Costco: Where Practicality Meets Style

Costco: Where Practicality Meets Style
Costco has a Kirkland Signature clothing label (Dreamstime/Clark.com)
Photo from (wsj.com)

In a nondescript Manhattan warehouse, where the lighting didn't exactly flatter the surroundings, I found myself navigating stacks of goods in pursuit of a $27 jacket. The irony of nearly knocking over a tub of M&M's while clothes shopping in this atypical setting wasn't lost on me.

While other fashion editors were attending glitzy runway shows in Milan, I was sifting through piles of jeans and passing racks of Spider-Man costumes. Yes, I was on a mission to explore the world of fashion at Costco, all thanks to the suggestions of some readers.

The Kirkland Signature Appeal

It's no secret that WSJ Off Duty's menswear stories often attract reader comments lauding the "overpriced" brands featured and extolling the virtues of the discount giant, Costco. These comments, straight to the point, suggested that I explore Kirkland Signature, Costco's private label, for myself.

Many passionate supporters of Kirkland clothing highlight not only Costco's famously lenient return policy but also the convenience of updating their wardrobe while grabbing groceries. Above all, they claim that Kirkland offers unparalleled value for money, a precious quality in times of soaring living costs.

The Costco Experiment

As an Australian who had never set foot inside a Costco store, I embarked on a Costco crash course. Along with the guidance of devoted fans, I obtained a $60 annual membership and filled my cart with Kirkland items that would be my wardrobe staples for the next few weeks. The total cost of a complete outfit, including a shirt, tee, jeans, boxer-briefs, and socks, was a mere $48.50.

Photo from (wsj.com)

The Verdict on Kirkland

Setting aside my initial reservations about clothes shopping alongside barrels of cheese puffs, I immersed myself in Kirkland's offerings. The results pleasantly surprised me with a couple of caveats. While the clothes may not be fashion-forward, they are indeed sturdy and practical. I discovered that Kirkland's white athletic socks were particularly impressive, standing out as plush, comfortable, and comparable to hotel slippers.

Costco's Apparel Business

Costco's apparel business extends to men's, women's, and children's clothing, featuring both Kirkland and third-party brands at discounted prices. Surprisingly, its apparel business raked in $9.1 billion globally in 2022, surpassing the revenues of prestigious fashion brands like Chanel, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData's retail division, notes that while apparel consumers at Costco tend to be aged 45 and above, there's still a loyal following for Kirkland's $25 dress shirts.

The Normcore Aesthetic

Costco's menswear collection primarily focuses on everyday essentials like mid-wash jeans, gym shorts, fleeces, and flannels. It offers no-frills, logo-light clothing that leans into the normcore trend. Shoppers have increasingly gravitated towards casual, comfortable styles, leaving behind the desire for high-end fashion.

Photo from (wsj.com)

Kirkland's Allure

What makes Kirkland clothing appealing to its fans is the simplicity and functionality of the designs. Celebrity stylist Michael Fisher asserts that wearing nondescript Kirkland apparel is cooler than donning fast-fashion pieces imitating runway styles. It's not about trying to mimic Paris fashion but embracing unfussy, comfortable clothes that serve their purpose.

The Costco Magic

Costco's ability to offer quality goods at such affordable prices stems from its massive bulk orders and limited markups. Compared to the 55-70% markup commonly used by fashion brands, Costco maintains a considerably lower margin, ranging from the mid-single to mid-teen percentage. The result is an unbeatable value for customers.

Sustainable Concerns

While the affordability of Kirkland clothing is undeniable, the lack of transparency regarding its production raises some concerns. Costco provides limited information about the production of Kirkland apparel, and it's not entirely clear which manufacturers are responsible for the items.

Sustainability experts advocate for consumers to invest in clothing they'll wear repeatedly, whether cheap or not. Kirkland's durability plays a significant role in reducing the environmental impact.

a white car parked in front of a costco store
Photo by Grant Beirute / Unsplash

Kirkland's Enduring Quality

Kirkland clothing stands the test of time, with devoted customers vouching for the longevity of their purchases. The absence of issues like frayed collars or buttons falling off in Kirkland shirts and pants is a testament to their quality. Kirkland's clothing not only survives daily wear but also remains in excellent condition over the years.

While Kirkland's clothing offerings certainly aren't designer fashion, they do fulfill the promise of practicality, comfort, and affordability. The enduring value offered by Kirkland clothing allows individuals to dress comfortably without breaking the bank, a perfect match for those seeking a balance between style and sensibility.

The Costco Legacy

Purchasing clothing from a no-frills retailer like Costco marks a shift towards valuing comfort over ego. Customers like those found in Costco's menswear aisle are embracing the idea that clothing should "do the job." While Kirkland may not carry the allure of high-end fashion, it certainly excels in functionality.

The charm of Kirkland clothing lies in its no-nonsense approach to fashion. Whether it's a plain tee or comfortable jeans, Kirkland offers an affordable and practical solution to everyday dressing without trying to imitate high fashion. Shoppers no longer feel the need to invest their identity in clothing but instead opt for easy, comfortable choices.

The Kirkland Experience

The Kirkland Signature collection at Costco brings together simplicity, affordability, and durability. Whether you're picking up socks, a shirt, or a pair of jeans, you can trust that Kirkland offers quality at a fraction of the cost. So, the next time you find yourself at Costco, consider giving the Kirkland aisle a closer look.

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