One of the more unique aspects of being a style blogger is the review process. Reviews make sense because all three parties benefit. The blogger gets an article of clothing that he can wear and a topic to write about, the company gets new (hopefully good) exposure to the blogger’s audience and typically a recommendation, and the audience gets exposure to a new product and the chance to see the pros and cons of a particular item before deciding whether or not to purchase it.
At first, it was incredibly difficult to get companies to send items for me to review. I had a fledgling blog and the risk they took sending me something free was much greater than if they sent it to someone with and audience two or three times larger than mine. However, like anything else, the momentum of well-received reviews picks up steam and more and more companies are willing to work with a given author. At the next level, the blogger starts receiving requests to review products, and eventually won’t have to make requests, because more companies are aware of the site and are lining up to be featured.
Going through the review process and remaining objective can get a bit tricky. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, getting set up with review products requires establishing a relationship with PR people or owners of different companies. I have yet to work with a company whose representation annoyed or grated on me. Most of them are people I genuinely enjoy and we’ve been able to find common ground. However, there also has to be a balance with my relationship with my readers. My experience differs from a lot of bloggers in that I have worked personally with hundreds of my readers on individual consultations. I know their names and their interests. I know their style preferences and their aspirations.
To be positioned in the middle of these two groups is not only something I enjoy, it’s something I take seriously. I don’t want my readers to end up with junk just because I liked the PR girl from the company who sent it to me. Nor do I want to besmirch a brand’s reputation by objectively pointing out a few flaws during my review process that I believe would benefit my readers. I also don’t want to tarnish my own reputation by appearing afraid to speak truthfully about a product. Some bloggers are obvious shills for every offer that comes through their inbox and others take such pride in being above the fray of working directly with clients the rest of the world can easily see up their up-turned noses.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because I received a review product from a company that I don’t have a review for. After learning what I have about them, I don’t believe I can write an objective and unbiased review anymore.
Buffalo Jackson reached out to me a couple of months ago and immediately identified me as a kindred spirit. Rather than copy a few, key excepts from their About page, I’m going to encourage you to go read the whole thing.
It’s no secret that I write what I do because I believe in a crisis of masculinity. There are hundreds of other worthwhile blogs that tackle this same issue, I simply choose to do so from the perspective of aesthetics and style. While many of the companies with whom I’ve worked in the past and with whom I will work in the future are geared towards men or even appreciate my approach to menswear, it’s always secondary. I’m a style blogger who peppers his posts with interesting aspects about masculinity, rather than being a men’s blogger who approaches masculinity from the context of men’s clothing. It’s a subtle but key difference.
In our current society, it’s a risk to be too pro male. A company’s public image is its life blood and that image can quickly and easily be destroyed by a person who takes offense to the old-world man. To mitigate that risk, most businesses strive to remain as neutral as possible. The focus is always and only on the clothing. Let the customer determine if it’s going to be used to help him communicate his masculinity or not.
Again, I don’t take issue with this. Not every business needs to see things my way for me to feel they are worthy of my money or that of my readers. But when I find one whose philosophies align as closely with my own as do Buffalo Jackson’s, I have to admit I’m removing my objectivity from the equation.
It’s the same reason you’ll see me write about and promote Beckett & Robb, but you’ll never see me review a product of theirs. I’m so close to the product development I would be obviously biased. And, I’m so inclined towards the ethos and end-goals of Buffalo Jackson that I’m obviously biased there as well.
So I suggest checking them out. The vest they sent me has been great in the environments in which I’ve worn it, but I haven’t put it through its paces enough to see how durable it is. A lot of the stuff they make is a little too cowboy for me, and other items come across as a bit too gimmicky.
If all things were equal between a Buffalo Jackson bag and one from some other company, I’d take the BJ bag every time, simply because of Xan’s approach to his business and his willingness to be unapologetically masculine and promote that as part of his company.