If you wanted to found a business that catered to customers who understood clothes are attached to status, potentially to the future of your career, but had little to no passion or know-how about dressing to meet those needs, you’d probably want to start up in this area.
That’s because inside-the-Beltway fashion is characterized by a go-along-to-get-along mentality. Whether you work for Congress or the Post or a tech start-up, no one is going to reward you for either slacker cool or ostentatious couture. Who ever heard of an investigative journalist decked out in Gucci, or a comms person in a streetwear-hip tracksuit? That leaves a whole bunch of white-collar working stiffs at a loss when expected to look spiffy at a job interview or a work event or a wedding.
Which seems to be at least part of why Hyde Closet, a menswear style and clothing rental service, is taking off in the DMV.
The business was founded in 2019 in DC, and is in the process of expanding to New York and Miami. The process, similar to the popular StitchFix for women, is pretty simple: Ask to rent an outfit, and Hyde Closet schedules you a Zoom with one of its staff stylists. The pro spends about 15 to 30 minutes asking you questions about your style, and then you get a black box of rental clothing you return in a week.
The service has taken off particularly with ambassadors in the city, who get an outfit appropriate for their particular occasion delivered directly to their hotel, no luggage needed. You can imagine George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air loving the service.
When I scheduled a call to check it out, stylist Chelsea Frank Zoomed in from Brooklyn, wearing a pair of distinctively wing-tipped sunglasses, but otherwise casually lounging in her living room.
When she asked me what I was looking to do with my style, I explained I attend events for work to build relationships with contacts, and I had to look passable for these. Otherwise, I wasn’t looking to stand out.
“I’m not really interested in calling overt attention to myself,” I said, a style sensibility she immediately recognized.
“It’s, like, very DC,” she said. We agreed that at least a muted pattern shirt would keep me from being a non-entity.
You can order one outfit for $49, or three outfits for $129. You keep the clothes for a week, then it’s $15 to extend the rental, or you can purchase. I got the single pack, and six days later, a large black box arrived at my building, one that my concierge kept behind her desk because she thought it seemed expensive.
Which was fairly true: Michael Kors provided the understated patterned button-down. The T-shirt featured the logo of Generation Typo, one of the local indie brands that Hyde mixes in with its high-fashion picks. Comfy, sky-blue Mugsy jeans, cap-toe Kenneth Cole shoes—it was a fun selection without being showy, so it managed to meet the demands of a shy writer while doing its job of not allowing me to fade into the background. It was a selection I never would’ve put together myself.
And that’s key to the company’s success, according to Frank. In addition to industry cities, their business is in some ways built for the post-pandemic, post-Gen Z world, where people have fully accepted things like Zoom consultations, but are looking for guidance on fashion as we all head back to the workplace in some form or another. Some of the biggest chunks of Hyde Closet’s customer base are new college grads interviewing for jobs, and the company has worked with the military on prepping returning soldiers for the same task.
There is one more package deal: For $150 a month, you get unlimited rentals, turning the service into a kind of magical closet where you never wear the same thing twice. Frank says she’s developed a few long-term clients with that setup, and that’s where it gets a little more personal. She helped one client choose a sport coat to boost his confidence since he had previously been self-conscious on occasions like taking his wife out to dinner.
“There’s always a story behind every client. And I always like to engage with what that story is,” Frank says. “Because I believe that fashion is something that people can use to make themselves feel good about any situation they’re walking into.”