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Frank & Oak Megareview - July 2014

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    Frank & Oak Megareview - July 2014

    Frank & Oak is a menswear internet startup based out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, founded in 2012? I think?. They ship to the US and Canada and make clothes in a variety of styles. They have also been a very controversial company. I have been a customer for a year or two now and have purchased a lot of clothes from them. I often see questions about the quality of their clothes from new customers, so I thought I would provide what perspective I can. They have been a controversial company in the past due to issues with sizing and customer service, but my experiences have been overwhelming positive and I wholeheartedly recommend them.

    DISCLAIMERS

    1. I am not a clothes expert, but I’m learning what I can.

    2. I am, however, a Frank & Oak Network Ambassador, which means I occasionally receive free product from them in exchange for providing input on products and the brand and taking part in various projects. There are more than 500 Network Ambassadors in the US & Canada. I am writing this review completely honestly, but you must be aware of my affiliation.

    3. Lastly, Frank & Oak is unique in that it requires a login in order to view their catalogue. Do not sign up for an account with Frank & Oak without a referral code! If you have a friend who is a Frank & Oak customer, if they refer you, you both will get $25 in credit, so ask your friends if they can refer you. If none of your friends are Frank & Oak customers, feel free to use mine. You can only get the referral on new signups, so if you have an existing account you’re out of luck. There really is no good reason not to sign up without a referral code.

    THE CONTROVERSIES

    1. Frank & Oak customers have the option to sign up for the Hunt Club, and many costumers did sign up for the Hunt Club without reading the fine print. The Hunt Club provides customers with free shipping as well as 8% credit back on all orders. Occasionally, Hunt Club members also get exclusive discounts that are not available to all customers. Lastly, Hunt Club members have the option, from the 1st to the 5th of every month, to order three items for home try on, only being charged for what you decide to keep. Sounds great, right? Why wouldn’t you sign up for that? Well, if you don’t order a crate in any given month, Frank & Oak will charge you a “convenient” fee of $45, which remains as credit on your account. If you don’t want to order a crate and you don’t want to be charged $45 every month, then you have the option of going to the website and clicking “skip crate.” This way, you get the benefits of the Hunt Club without having to pay for it. I have always either ordered a crate or skipped it—I keep a monthly reminder, and Frank & Oak will also email you to remind you—and so I have never been charged the $45. Some people find this business practise to be absolutely despicable; me, I don’t mind it. They have to pay for the perks somehow. But the $45 charge was definitely in very fine print and a lot of people missed it, which for a lot of people has caused a lot of anger. I certainly don’t begrudge those who object to this business practise. It should be noted that some people have been charged for the Hunt Club erroneously, even though they did everything right. From what I’ve seen, Frank & Oak was always very quick to solve these issues, and anyone who contacted them and objected to this charge was always able to get a refund and would be un-enrolled from the Hunt Club.

    2. For the first year or so of Frank & Oak’s existence, they billed themselves as great menswear for $50 or less. They slowly began to buck this trend, adding more and more expensive pieces, but they still sometimes use the tagline about great pieces under $50. It’s not really accurate anymore, their clothes are not remarkably inexpensive (although some good deals can still be had).

    3. For the first year or so of their existence, Frank & Oak had wildly inconsistent sizing, particularly in their shirts. This caused a lot of frustration among their customers, and many people abandoned the company due to the unreliability. Obviously, this is particularly a problem considering Frank & Oak is an online-only company where you can’t try clothes on ahead of time (except for a recently-opened combined retail space/barbershop combo in Montreal). Perhaps a year ago or less, realizing this was a problem, they harmonized their sizing and came out with a comprehensive sizing guide. However, they were very quiet about this change, no announcements or anything, so most people are not aware of it.

    4. A lot of people have had drastically different experiences in customer support. It seems to be equal numbers have had terrible and incredible customer support. People would receive packages much too late with no communication, or pieces would be missing, or the customer just couldn’t get a hold of someone in customer support. Others, like myself, would always be able to get a hold of someone and would receive receive support above and beyond what was expected. Packages usually came very quickly. Not everything was perfect all of the time, though. I have contacted them via Facebook, Twitter and email and received good support in all three locations, but I had difficulty contacting phone support, and sometimes I have had to turn to social media support when email support was taking too long. This has not been a recent problem, though.

