What Is It About Scandinavian Design?

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I could blindfold myself and pick up any piece of clothing in this men’s clothing store at random and be happy with it. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Men’s Fashion

The first time I walked into a men’s clothing store in Stockholm, Sweden, I took one look around and thought, “There is not one thing in this store that I don’t like!”

I think I could have blindfolded myself, picked out something at random, and been happy to be seen in the street wearing it.

In Hong Kong, where I live, I have difficulty finding garb that appeals to me. In the United States, where I’m from, the situation is a bit better because there’s more variety.

In Sweden, where I’m spending four  weeks, it’s not a matter of finding clothes that I LIKE. It’s a matter of finding clothes that I DON’T like. I can’t buy everything!

What IS it about Scandinavian design?

I could easily bankrupt myself buying men’s clothes here.

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I found it difficult to find anything I didn’t like at Brothers, a men’s clothing store in the Faltoversten shopping mall on Valhallavagen Street in the Karlaplan section of Stockholm, Sweden.
Fortunately I knew exactly what I wanted when I walked in the store – two pairs of short pants, one white, one black. They were on sale at 50% off! Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I had a similar experience walking down the main street of Umea, a small town in Northern Sweden.

But there was one small difference: I wasn’t planning to buy anything except for some food, maybe, to consume on the six hour train ride back to Stockholm.

While I was in no need of another swimming suit, the swimming suit on a mannequin in a boutique window caught my eye. It had my name written all over it!

I walked inside. I found the trunks that I liked, but couldn’t find my size. A saleslady checked in the storeroom. No luck.

“Let me check the one on the mannequin,” the sales lady said.

The two of us removed the trunks. Would they fit?

I tried them on, and they fit perfectly! While I was buying them, another saleslady put a pair of black swimming trunks with a hot green drawstring on the mannequin.

I noticed them as I paused to photograph the shop window on the way out.

I was tempted to buy them, as well. But I controlled myself. How many pairs of swimming trunks does a guy need?

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I couldn’t resist this swimming suit, which was on display at Ingrids, a boutique selling men’s and women’s swimwear and underwear, in Umea, Sweden. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

When you travel, you quickly discover that the same brands stock different styles and different colourways in different countries – sometimes even in different cities of the same country.

When I was in Seattle, Washington, a couple of years back, for example, I discovered that department stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom’s, were much more down market in Seattle than their counterparts in San Francisco.

Why is this?

It’s up to the buyers to determine which styles, colours, and price points will be popular with end-users in their particular market.

So the selection of men’s clothing at H&M in Stockholm, Sweden, is different from the selection of men’s clothing at H&M in Hong Kong.

So Stockholm is a great place to  shop – even if you don’t have good taste yourself.

Since the buyers working for shops have incredibly good taste and since they cater to men that also have incredibly good taste, you will come away with a smart outfit almost by default.

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An H&M boutique on Gotagatan Street in the Sodermalm section of Stockholm, Sweden. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I have also noticed it on the street. The men in Sweden are extremely well dressed. Blue and white are the favoured colours and yellow the favoured accent.

The fact that most men in Sweden are incredibly fit also helps. Clothes seem to hang well on them.

There’s another factor: Swedish men don’t seem to get fashion inspiration from Gentleman’s Quarterly. Instead, they pay careful attention to how other men dress.

Just as I’ve been taking mental notes in hopes I can replicate the looks I like when I return to Hong Kong, I’ve noticed Swedish men doing the same thing.

One evening in a bar, I saw three twenty-somethings checking out my outfit. One of them looked me up and down, pointed to my tie and then to my pants and then said something to the other two.

They chatted for a few moments, eyes darting occasionally in my direction – not at me, but at my attire.

Were their comments positive? Were they negative? That is something I will never know. But it sure did feel good to be noticed!


Not all men’s clothes in Sweden look like the Swedish flag as this display at MK, the largest department store in Stockholm, Sweden, demonstrate. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Click here for information on Insight Guides Sweden.

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