Until recently, local menswear options were limited to a handful of specialty stores and chains. But there has been a resurgence of menswear options in New Orleans, including recently opened stores like Aristocracy Nola (305 Decatur St., 504-309-7433; www.aristocracynola.com) and Fraques (821 Baronne St., 504-373-6153; www.fraques.com) and emerging menswear designers.
When Jason Pham, co-owner of Aristocracy Nola, opened his store in December 2013, he chose to focus on men's streetwear.
"Street style is whatever you feel like throwing on," Pham says. "There are no boundaries. I think in life there are too many boundaries."
Pham tries to provide what's lacking in the menswear options when selecting what to sell at his store. He says his customers are becoming more adventurous in their choices.
"When I did my inventory, I tried to play it safe, [choosing] 60 percent normal clothes and 40 percent kind of funky [clothes]," Pham says. "Now when I'm picking my clothes I'm jumping off the cliff. The city's ready to embrace it."
As demand for on-trend menswear increases, so do style options. Men are doing research and have stronger ideas about how they want to present themselves through personal style, Pham says. Fashion blogs, street-style websites and online shopping help men become more open-minded when selecting their clothing.
"I think what helps out a lot is the Internet," Pham says. "In the '90s when the Internet wasn't [used by] a lot of people, if you saw a dude from New York come down here, it was like, 'What does he have on?'"
Frank D'Amico and Jacques Couvillon, co-owners of Fraques, say men want pleasant and hassle-free shopping.
"Our regular customers are people who are looking for the shopping experience," Couvillon says. "They don't want to drive out to the mall and park 20 minutes away. ... They don't like to be pressured by salespeople. We have people that come in here with their dogs. They can't do that somewhere else."
Couvillon and D'Amico opened Fraques after noticing a lack of variety available for men.
"We've always had a passion for style and clothes and looking your best," D'Amico says. "We thought that New Orleans is ready for our kind of store."
At Fraques, men can style a wardrobe, pick up items for their home, travel and more.
"The name Fraques is a combination of our names, Frank and Jacques, and if you look around [the store], you can see that's exactly what it is," Couvillon says. "It's a part of both of us. We have art and architecture books, we have home goods. It's more about a matter of lifestyle."
Couvillon and D'Amico try to educate customers about different clothing styles and fits.
"It's about getting people in here and showing them that you can change your style without being scared that your co-workers or other people around you are going to be shocked," D'Amico says.
Eighteen-year-old New Orleanian Randy Gervais, creator of Checker Box socks (www.checkerboxusa.com), offers fresh designs in dress socks. Gervais created Checker Box socks in 2013 to offer men more choices and bolder looks.
"With men, there's only so much you can do to add to your outfit," Gervais says. "You only see polka dots, stripes and argyle for men."
Now Checker Box socks are sold at Rubensteins (102 St. Charles Ave., 504-581-6666; www.rubensteinsneworleans. com) and the gift shop at The Roosevelt Hotel (130 Roosevelt Way, 504-648-1200; www.therooseveltneworleans.com). Next up for Gervais are casual socks, which he'll release next month.
Rahsaan Ison, creator of Ison Bowties (www.facebook.com/isonbowtiesetc), launched his bow tie line in New Orleans when he was 13 years old. Now 15, Ison offers quirky designs he calls "wearable art."
"Ison bow ties are for people who like standing out from the crowd," Ison says. He notes the change in men's attitudes toward fashion as a factor in the menswear renaissance. "When people start to stray from the crowd, they start to find themselves," Ison says.
D'Amico says a good outfit can boost self-esteem and help people have a better day. "It's such a simple thing, putting clothes on, but it makes such a difference in their confidence and what they feel like they can do," D'Amico says. "If you walk out of our store and have no insecurities, you're going to have a great rest of your day."