    Frank & Oak is a very rapidly growing company, as most successful startups are. I think they scaled faster than they were able to manage, and for many months, orders were being shipped very late, especially around the beginning of the month when Hunt Club members were ordering crates. This meant it was impossible to return try-on items before Frank & Oak charged me for them. They always refunded me when they received my shipment, but it was still quite an annoyance, especially considering Frank & Oak charges in USD and I am Canadian. Because of the changing exchange rate, returns may not have been an equal value to what I was charged. However, they seem to have been able to catch up: I ordered a crate on July 1st and received it on July 7th.

    For a positive example of their customer service, I ordered a sport coat in what I thought was my size, but I was also losing weight and learning (via Dappered) how it was actually supposed to fit. A couple of months later, I asked them if they could exchange it. Frank & Oak releases different clothes every month, and this sport coat wasn’t even on their web catalogue anymore, but they still did what they could to help me out. It’s one of my favourite jackets now.

    5. This is probably only my hangup, but when I first joined Frank & Oak, I was very impressed that nothing they sold was made with synthetic fabrics (with some exceptions for garments that made sense as synthetics like windbreakers). So blazers and sweaters could be had in all-natural fabrics at prices that typically are filled with poly or acrylic garments and blends. In the last year, however, they have begun introducing poly and acrylic blends in many (not all) of their sweaters and blazers, which is a big turnoff for me.

    Character Limit reached; see comments for the reviews.

    #2
    THE REVIEWS (in chronological order)

    If some of these clothes look like too slim a fit, you’re probably right. Since my daughter was born, I’ve put on about ten pounds, so I’ve got some work to do to get these to fit again.

    Huntsman's Wool Blazer in Rust - March 2013 - $75 (sale)

    This is a %100 wool herringbone blazer with a nice, soft feel to the fabric. I’m not qualified to comment on the quality of stitching except to say that everything is holding together very nicely so far. It’s got a great visual texture to it and is a good fit for me. I get a lot of use out of it in the F/W. My only complaint about Frank & Oak blazers is that they’re a little chopped in the length. Many of you may not notice it that much, but I’m 6’1” so the jacket is a little short for my tastes (although it certainly is in trend for the moment). I wear a size 38.

    Pic 1 | Pic 2

    Montrose Oxford in Mint - May 2013 - $35 (sale)

    Easily my favourite shirt. The fabric on this OCBD feels amazing, very dense and durable, but softened (in a very good way) after a few washes. I have since tried another of their oxfords (a “Zachary” oxford) and found the fabric was much “weaker”—thinner and less rich in feel. Again, I’m no expert, but I didn’t care for it. I love this shirt, though. I wear it year-round, and all of my Frank & Oak shirts are size medium. 100% cotton.

    Pic 1 | Pic 2 | Pic 3

    Valmont Suit in Navy - May 2013 - $180 (sale)

    For a time, Frank & Oak also created an off-shoot company called United Tailors. It was basically for suiting and was the same kind of online-only model as Frank & Oak, but more expensive. I don’t think it did very well (they don’t appear to have a website for it anymore, and in fact the URL redirects to frankandoak.com), and at one point a bunch of their suits ended up for sale on Frank & Oak at fire sale prices. The jacket is 100% wool and the pants are 90% wool and a 10% polyester. I can deal with that 10%. The pants came unhemmed so that you can make sure they’re just right. The pants and jacket are a slim, modern fit. The material is okay—I mean, it’s not a high-quality suit, but the fit is good and it is (mostly) not polyester, so I’m happy. The threading is coming loose on the front buttons, but everything else is fine.. All in all, I’m very pleased at finding a suit of this quality for this price. I don’t think I could do better anywhere else. Same complaint about the length of the jacket, though, and in this case the jacket is too slim for me, too. I get a little bit of that X in the front when buttoning it up, and it’s even worse now that I’ve put on some weight. You’ll see what I mean in the photos. Regrettable, but I wasn’t willing to give up a great deal for that minor inconvenience. But I’m a pretty slim guy, (160 lbs when in top shape, currently sitting at 170 lbs), so it’s unusual for a jacket in my size to be too slim for me. The pants are size 32 and the jacket is size 38. For those of you who can’t switch it off, I also know that my pants could use a better hem. They’re hemmed too long for my tastes.

    Pic 1 | Pic 2 | Pic 3 | Pic 4 | Pic 5

    Baldwin Corduroys in Beige - September 2013 - $35 (sale)

    I love these. The wales are just right in thickness, they’re a nice modern slim fit, and the perfect length for me. Good colour, too. Very soft and warm for F/W wear. 100% cotton. bviously, I wouldn’t wear them in the summer, but I needed to put a pic up for this review. All of my Frank & Oak pants are size 32. You can see that my daughter was beginning to lose patience with the picture-taking process.

