to say the least.
To cite just one example — our new fonts.
The detailed explanation we received on why these fonts — GT Sectra and GT America, if you’re curious — were chosen for us bordered on the philosophical. That level of meticulousness was applied consistently throughout every level of the project, confirming that this was most certainly the right team for us to be working with.
Introducing The New He Spoke Style
I realize that was quite a windup, but now that you’ve gotten the complete backstory, let me walk you through some of the biggest and most exciting features of the new He Spoke Style.
An Unrivaled Editorial Experience
When we decided to commit to this project, one of our biggest desires and objectives was simply to get back to basics. We love to tell stories and wanted the ability to illustrate those stories much more vividly.
We can do that now.
I call it an editorial “experience” because we really seek to convey a feeling through our visual creative. We’ve always gone the extra mile in that sense. So we’re thrilled to have the ability to present that material with a look and feel that matches the incredible people, places, things, and experiences we’ll continue to showcase.
And by “back to basics” we’ll also be publishing more of our classic “old school” outfit posts as well as featuring some new faces and voices. More on that in a bit.
Style Guide 2.0
Since first launching in mid-2015, the Style Guide has been one of the site’s most popular features. It was conceived to allow readers to easily search our large and ever-expanding catalog of style editorial for outfit ideas and inspiration.
However, a tool like the Style Guide is only as useful as it is easy to use and I have to admit that its original iteration was not without a handful of issues. Thankfully, the new Style Guide elegantly addresses and solves every one of those problems, making it easier and much more enjoyable to use, discover, find inspiration, and more.
Let me share five of the most exciting changes and new features of the Style Guide.
More focused, fewer choices
As with many things, less is very often more, and that was one of the guiding principles for the new Style Guide. The original version allowed users to search by pretty much any imaginable piece of an outfit, which resulted in something that was more bloated than it needed to be.
Additionally, the abundance of choices was, frankly, overwhelming. By distilling the search categories down to four key areas — Clothing, Season, Occasion, Footwear — we’re allowing you to quickly access more options while still providing the ability to drill down and refine your search.
Mobile optimized, fun and easy to use
We knew the mobile experience for the original Style guide was pretty seriously lacking. It looked terrible, was difficult to filter, had no easy way to reset the filters, and was maddening to navigate back to once you’d clicked into a particular outfit since it would take you out of the Style Guide and into the original post.
That’s all been addressed and we know you’re going to love using the new version.
Filtering is simple and — dare I say — fun. Once you’ve selected a single look to explore, you can easily jump right back into your search results. And, if you’re so inclined, you can click into any article we’ve written that features the particular outfit you’re viewing. Pretty neat.
Multiple images, more inspiration
While we love writing articles, we know that when you’re searching for inspiration, sometimes all you really need is the visual — especially if you’re in a hurry. So we’ve made it quick and extremely easy to see more of the outfit in greater detail with just a scroll or swipe.
Additionally, we’ve created a separate content type for the Style Guide, which will allow us to post even more outfit inspiration independent of our regular editorial.
We also intend the Style Guide to be a place to feature you, our incredibly stylish readers. You can submit your best looks to us on Instagram with the hashtag #StyleGuideHSS or by sending an email to [email protected].
Finally (and finally), we’ve made the Style Guide shoppable. Whether garments from the HSS Shop — more on that below — or otherwise, it’s never been easier to shop the looks you love.
The New & Improved HSS Shop
When we launched the HSS Shop in 2017, it was stocked with a small, hand-selected collection of brands and products we loved. You loved it too and because of the circumstances mentioned at the beginning of this post, we had trouble keeping the shelves stocked. A good problem to have, but less than ideal for you.
Building on that success, in 2021 we formalized a partnership with Michael Andrews Bespoke — one of our longest-running brand relationships — to offer a range of private label custom menswear designed and curated by yours truly. We provided MAB quality at a made-to-measure price and gave you the ability to, more or less, shop my closet.
And today, we’re excited to unveil the new HSS Shop, which we know you’re going to enjoy for a variety of reasons I’m about to explain.
You Spoke, We Listened
Over the past two years, we’ve received lots of feedback from readers, viewers, and followers telling us that they really wanted to purchase from us but the price point was just a bit out of range.
Well, we heard you and we listened.
As a result of your feedback, we’ve implemented some changes that have allowed us to dramatically lower our prices while delivering you the highest quality garments at an incomparable value. So how did we do this?
