Dustin Aksland needs a new pair of pants. He’s willing to throw a little bit of time and a decent amount of cash at the problem: while he wouldn’t describe himself as fashionable, he’s the kind of guy who thinks of himself as stylish. He works as a photographer—he’s even shot for this magazine—and while he typically buys his clothes from Levi’s, Dickies, and L.L. Bean, he also owns clothes from slicker brands his friends own or have worked at, like Supreme, Noah, and HUF. On a late September day, his need for pants has taken him to one of the menswear brand Corridor’s two shops in Los Angeles—this one, in Larchmont Village, is no bigger than a Kardashian’s walk-in closet. The brand’s founder, Dan Snyder, is on hand, and he’s overjoyed to see him.
“Obviously, I was thrilled to see Dustin. Dustin is an artist, and he vibes with it,” Snyder tells me later. That’s because Aksland is the type of customer Snyder might draw up in Corridor’s marketing materials, which is to say that he’s a symbol of the sort of guy Corridor is after as much as he is an individual: he has a cool job in a creative field, and while he might not browse Vogue Runway for next season’s garms, he cares enough about how he dresses enough to consider spending nearly $300 on jeans. In other words, Aksland is a new type of guy—one who has emerged over the past decade as men’s interest in clothes has exploded.
For a long time, menswear was a niche concern. The #menswear era was driven by a few thousand guys who were enthralled with surgeon’s cuffs and double-monk shoes. That gave way to athleisure, streetwear, and Dior Jordans. Now, even so-called “normal” men, surrounded by brands and Instagram posts and well-dressed celebs, want to dress well. As the floor has risen, a new swath of brands has arrived to meet guys in menswear’s new mezzanine. Corridor is foremost among them.
“[Corridor is] the kind of special brand that toes that precarious line between the bells-and-whistles clothing enthusiasts love and great looking, easy-to-wear clothes that any guy can appreciate,” Jian DeLeon, the men's fashion and editorial director at Nordstrom, says over email. Corridor’s is a different sort of fashion—one that, depending on how the light catches it, you might not even call fashion at all. It has close ties to what came before it—it’s a confident baby step up from brands like Club Monaco and J.Crew, which served as the equivalent of boarding school in guy’s style education. Even the moderate corniness that accompanied menswear 1.0 has been upgraded: you don’t really hear the phrase “from the boardroom to the bar” much these days. As Aksland puts it: “I can work in it all day on set and then button it up and wear it to the wrap party.”
Corridor’s courting of this new audience is working. While Snyder declines to talk numbers, everything indicates that the arrow is pointing up. In addition to Nordstrom, Corridor is now stocked at Mr. Porter, Bloomingdale’s, and Mohawk General. The brand also recently opened up a new store, its fifth, in New York's West Village. “We're doing well,” Snyder says.
That success is rooted, of course, in the clothing Corridor produces. The denim Aksland tries on is the platonic ideal of the dad jean. The fit is comfortably slouchy, the denim is light-washed, and the crotch is even pre-whiskered. This is no accident: the jeans are washed enough to look like they’ve been worn in over five years, according to Corridor’s website. The brand is built on products like this—objects designed to deliver style without the effort. The copy even boasts: “We've done the heavy lifting for you.” Aksland doesn’t end up buying the jeans—but, with a closet full of the brand’s seersucker shirts and flannels, he’s already a Corridor convert.
Snyder started noodling on Corridor over a decade ago, while he was working as a contractor for the FBI. Snyder, with long hair and an abundance of gold jewelry, does not much look like a guy with a law-enforcement background. Indeed, he tells me, he never really fit in as a government contractor. He’d long nurtured an interest in clothing, taking sewing lessons at 23. While working for the NYPD’s counter-terrorism division, he formally started Corridor. He sold his clothes out of a backpack and spent his weekends commuting on a bus along the northeast corridor to visit factories. (This is how Snyder arrived at the name Corridor.) His unusual background proved a boon. “The one thing about working for the government was that you had to dress up,” Snyder says. “I wanted to look proportionally correct so I wanted to be able to tailor my clothes.” Unfortunately, Snyder’s desire to look good at work eventually became a distraction…at the very job he wanted to dress up for. “Eventually they got sick of me, you know, going to the factory in the middle of every day.”
Part of Corridor’s success comes out of Snyder’s understanding of the way many men conceive of what they wear and the clothes they search out. When Snyder is designing, he is constantly thinking about how his clothes will be used. Earlier generations of men’s clothing were defined by hypermasculine utility: menswear classics like the MA-1 flight jacket (used by pilots), the trench coat (used by soldiers on the front lines of World War I), and even the T-shirt (which rose to prominence after it became part of the Navy’s uniform) all have their roots in the military. Snyder knows men respond to the purposefulness of clothes, and so he crafts his with that quality in mind. “You have to think about the utility of the garment,” he says. “How is this worn? Is this colorway appropriate? How is it useful?”
