Chris Riccobono was frustrated when he wasn’t able to find a shirt that looked good when it wasn’t tucked into his pants. So he approached his Columbia Business School classmate Aaron Sanandres with the idea of starting a business creating shirts for men that could be worn untucked.
The business they created was Untuckit, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Since those beginnings in Riccobono’s third bedroom, Untuckit has become one of the fastest-growing men’s brands in North America with 88 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and sales of more than $200 million.
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It has attracted the attention — and investment — from athletes including Wayne Gretzky and Drew Brees — as well as Silicon Valley venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which invested $30 million in the company in 2017.
Although the company had a rough time during the pandemic, necessitating a $30 million secured term loan with Second Avenue Capital Partners and $6 million under the government’s paycheck protection program, the situation has stabilized and Untuckit is back on its growth trajectory.
“Pre-pandemic, we had opened our 86th store and our 35th in 2019 alone, as well as our first two overseas stores in England,” Riccobono said. During the pandemic, five of those stores closed, but a newly opened unit in Manchester, England, has brought Untuckit’s store tally today to 88.
“It was a rough 2020,” Riccobono said. But polos, Henleys and T-shirts “exploded, and kept us afloat.” Since then, “we’ve seen a lot of great signs and signals that we will exceed our 2019 numbers this year and get back to our pre-pandemic plans.”
In fact, the company’s mission, to supply men with good-looking casual shirts that can be worn untucked, is the perfect post-pandemic wardrobe, they believe. “Guys are not going back to wearing suits with starched white shirts tucked in,” Riccobono said.
Sanandres said that despite a rough year, Untuckit “managed to weather through” the pandemic and is poised to capitalize on what he called the “tectonic shift in men’s fashion as they move toward casual and are looking for an alternative to Brooks Brothers or Thomas Pink.”
During the pandemic, as men worked from home in sweatpants, the pendulum swung too far toward casualwear, but a return to the office, at least a few days a week, are swinging that pendulum back to the hybrid fashion that Untuckit has built its business on. “We are positioned really well for the increasingly casual consumer,” Sanandres said.
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, the founders said physical retail will continue to be their primary focus. “When we started, people were asking to touch and feel the product,” Sanandres said, and the thinking was that online-only brands were more “lowbrow” and of lower quality than brands with a brick-and-mortar presence.
So they opened their first store in New York’s SoHo in 2015 and soon realized that was the best path to growth, and the best way to augment their e-commerce business.
“Those who predicted stores won’t be here in the future are wrong,” Riccobono said. “We didn’t want to be a flash-in-the-pan e-commerce site. Men like stores and it’s part of our overall strategy.”
They declined to project how many additional stores they plan on opening in the near term since the still-uncertain state of the pandemic is leading them to have a “more tempered expansion” approach. “The pandemic is still going on so it’s really hard to plan,” Riccobono said. “We have to see where we are next year. So, will we be opening three, five or 10 stores. We don’t have the answer yet, but we want to get back to the growth trajectory of 2019.”
However, expanding internationally is definitely in the cards, they said, as is increasing the penetration of women’s wear, which currently sits at around 10 percent of Untuckit’s overall sales.
Overseas, the founders plan to continue moving into Europe — Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands are top on the list — along with Latin America and eventually Asia. There are also four stores in Canada, a country which Sanandres said is “a huge market for us.”
Overall, international currently represents under 10 percent of sales but could one day account for 50 percent, they said. “That would be years from now, but that’s where we eventually see it going,” Sanandres said.
To celebrate the anniversary — as well as a milestone the company hit for selling its 8 millionth shirt, Untuckit is launching a line of luxury Italian cotton button-down shirts. The shirts, which harken back to its best-selling patterns and colors, but in long-staple cotton from Italy’s Monti mill, will be available in six styles in regular and slim fits. They’re wrinkle-free with details including single-needle side stitches, a double reinforced collar and the company’s trademark untucked length. They will be available starting Nov. 4 and will retail for $129, higher than the stock shirts that sell for $79, $89 or $99. “It’s our Black collection,” Sanandres said.
So what’s in the cards for Untuckit in the next 10 years?
“Ten years doesn’t seem old, but for a direct-to-consumer brand it is,” Sanandres said. In the future, he said the company will continue to look the same, but with more “street cred” for its pants, polos and women’s wear.
Don’t expect a change in the brand’s name, though, despite the fact that it has been criticized over the years as “the worst idea ever,” as they have said in the past. But after 10 years, Untuckit — and its triangle logo — has clearly found its niche.
“The brand’s name is the smartest thing we’ve ever done,” Riccobono said. “It’s divisive, but more importantly, disruptive and it got people talking. The growth and expansion of Untuckit over the years has surpassed my wildest dreams and with the return to a new normal post-pandemic, the casual and untucked shirt category is dominating the men’s wear market today.”