Our previous fitting model required you (and a partner) to take close to 20 different measurements. We learned quickly that this was not only difficult for you, but oftentimes inaccurate, leading to increased time spent adjusting and dialing in measurements. That resulted in frustration and an additional cost that, unfortunately, had to be passed on.
But we’ve solved that issue.
A New Model for Your Custom Fit
We’ve collected a lot of data over the past two years of online fittings. So much of it, in fact, that we’ve been able to build a sizing predictor that is insanely accurate. However, despite its accuracy — which truly is insane, by the way — we believe you deserve much better than that. We are fully committed to helping you achieve an exceptional personalized custom fit and this next bit is the true differentiator for us in this space and at this price point.
Once we’ve forecasted your size, you will receive a prototype try-on garment. And here’s where it gets exciting because we are putting the power directly in your hands.
Along with your try-on garment, you will also be sent a small kit that includes a ruler, tailor’s chalk, and pins. At this point, when you navigate to your personal account dashboard, you will find your complete measurement record along with short videos where I’ll guide you through the process step by step, teaching you everything you need to know to expertly assess the fit of your try-on garment and make the necessary adjustments to your pattern.
If it sounds a bit intimidating, let me tell you — it’s not.
When you get into classic menswear, the reality is that you become a student of fit. Over the years, you build a relationship with your tailor and during that time you develop an eye for “what right looks like” and the adjustments necessary to fix what’s wrong. That’s been my journey over the past decade and change and what we’re providing you with is no less than an accelerator course in tailoring. It’s something I honestly wish I had when I first got into this stuff!
We’re confident that you will quickly become an expert, however, we are still providing you the option to book a 15-minute “bespoke consultation” with one of our tailoring experts if you’re not feeling it and would like a little more peace of mind.
In addition to reduced pricing and a new fitting model, there are several other incredible HSS Shop features to check out as well as an overall highly improved and enjoyable experience. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out and invite to explore everything we have to offer.
The Groom Guide
In 2021, just as we were beginning to emerge from the pandemic, we undertook an exceptionally ambitious project — to create a complete video series designed to help grooms look and feel their best on their wedding day. And we did it, offering it exclusively as a paid course that has been utilized both by grooms and wedding professionals.
In addition to being publicly available, we’ve made the experience much more dynamic. Instead of simply watching the videos — which, obviously, you can still do — there are informative (yet digestible) articles that are elegantly illustrated and easy to shop. So if you’re getting married soon, dive in and let us help you look and feel your best for one of the most important days of your life.
Our Incredible Team
One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced as we’ve continued to expand into different areas — video, editorial, e-commerce — has been maintaining consistency across our vast scope of activities. With a small team and increasingly limited time, we really had to pick and choose where could focus, often leaving things to wilt on the vine despite our best intentions. We needed to grow so we could scale, but we just weren’t in a situation where that was possible.
When I decided to retire from the Army after 20 years, I was fortunate and grateful to have been given a pretty long runway to plan, develop, and execute on what was truly necessary to make HSS what we wanted it to be.
Anyone who’s run their own business knows that it’s nearly impossible to work on your business when you are constantly working in your business. In other words, the necessity of the day to day activities required to keep things status quo pretty much ensures that you don’t have time to think about and actually build what you need to have sustained growth. That’s where I was.
It took about six months, but with the help of a wonderful business coach and consultant, we’ve emerged with an incredibly solid foundation, a serious custom-built project management system (I’ll talk ad nauseam about the joys of Notion to anyone who will listen), and some strategic hires who are powering us into this next phase. I could sing all of their praises for another 1,000 words but instead, I recommend checking out the team page to learn more about them.
In addition to our core team, we’re excited to begin introducing you to our more robust roster of contributors. When we put out a call for applications, we were overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of submissions and are looking forward to showcasing their voices.
Why Does This Matter?
Ultimately, this next phase of HSS is all about you and our community. We want to give you more of what you want, more of what you’ve asked for, more of what you’ve come to expect from us, and more of what you deserve.
So what are you waiting for?! Take a look around at everything the new HSS has to offer. And be sure to let us know what you think below in the comments. We hope you’ll love it.
We’re also well aware that there may be some bugs to work out as we roll out the new site and shop and we encourage you to let us know what you find as you explore. Drop us a comment here or send us an email — either way, we’d love to hear from you and what you think of the new experience.
Thanks, as always, for reading and welcome to the new He Spoke Style.