I don’t make a lot of decisions lying down, but it’s hard to get out of bed until I’ve figured out what I want to wear. An app like Twelve70 means I might now make the effort roll over, reach for my phone and sit up instead.
Although it’s expected to formally launch in app stores later this year, Twelve70 — which acts as an automatic men’s outfit generator — is still only available as tool hosted on a web site for now.
The process couldn’t be any easier. Start by choosing one category of clothing, like a T-shirt. Next, pick the colour of the T-shirt. Click the “next” button, and suddenly you’ll see suggestions for a coat, pants and a pair of shoes. If you don’t like, swipe right and you’ll see a couple of other ensembles based on the same item.
There are also options to save garments to a “digital closet” for later, to “heart” your favourite outfits and even to schedule outfits in advance.
The Twelve70 Origin Story
ApparentlyTwelve70 has been in the works for some time and gained considerable interest after the prototype was shared on the subreddit r/MaleFashionAdvice. I only learned about it from a recent article on Men’s Health featuring interviews with its creators, a menswear designer named Mayan Rajendran and his brother, a software developer named Ruben.
The name Twelve70 refers to Mayan’s thesis project, in which he travelled to 12 countries in 70 days to study International trends in streetwear. In the Men’s Health article, he acknowledged that questions about the credibility and source of the app’s style advice are inevitable.
I had assumed, for instance, that the app made use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like machine learning to put outfits together. Instead, Twelve70 draws largely upon Mayan’s experience in the fashion industry, and doesn’t yet aggregate user data to study common style challenges and personalize its suggestions.
“What we are trying to accomplish is to be a step in the right direction for someone looking to learn about fashion, like how colors go together in an outfit, basic garment paring rules, terms, and definitions,” Mayan told the magazine. “Sometimes they see a piece that is outside their comfort zone and want to learn how to make it work with what they already have; this is where we come in.”
Thinking about this lead me to do something I’d never done before: ask Siri for fashion advice.
Me: “Siri, what should I wear today?”
Siri: “It depends on the occasion and the weather. Ask me what the weather is going to be today.”
I could immediately see where this was going: an endless back and forth where Siri would try to correlate the temperature with whatever was in my closet. I would probably have to do most of the work in terms of itemizing all the possibilities, and then risk letting a virtual assistant blindly inform my personal taste.
In comparison, using Twelve70 felt much more appealing, and it follows more of the mental flow that I (and I imagine most guys) use to begin deciding how to dress for the day. Despite my initial skepticism, I had to try it out.
Given the current state of the world, it felt only natural to start out with a pair of sweatpants. I didn’t want to make it too easy on the app, though, so I chose a bright banana-yellow as my colour.
What came back was . . . surprisingly good! A light blue denim shirt would immediately soften the bright pop of yellow on the pants, and white sneakers would finish the look off well, especially if I were wearing this outfit in Spring. (The app also suggested a black overshirt, but that might get dangerously chose to bumble bee territory).
Next, I picked something that would be more “me,” if it were Fall and I was able to go to a business event of some kind: a dark brown corduroy jacket. I liked Twelve70’s suggestions of a cheerful emerald green henley and sand loafers, but I probably could avoid the off white corduroy pants and put on khakis or even jeans instead.
The fact that some of the ideas the app offered me didn’t jive with my style didn’t bother me, though. This felt like a brainstorming process, where Twelve70 stands in for a helpful but non-judgemental (and probably female) friend.
I realize I may not be Twelve70’s ideal target user. For a guy who’s more uncertain about their outfit decisions, though, you’d have to have a pretty robust wardrobe to actually pull off some of these ensembles. More likely you’d go shopping, which is probably why the Rajendran brothers have an affiliate deal with Mr. Porter.
This could actually make shopping a little more fun and a lot less random. Unless you go shopping with your girlfriend or wife, for example, I suspect many guys only go to a store (or even a web site) with very specific purchases in mind. They need a brown belt. It’s time to replace their worn-out jeans. They need a T-shirt that’s not white.
This app could easily generate a more expansive and strategic shopping list, though that assumes men would be wiling to put in this kind of up-front work before they go shopping. More likely, if Twelve70 proposes an item or accessory they don’t have they’ll quickly look it up to see how fast (and cheap) they can get it.
An App Vs. Your Inner Outfit Generator
In a prior life, I used to edit an online magazine for app developers, and the biggest challenges they all faced tended to fall within three categories: discoverability (how to get noticed in crowded app stores), monetization and engagement.
The latter may be the biggest one for an app like this to overcome. I enjoyed using it, but would I make it a habit? There is only so much real estate on your phone for app icons, which makes occasional usage or engagement problematic for developers.
Even if you tapped into Twelve70 on a regular basis, how long before you develop a better sense of what makes a good outfit? And if you develop that skill, do you eventually put the app out of a job?
Fashion also tends to involve some degree of serendipity and idiosyncrasy. In other words, you might just have a day you want to wear something that (technically) clashes but suits your mood. Or you just have a personal approach to wearing sneakers with practically everything.
That said, Twelve70 made me reflect on the sources I’ve used to educate myself about fashion over the years. They’re probably not different from the majority of men: TV and the movies, music videos and more magazine spreads than I care to admit.
I’d never rule out the possibility of an app becoming one of those sources, particularly to the next generation of men. We can’t all travel the globe in a matter of months to synthesize fashion trends. We can, however, take a little more time playing attention to the streetwear in our own neighbourhoods — an activity that begins, of course, with putting down your phone.