    Pic 1 | Pic 2 | Pic 3

    Lockhart Shirt in Cerulean - October 2013 - free

    This is the first item I received for free as a Network Ambassador. It’s a cotton button-down, but it is not oxford cloth. It is gingham-like in its pattern (I actually don’t know what this pattern would be called—is it tattersall?). Overall, I like it and wear it regularly, but I find the sleeves to be oddly billowy (I haven’t had the chance/change to get it tailored yet) and the fabric is… plain? I don’t know much about dress shirt fabrics, so it may be just fine. But it doesn’t make me happy the same way my OCBD does. But it is sufficiently slim in the body, and it looks great with a solid-coloured silk knit tie. 100% cotton.

    Pic 1 | Pic 2

    Lochner Shirt in Cambridge - November 2013 (returned)

    This was the first flannel shirt I’ve ever bought. I really liked the pattern and the fabric was really soft and comfortable. I intended to get a lot of wear out of it, and in fact did my first family portrait with it on (my daughter is turning a year old this week). Unfortunately, it experienced extreme shrinkage in length, so I had to return it. In discussion with customer support, they said, "We received similar feedback from other members about the material used on that particular shirt. Generally speaking though, our flannels don't experience that same shrinkage issue. Our design team is now sourcing different, pre-shrunk flannel. Rest assured, we stand by our products and will do everything we can to make sure you're satisfied with them.” True to their word, I returned it after a month or two of wear (and I was wearing it a lot!). They were very gracious in giving me a complete refund. I almost kept it despite the shrinkage because I liked it so much, but I’m a music teacher by profession and I found conducting an ensemble was always untucking it. 100% cotton.

    Pic 1

    Baldwin Corduroys in Khaki - December 2013 - $35 (sale)

    I loved my beige ones so much I ordered them in khaki. I love these too, but they’re too similar in colour to my beige ones. I don’t know what I expected. I don’t think they should have sold them in the same season together.

    Pic 1 | Pic 2

    British Wool Peacoat in Navy - January 2013 - $165 (full price)

    I’ve been wanting a peacoat ever since I joined MFA, but I could never find one in my size at a thrift store and just couldn’t afford one at full price retail. I finally was able to save up and get one (I think thanks in part to my Hunt Club 8% back). It is 60% wool and 40% synthetic (poly and viscose). I would have preferred a higher percentage of wool in there, although I am aware that some synthetic fibres may be desirable in outerwear in order to better handle inclement weather. Nonetheless, I couldn’t afford afford pricier peacoats, so this is the one I got. I’m very happy with it. It keeps me warm and it looks great. Really good fit. Like the blazers, though, it’s cropped a little bit higher than I would like. That didn’t deter me from buying the peacoat in charcoal when it went on sale, though.

    Pic 1 | Pic 2

    Genuine Leather Wallet in Black - January 2013 - free

    This was the second gift I received as a Network Ambassador. It’s a plain black bifold wallet, and the leather is buttery soft. While I liked the wallet, I didn’t need a new one so I sold it to a Redditor from NYC.

    Sparrow Corduroy Pants in Navy - February 2014 - $30 (sale)

    I had hoped that these were going to be mostly just a name change from the Baldwin Corduroys. Unfortunately, the wales are much slimmer, and the pants are, too. They’re a rather snug fit on me. Still, I kept them because I got a good sale price for them and they still look fine. I just prefer the Baldwins. Still nice and warm in the F/W. They might be a great fit for someone slimmer than me. Sorry I couldn’t get a better fit pic of the pants here, but at least you can get an idea of the silhouette.

    Pic 1 | Pic 2

    Comment


      #3
      Genuine Leather Brief in Tan - March 2014 - $170 (sale)

      I had my eye on this briefcase the minute it came out. When it came on sale, combined with some store credit I had, I jumped on it. It’s just a beautiful bag, Montreal-made. Nice and slim, not too big. Great smell, leather feels great. I can’t comment on its longevity yet. Just love it. Now I look like a professional, no more messenger bags for me (although the brief has an optional shoulder strap, too). My only very minor complaint is that the pockets are made with leathers that are noticeably different in colour and texture. It is not nearly as noticeable in real life as it is in the photo below; I only noticed upon close inspection. Others won’t notice, but I do.

