Simple ideas can sometimes have a surprisingly powerful impact. They can also be harder to engineer from the outside than one might assume.
Such is the story of UNTUCKit, the menswear firm premised on an incredibly simple idea: Men should be able to wear their shirts untucked without looking sloppy. It is the brainchild of Chris Riccobono, a former healthcare consultant who spent 10 years wishing he had a dress shirt that looked good untucked. Which, for those who have never sought out such an item, is a little bit harder than one might think – because, according to Riccobono, the vast majority of men's dress shirts are designed to be tucked in.
Which means when building the company's signature product of an untucked dress shirt, it wasn’t just about changing the shirt’s length, but also resetting the measurements of every part of the shirt. The brand took an unusual root to the market – bootstrapped early on with funding from friends and family, and then marketed through some genuinely unusually channels, according to Forbes, including airline magazines and radio ads.
And after a slowish start six years ago, the brand – gradually at first, and then much more rapidly – found a following. As it turned out, Riccobono was not the only person who was desperate to be free of the shackles of a tucked-in shirt. The brand took off, has thus far been funded by its own profits instead of outside funding.
And UNTUCKit is not just profitable – it’s growing. As of today, the brand that was born online to give men an untucked option now brings in over $100 million annually in revenue and has 35 locations in the U.S., with an eye to open at least another 15.
“We were first to market,” Riccobono said of the now oft-copied untuckable shirt concept. “And we’re a brand now.”
A brand that, incidentally, seems to have touched some kind of deeper cultural nerve with shoppers. This concept is explained at great length in a New Yorker column about the drama and trauma of shopping UNTUCKit’s New York City locations, of which there are now four.
At this point, the simple idea about an untuckable shirt is not just a digital brand with a big following, or even just a minor cultural obsession – it is increasingly becoming a big physical retail player, as it pushes toward its 50-location goal.
It is a move that has drawn some side-eye from marketplace watchers, as UNTUCKit’s dive into physical retail is much, much faster than some of its peer brands. Everlane, for example, is about the same age and has only two permanent retail locations in the physical world. Online mattress startup Casper opened its first store earlier this year in New York City. Even brands pushing aggressive physical expansion, like Warby Parker – which is hoping to have opened 100 store locations by the end of 2018 – took five years to crack the 25-store mark.
And while UNTUCKit still does 80 percent of its business online, all of its stores are profitable, according to Riccobono.
“The metrics look so good right now that there’s just no reason to slow it down and not have our foot on the gas,” he told Forbes.
Which isn’t to say he’s not aware of the risks in expanding physically so fast. UNTUCKit took on its first big venture funding round as it is hoping to rapidly push growth, raising $30 million from Kleiner Perkins at a reported $200 million valuation. On average, UNTUCKit’s leases are five to 10 years long. As many retailers have spent the last few years learning, being physically overextended can be a big problem if one happens to suddenly lose the interest of their target consumer. And that risk is particularly amplified in the apparel market, where tastes and trends can change very rapidly.
But Riccobono remains confident that the UNTUCKit offering isn’t a fad so much as a fashion movement – and that they can weather the storm no matter what comes.