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How Michael Jordan and Hip-Hop Changed the Course of Men’s Fashion

Moda Operandi, the online retailer that gives consumers access to shop directly from the runway, made its its name in women’s wear. However, the company’s men’s wear business is where excitement and growth opportunities live.

At the WWD Men’s Style event in New York City last week, Josh Peskowitz, Moda Operandi fashion director, men’s, shared how influences from music, social media and sports are coming together to inform men’s fashion purchases. And the retailer’s diverse brand roster, which spans the boyish charm of JW Anderson and Thom Browne, to the streetwear edge of Off-White and Amiri, allows it to cater to men’s broadening (and sometimes clashing) sartorial tastes.

“The most important part of our business—the fashion business—is men’s right now. Men’s is growing is the fastest growing part of the business,” he said. “And although it’s still small, it’s still the place where the most excitement it’s happening. And I think that that’s reflected in the attention paid to the shows, its reflected in the way that artists and athletes are dressing now.”

Josh Peskowitz
Josh Peskowitz, Moda Operandi fashion director, men’s Courtesy

Here Peskowitz shares insight on Moda Operandi’s men’s business and why men’s fashion should be the category on every retailer’s radar.

On the rise of the signature shoe

Michael Jordan’s signature shoe in 1985 created a wave of change in the way men looked at clothing.

“It was the first time that an item of clothing—an athletic shoe—became a status symbol,” Peskowitz said. “He was the first person to ever have a signature shoe, which is such a huge part of our business now. And it really was an iconic design that people still wear to this day.”

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Nike Air Jordan 1
Nike Air Jordan 1 Shutterstock

That’s including the 40-something year old men who lived through the buzz of the Air Jordan 1 the first time around and are still drawn to the shoe and other similar hype items.

“This is the guy who was there at that time seeing this and has grown up since then,” Peskowitz said. “That’s your customer, that’s the guy who are really trying to get to.”

And in terms of consuming, this man is also the most valuable customer to have. Peskowitz said ages 35 to 55 constitutes the “most powerful spending period” of any man’s life. Brands and retailers, he added, need to react by providing the products and experience they’ve grown accustomed to.

On hip-hop’s influence

Shortly after the Air Jordan 1, hip-hop came into prominence and its influence on men’s fashion grew well into the ’90s. “That’s when we started seeing hip hop culture and its influence on how men think about clothing. It was about standing out and showing out,” Peskowitz said.

As hip-hop culture expanded, the fashion director said it went from being a counter-culture to the prevailing culture. “It really has influenced the mentality, not necessarily how everyone dresses, but the mentality behind the way men think about clothing,” he said.

On breaking the rules

Men’s interest in fashion is also sparked by the easily accessible information found on the internet and across social media. Men who were afraid to ask questions before, can just look it up online. “A lot of men have spent so much more time looking at clothing and it has become such a bigger part of their lives,” Peskowitz said.

And at the confluence of hip-hop and social media is the overall casualization of fashion. “The rules have really gone away. That is really great for a lot of men who are stylish because they can choose their own adventure,” he said. “But for some that’s really challenging. So, our job in retail is to make sure we’re giving them guidance.”

Nordstrom’s Men’s Store in New York City George Chinsee/REX/Shutterstock (

On how men shop

Trousers are worn with sweatshirts. Jeans are paired with windbreakers. And sneakers go with just about everything. During a time when all forms of clothing is in style, Peskowitz says retailers need to rethink traditional merchandising strategies.

“The way stores are set up is by department and that is not the way men dress, particularly in this day and age,” he said. “Nobody dresses head to toe and anyone brand.” Department stores, he added, don’t reflect the “cultural cues” that they need to dress now. “If he doesn’t know what he’s looking for, it becomes very challenging,” he said.

On men’s fashion evolution

“I’ve been in this business for a long time, I’ve worked at a lot of magazines, and I’ve worked with a lot of retailers. And over the course of my career, the one thing that I’ve seen more than anything else is the growing interest of men in fashion,” Peskowitz said. “When I started my career, a lot of men didn’t care and now a lot do.”

And there’s still a long way to go.

“The thing that’s most important is to keep innovating, keep thinking of new ways to reach the customer and have a conversation with him because he knows more now than he ever did before,” Peskowitz said.