      Pic 1 | Pic 2 | Pic 3 | Pic 4 | Pic 5

      British Wool Peacoat in Charcoal - April 2014 - $100 (sale)

      I bought this during Frank & Oak’s end-of-season F/W sale and got it for a great price. Same deal as the peacoat in navy. I’ve hardly worn this one since I picked it up in April, so I’m really looking forward to waring it in the F/W, especially with denim (I don’t like the look of a navy peacoat with denim). I will say that it arrived with one of the pocket seams open, and one of the buttons is on an oddly long string, but I decided these are easy enough to fix for me, so I didn’t contact customer service about it.

      Pic 1 | Pic 2

      Layton Pique Polo in Forest Green - April 2014 - $15 (sale)

      Now we’re getting into pieces I haven’t worn much. I bought this polo on sale and because I want to replace my old polos with slimmer, more modern fits. This one fits the bill and comes with a button-down collar, too, to keep the flaps from flipping up as time goes by. I don’t know how effective this will be, the corners are beginning to curl already, so we’ll see. Still, the fit is nice and I’m going to get a lot of wear out of it this summer. The colour doesn’t reflect the heat well, though (my bad).

      Pic 1 | Pic 2

      Valence Chino Shorts in Tuscan - May 2014 - $40 (sale)

      I love these shorts. This is my first pair of modern shorts (that is, the hem stops above my knee). These have an 8.5” inseam, which is great for me as a tall guy. They do sell shorts in a 7” inseam; they call them their “cotton shorts” rather than “chino shorts”. Great slim fit, I am going to wear the hell out of these this summer. I wear a size 32 in Frank & Oak’s shorts.

      Pic 1 | Pic 2 | Pic 3

      Valence Chino Shorts in Azure - June 2014 - $35 (sale)

      Summer sale = I buy more shorts in this style. Love them. Same fit and style as the Valence in Tuscan.

      Pic 1 | Pic 2 | Pic 3

      Camo Print Shirt in Green - June 2014 - free

      Another Ambassador gift. It’s certainly not a mainstream look. I wouldn’t have bought one of these for myself, but I’ll try to make it work here and there if I can. I actually appreciate that sometimes I get clothes I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, so that I learn how to make it look good and get to expand my horizons a little bit. I haven’t worn it yet. It’s not an oxford but it is a little bit heavier in material, perhaps a twill. Button-down collar. We’ll see if I can make it work.

      Pic 1 | Pic 2

      Valence Chino Shorts in Ivy Green - June 2014 - $35 (sale)

      Another sale grab to increase my shorts collection. Same fit and style as the Valence in Tuscan and Azure.

      Pic 1 | Pic 2

      Slim Pique Polo in Crimson - July 2014 - $36 (full price)

      Pic 1 | Pic 2

      Again, trying to round out my polo collection. The fabric is lighter than the Layton and breathes better, and I love the colour. It’s longer than the Layton Polo, and slimmer, too. We’ll see how the collar holds up. I prefer the feel of this polo to the Layton polo, which is a little heavier and coarser. This one feels a little big lighter, and hopefully it will be cooler in the sun.

      **CONCLUSION**

      Frank & Oak also sells t-shirts, undergarments, accessories, sweaters, etc. I do a lot of my purchasing on sales. I’m on a pretty tight budget, and I have been able to pick up a lot of really great pieces for reasonable prices, often during their four seasonal sales. Not everything I’ve bought is a great deal, though. I love the Valence shorts, but they’re a little pricy on sale at $35 or $40, and completely out of my reach at full price ($50). Overall, though, I’m very enthusiastic about Frank & Oak as a brand. I really like the fit and style of their clothes, and I don’t have to be constantly diving into brick and mortar stores (which is tough to find time for as a new dad) to find sales. As a Canadian, I like to support them as a Canadian company (although most of their clothing is manufactured in China). I’m enthusiastic about how the internet is disrupting existing retail models and I think Frank & Oak is a great example of that.

      They certainly have had their difficulties. I’m willing to cut them a lot of slack as everything I’ve seen has shown a very steep progression of improvement and innovation. I’m not here to say that Frank & Oak is a better alternative than other stores out there (GAP, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Club Monaco, whatever). That’s subjective and actually not all that helpful for this discussion. I’m also not here to say everything they sell is a winner. Many things I’ve tried on in crates have been bad fits (for me), or maybe I didn’t care for the fabric, or the style, or whatever. But I am saying that if you’ve never ordered from them, they’re worth looking at. I’m saying that if you were a customer with them during their first year and a bit and were turned off, they’re worth revisiting. I highly recommend them. I will certainly keep shopping. Thanks for reading.

      P.S. If you’re interested in trying them out, now is probably the best time, since they are currently having a pretty big summer sale. Don’t forget to sign up with a referral code so you save more money.

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