We can all agree that most men working in the technology industry don’t exactly have great fashion sense. I count myself in that group, often spending clueless hours wandering around department stores, only to come home to show off my new clothes and have my female roommates wonder what the heck I was thinking.
Ya Joe wants to help.
Launching today, the new Seattle e-commerce startup is targeting “tech guys” who both don’t enjoy shopping for apparel and don’t quite understand what looks “good.” The site offers a limited selection of basic clothing that is casual and comfortable yet formal enough for a business meeting or presentation.
Ya Joe co-founder Joe Boldan told GeekWire that the idea for his new startup came about after teaching a class at the University of Washington on workplace politics. He realized that most “tech guys” — which counts anyone interested in technology, Boldan noted — tend to be analytic thinkers and don’t spend much brainpower on the empathic side which fashionistas tend to utilize.
“With fashion, you feel it,” Boldan explained. “You don’t analyze a look or style — you just feel it.”
Boldan came to the conclusion that the fashion world “has really overlooked a lot of tech guys and not taken the time to really understand them.”
In response, he teamed up with apparel and design guru Aaron Hicks to create a company that empathizes with “tech guys” by presenting product to them in a way that is analytical. YaJoe offers shirts, pants, jackets, and underwear that are all about three key features: comfort, functionality, and easy-to-care-for.
Other aspects of the products and company also cater to the male tech worker. Ya Joe’s messaging is casual, using a “Ya Joe” persona in each product description that understands and speaks to “tech guys,” showing them why each item was created and how it can be worn in real-life situations.
“We found that our guys just don’t like anybody selling to them at all,” said Boldan, who previously ran an adventure and travel apparel company called ExOfficio. “They want to find something on their own.”
The clothing itself, which is made in China, is also void of branding or logos like a big Nike swoosh or small Lacoste crocodile. There are subtle touches, however, like material descriptions on each product that are written in software development code form.
“We have a very low-key approach to the whole thing,” Boldan said.
Ya Joe also offers combination packages called “occasions” that are curated looks for specific events like “professional expedition” or “reservations for two.”
“The great thing about Ya Joe is that it’s more about the lifestyle of these tech guys,” said Ya Joe Chief Merchandising Officer Jordan Juliussen.
I tried out an assortment of Ya Joe apparel, from its $36 mock turtleneck to the $164 woven vest. The clothing is certainly high quality and fits comfortably. I liked how the pants had pockets large enough to fit my Note 4 smartphone or a work badge.
However, the prices seemed a bit steep for someone like me that doesn’t like to spend a whole lot on clothes.
“You can pay $5 or $10 for a t-shirt that will last you three months and will shrink on you,” countered Bolden. “Or you can buy ours that’s 95 percent cotton, 5 percent spandex, is really comfortable, and will last you maybe five, six years.”
Boldan noted that he doesn’t know of any other company that targets “tech guys” like Ya Joe.
“We want to take our site and give them a really safe place where they can go shop,” Boldan said. “A place that is easy for them and a place that is really a community for them. It’s really about their lifestyle and having clothes that fit. We’ll take care of the fashion part.”
Boldan is bootstrapping Ya Joe, which employs five in its Seattle office.