Use looks a lot different in 2022, though—consider Aksland, who needs something that can go from set to the wrap party, rather than something for the muddied trenches of war. Snyder tells me that when he designs a garment he considers if “somebody is going out in this—is this a first date, second date, third date shirt?” (As any guy knows, those are three different shirts!) “Is somebody getting laid in this? Or is it something to wear to, like, Rockaway? It's gotta have utility.” The idea is simple enough, but radically detached from how high-end menswear is typically made. Runway fashion is often conceptual, designed to be as close to art as clothing can be; streetwear was intended to signal identity through a series of references; workwear is the uniform of blue-collar workers. Corridor, meanwhile, is delightfully unabashed and unobfuscated about its purpose: you need something to wear because you're going on a third date and you want it to go great. That Corridor’s purpose is so unmoored from these traditional anchors can make it somewhat difficult to describe its appeal. You can’t point to the reference being made by a graphic, or explain that a shirt’s club collar was invented by a primary school hoping to differentiate their students from the rest. Corridor’s clothes, instead, are just a few clicks past totally normal: cardigans are crocheted, yarns are twisted into sweaters, and vivid colors find refuge on button-ups. Snyder aims for the point where the clothes are just cool enough without making that coolness overt. “[Corridor is] more or less a brand for people who don't want to be branded,” he says. Men will pay a good amount for this privilege: shirts are priced north of $200, cardigans reach $600, and even a bucket hat can set you back almost $85.
Still, Corridor’s clothes often transcend the trap of slightly tweaked basics. These days, Snyder works almost exclusively with international textile suppliers in places like India, Peru, Italy, and Portugal. Snyder, a passionate rug collector, considers his specialities to be textile work and color. The day of our lunch, Snyder is wearing a then-unreleased “overshot western” shirt in a lime green and a checkered pattern that looks rendered in 8-bit.
“Green means go,” Snyder says when I ask how he landed on this particular shade. “This shirt’s really a day-to-night thing. You can wear it out. If you go more olive, you can't wear this out.”
“Olive's not sexy.”
He credits his brand’s recent surge to men coming out of the pandemic with the desire to be more expressive. Not only did guys discover more about themselves—and, consequently, their style—while locked down, they came out with a peacock’s mentality. “You were stuck inside. Now, you can be out, you can look at people, they can look at you, you can emit something. You don't have to talk to them,” Snyder says. “But at least you can feel like this.”
Seth, a 29-year-old mechanical engineer in Long Island, embodies this emergent middle man, and he buys as much from Corridor as he can. He wears the brand’s selvedge denim practically every day. Much of the rest of his closet—hats, jackets, shorts, socks, and about 20 shirts—comes from Corridor, too. Seth’s journey to the brand is representative of the generation of guys who have outgrown the mall shops and are now driving the success of labels like Corridor.
Seth first got into clothes, as so many guys his age did, through J.Crew. “I shopped at J.Crew almost exclusively throughout college,” he says. But a few years after he graduated, he decided he needed something more interesting. Corridor, which was in its infancy as the fashion brand for non-fashion guys, was the fix. “I jumped ship,” Seth says. “It felt like a simple progression from J.Crew, where there were a lot of fairly simple, traditional items, especially the button ups, but taken up multiple levels in creativity and quality.”
For a long time, menswear was a niche concern. The #menswear era was Corridor was even more of a gateway drug than J.Crew had been. Now, Seth also shops from plenty of brands living in menswear’s exciting middle. Indeed, the most exciting place to be in menswear might be in this gray area between mall-basic and runway-fashion. This encompasses Seth’s other favorite brands, like Alex Mill, 3Sixteen, RRL, and Universal Works. Brands like this are maybe best described as lightly designed—the arugula salad gently sauced with a splash of oil and vinegar of the menswear world. They do more than “basics with a twist,” but aren’t so loud as to serve as shorthand for your personality. This doesn’t necessarily fly on runways, where creative directors are charged with building their own worlds, often at the expense of anonymity and closet compatibility. But customers in this more relaxed middle can, and often do, put a Corridor cardigan together with 3Sixteen denim, an Alex Mill tee, and Paraboot shoes. The result is a whole new crop of guys who are quietly stylish, banging out fits years in the making. “Today I find myself pretty fashionable,” Seth says, “and that J.Crew to Corridor leap was really my gateway.”
Seth shares a lot in common with other Corridor customers. James Orwin often features the brand in the many fit pics he posts to Instagram. That Corridor and other brands of its ilk—James says his most-worn label is Universal Works—appear in outfit photos at all is another new quirk of the menswear world, and of their place in it. Fit pics are typically associated with distinctive style—logo-crazed streetwear, sneaker grails, luxury designer pieces, or even killer tailoring. Conversely, James is proof of a booming middle of guys who are fashionable in their normality. There is an argument to be made that, these days, the peak of menswear is no longer securing the must-have grail. Instead, for many guys, it’s finding a cute little jacket to wear to order a cortado at the local coffee shop. Both Seth and James are passionate about what they wear—but they aren’t interested in the highest levels of the fashion industry. “I’d say I was fashionable,” James says, “[but] I’m not into the big designers, to be honest.”
Corridor’s success is a grassroots one. The brand doesn’t do influencer marketing nor runway shows. When I ask Snyder how the brand finds new customers, he is nonchalant: “I think it's a lot of word of mouth, our stockists, and also through our Instagram.” Now, the groundswell of support Corridor is feeling is starting to rupture through the ceiling into the upper-crust of fashion. Suddenly, I’m seeing Corridor’s clothes at fashion shows, hobnobbing with Anna Wintour. Maybe the future of menswear is that guys at every level, exhausted by logomania and impossible-to-buy sneakers, will embrace “normal” dressing. Or, possibly, as Snyder might hope, guys have shopped through the J.Crews of the world enough to understand their style over the last decade, they’ve been nudged into a place of self-expression through the pandemic. They no longer feel the need for the obvious signals that have defined menswear’s most recent eras. Now, they’re reaching for Corridor because it helps them feel a little more like themselves. “I want them to feel like them,” Snyder says. “That's the shit.”