Look, Ma, No Stains

New techno-clothes let a man be a mess without looking like one. Will shoppers buy slob chic?

Henry David Thoreau is considered a thoroughly American thinker, but in 1854, when he wrote, "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothing," he proved he was also a thoroughly American male. As many a wife and mother will attest, Thoreau's wariness toward fashion is a gender trait that persists to this day. But as frustrating as male shopping avoidance may be for women, their angst is nothing compared with that of menswear manufacturers and retailers.

Sales of men's apparel were down 7% last year from the year before. Sales of women's apparel were down as well, 6.7%. But $89.3 billion...

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