The Prowl, or: How to get other people to do your shopping for you and save money
(Theprowl.com’s main Ask and Answer section)
TheProwl.com looks a bit like Pinterest, and that may well be on purpose. Unlike Pinterest, The Prowl has a focus: its unique “Ask and Answer” section encourages you to employ the brains of others to find deals and make better fashion decisions than most mere humans with jobs and lives ever could. So while Pinterest is a great place to obsess over the infinite aspirational scroll, The Prowl is for paring down possibilities, and making a purchase. In contrast to Pinterest and related sites like The Hunt, which largely market themselves to the female demo, The Prowl’s pragmatic approach to commerce can be appreciated by the most shopping-phobic individuals of any gender.
Speaking as a bookish person with no love for parting with money, I dread the shopping part of any transaction. Only the owning part appeals to me at all. My shopping anxiety is tripled if the item I need is worn on the body. My whole life, I’ve outsourced as many fashion decisions as I could to a sibling, a friend, a significant other, or a sharp looking clerk at the store.
People other than me are, for some reason, thrilled to share their informed opinions on clothes, and unlike search engines, humans don’t deliver scams disguised as answers. Until now, I’ve only ever had access to a small number of these reliable people at any given time. The Prowl, however, connects me to thousands, and results aren’t clouded by the interference of cynical internet marketing schemes — not yet at least.
When you get to The Prowl, it’s not immediately apparent how it differs from similar resources online:
Sure, you could just post a simple question to Facebook, “Does anyone know of a good pair of sweatpants?” and you might get a few answers if you’re lucky, but they’ll come mixed with jokes, and the size of your pool of question answerers will be limited, meaning you aren’t likely to find specialized knowledge. What if you need a good kimono at a fair price, or a wizard hat that isn’t pointy? Crowdsourcing with a larger crowd is always more effective.
Similarly, The Hunt, where you post a photo, and the pool of users identifies the clothes and where to buy them, is a great site, and I won’t throw any shade at it. It also allows you to request a lower priced alternative to the item in the photo. However, The Prowl was designed expressly to contrast with The Hunt’s rigidity. When you create an “Ask and Answer” post, you’re free to be as detailed as you want. Explain your needs, and say what you think you want, but someone just might offer a different solution. “You only think you need a heavy raincoat when you move to Seattle. What you really need is this windbreaker with a hood. I love mine, and it’s on sale right now.”
Reddit’s r/malefashionadvice is a bustling community of broes mainsplaining the wisdom of skinny ties to each other. Meanwhile r/fashionadvice is woman-centric, and much less intimidating, but also much less active. The free-form nature of Reddit communities could allow something like The Prowl to exist, but at the moment, no equivalent seems forthcoming.
At The Prowl, your answers arrive in the form of product thumbnails, with a bit of editorializing by the person answering your question, and the result is a pleasant dialogue between like minded strangers. It makes for good reading even if you’re shopping for something else.
For instance, one man posted recently that he was “looking for something for my partner. I want something that makes an overt statement about being gay or lesbian, maybe something political. Funny is always good.” Another user posted a old-fashioned needlework wall hanging that read, “Homo Sweet Homo,” to which the original poster replied “I love this and will be ordering.” The reason this delighted me was that I hadn’t a clue where to find anything like that. I wouldn’t even have known what to google, but some stranger knew just the thing. Bonus: he bought it from the person who made it.
My own experience was equally pleasant and efficient, but I was much more specific, and I was looking for apparel on a budget. The challenge: find me something as durable as my Lebowski-ish mock turtleneck, but up-to-date fashion-wise, and keep the price down to earth: under $150, please. With these parameters in mind I normally feel helpless, and completely at the mercy of the first thing even close to my description.
Within hours, fourteen great answers had piled up. Well, they weren’t all winners, but one, an amazing shawl-neck cardigan from Ralph Lauren, was just what I didn’t know I wanted, and it was below my price ceiling! It fills the gap in my wardrobe that needed filled, and my girlfriend loves it, which is perhaps more important since she has to look at me. What’s more, Ralph Lauren sounds much too Cape Cod for my library-dwelling self, and ordinarily, I’d have never looked there.
Lastly, the site has a design non-problem that I find enormously helpful: It’s teal color scheme and cat logo have the potential advantage of repelling a certain flavor of dudes –the ones with the phrase “no homo” in their vocabularies. With them gone, questions from men are something of a welcome novelty, which tinges responses to our posts with a certain added freshness, and fosters quick and creative answers.
But now that I’ve let my secret out, I hope it will still work for me.