A Highly Refined Sense Of Style: Esquire On Buttondowns, 1983

George Frazier snagged a mention here recently, which makes this post a nice follow-up. It’s one of many things that’s been sitting in my inbox for quite some time, sent by a colleague. It appeared in a 1983 issue of Esquire and is being posted here for the first time. Head over here to sign up for the Esquire archives.

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21 Comments on "A Highly Refined Sense Of Style: Esquire On Buttondowns, 1983"

  1. From $29.50 to $140.00 is a 475% increase in less than 35 years. Have wages and salaries increased 475% over the last 35 years?
    The not-too-aggressive collar roll in the scanned photo looks just about right to me. The ties look to be 3″, maybe a bit less?

  2. Based on an online calculator that’s about $76 in 2020. In 1983 they were all made in the USA too right?

  3. Charlottesville | August 3, 2020 at 1:11 pm |

    $29.50 in 1983 works out to about $76 or so today. The current price is just a bit short of twice that, and I would argue is one of the many reasons that (a) BB had fallen on hard times, even before the current plague, and (b) it regularly runs 40% off sales to move merchandise. When I began shopping at Brooks in the mid 80s, I found them relatively expensive for my pocketbook, but not out of line with other top retailers, and certainly worth the money. The quality was high, the styling for the most part impeccable, and the prices fair, especially at the annual 20% off sale when one typically bought a box full of shirts. I don’t think any of that is true today, but I still hate to see then go under, whether perhaps deservedly or not. I still have and wear a handful of shirts and ties from that era, and a few suits as well.

  4. Charlottesville | August 3, 2020 at 1:16 pm |

    Sorry, JHL. I had not seen your comment yet when I added mine. But as you say, the price would be about $76 today, and they were indeed made in the USA in Brooks’ own “workrooms,” as they used to call the factory which I think was on Long Island, but I may be wrong about the specific location. In an earlier era, I understand that at least some of the merchandise was made upstairs in the Madison Avenue store itself.

  5. As an interesting note to the inflation-adjusted cost, the imported, non-iron OCBDs at BB currently retail for $92, in line with the historical price. Somehow the made-in-USA ones became a “luxury” and the offshored versions became the workaday version.

  6. AtlantaPete | August 3, 2020 at 2:22 pm |

    Just bought a couple of “Original Polo” shirts for half price, i.e., $70 each, so the price is about right (or I got a $6 discount from what the price should be).

  7. Was Esquire quite the lad rag it has become by the early 80s? It certainly wasn’t when my father used to have a subscription way back in the early 70s. More a serious magazine then. I’m dating myself badly here. Oh, the shame. The unmitigated shame. You kids, get off my lawn!

    Best Regards,


  8. Around that time Brooks shirts were made in Paterson, NJ. Way back-1940’s, maybe- ties were made on an upper floor of the Madison Ave. building.

  9. Trevor Jones | August 3, 2020 at 9:04 pm |

    For all those that say the pocket is necessary, George apparently disagrees!

  10. Henry Contestwinner | August 4, 2020 at 1:22 am |

    The “rule” for shirt pockets is none for dress shirts, and two for casual shirts. No pocket on the shirt is certainly sleeker, and looks better with a suit. Having said that, it just feels right to have one pocket on an Oxford cloth button-down shirt, and that’s how all mine are—along with the third collar button (on my custom-made ones, anyway).

  11. Is $29.50 of 1983 equivalent to $140 today? I don’t think so…

  12. Oh, never mind. Just saw an answer to my question. Just as I thought, the price today is inadequate and much higher than it used to be. No wonder BB is going downhill.

  13. The Ratio oxfords are a great value–made to measure/order for $100.

    Gambert’s online presence disappeared…and then returned in a different form:


    Again, pretty good value.

    Buy American.

  14. PocketSquare | August 4, 2020 at 11:55 am |

    The idea is that the pocket on a shirt replaced the vest which had fallen out favor when it was no longer a struggle to keep ones body warm. Rumor is that Penn States first colors were black and pink and that because the quality of the fabric was cheap once they had been laundered the colors faded to blue and white. So if thats true it might be incorrect to say that Brooks invented PINK. All rumors but still interesting to consider.

  15. I’ve been curious about something and perhaps you gentlemen would be so kind as to enlighten me: What is the equivalent of what Brooks Brothers used to be for women? I mean well-made, timeless, quality clothing. I can reel off the names of a few such clothiers for men — I expect most people can — but not for women. Thank you.

  16. Charlottesville | August 4, 2020 at 2:25 pm |

    S.E. – I agree regarding Ratio shirts. I am wearing one today, and it looks great and fits well.

  17. NaturalShoulder | August 4, 2020 at 11:48 pm |

    Ratio offers great value for the money but I still give most of my business to Mercer. The fabric selection and quality cannot be matched and it is nice to be able to pick up phone and speak with the owner.

  18. RKate:
    My wife would say Talbots, many years ago. And quality local department stores.

  19. Charlottesville | August 6, 2020 at 10:55 am |

    Don – My wife would agree with yours. Talbots, the women’s departments at Brooks, Saks, Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom, circa 1985 until perhaps 2000 or so. All either gone, or changed beyond recognition now, as are the couple of local shops that carried quality women’s clothing in that era. I think it is actually harder for her to find good clothing these days than it is for me.

  20. Thank you, Don and Charlottesville!

  21. Charlottesville | August 8, 2020 at 9:21 am |

    RKate – I hope you find a contemporary equivalent for traditional women’s clothing. If you do, please pass it one. Our wives would be most grateful.

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