BB ’88: Twilight Of The Golden Fleece


Saturday night I found myself strolling up Sixth Avenue with the melancholy opening melody from Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto stuck in my mind. I’d just heard the piece at one of those sparsely attended church concerts where you can hear classical music for practically free but we live in an era when you can’t even give classical music away.

I passed Brooks Brothers’ store near Rockefeller Center, and if there hadn’t been a sign on the door I wouldn’t have recognized it by merely looking at the mannequins.

For a nostalgic glimpse at how Brooks used to look, head over to the website Navy Blazer, which just put up scans of a Brooks catalog from 1988, the year Brooks was acquired by Marks & Spencer and the beginning of its gradual divestment of all that made it unique.

Fall of ’88 was my first semester in college. After one essay my English teacher (an Englishman) took me aside and said I already had my A for the semester and that I can just concentrate on writing without worrying about my grade. No one bats a thousand, so eventually I turned in something he felt was a tad uninspired, and told me, “Just so you know, this one’s a B.” — CC

17 Comments on "BB ’88: Twilight Of The Golden Fleece"

  1. I can’t believe the blackwatch tartan pants were $137 back then. I just bought them a few weeks ago for $140! Albeit redFleece and probably made in China but still.

  2. Saddle shoulder sweaters; Christmas cards (some of which boldly say “Merry Christmas”; not a hipster haircut to be seen. Its like discovering the remains of a lost but advanced civilization where only a primitive village stands today.

  3. I may be a biased in that I’m involved with what the guys over at are doing, but regardless I really enjoyed looking through the images. Being a millennial– mabye? I was born in 1994 so I’m not sure where exactly that puts me–I’d always taken the view that the late 80s represented somewhat of a low point in what we call ‘trad’. Attributing this mostly to age and lack of lived experience in the 1980s, that era always seemed to me to be one of lower standards and synthetic materials; ie, the immediate results of global labor forcing manufacturers to try and pull the wool over consumers with cheap imitation products. Sure, the wide lapels and multi-pleat pants do date the model’s (drawings?) clothes a fair bit. In contrast, the nonchalant, almost expected, nods towards MiUSA and the subtle yet reassuring black line on the artist’s lapel demarcating a rolled third brought back what I and many others involved with NavyBlazerClub fell in love with in the first place

  4. Mazama

    Wasn’t America a lovely place before liberals destroyed it?


  5. “Liberals”…That word…I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Can’t blame Millennials for everything I suppose, as I once read, why do older people blame Millennials for participation trophies? You guys were in charge of the trophies. That’s on you.

  6. Charlottesville | October 18, 2016 at 12:12 pm |

    This brings a wistful smile to my aging face. That is the era at Brooks that I remember as the highpoint for me; post-heyday, but still going strong. I graduated from law school in 1985 and moved to Washington, where there was a great, dark-wood-trimmed BB on L St. (since closed). I don’t remember all of the pleats (probably because they did not interest me), but most of the rest is very familiar, as are the hand-drawn catalog illustrations. The flagship on Madison Avenue in particular was a multistory wonderland, and I could finally afford to indulge what has been a 30+ year appreciation of high quality, traditional Ivy clothes. It is a bit harder to indulge these days, since it usually requires special orders or out-of-town travel (not to mention fairly deep pockets), but fortunately good clothes tend to last if they’re cared for, and so I still have some suits, sport coats and even a shirt or two from 25 to 30 years back.

  7. Honestly I have to say the selections for women look atrocious. Everything else, spot on.

    CC, next time take a picture of the window gallery, I’d be curious to compare what their New York displays look like compared to here in Greenville, SC.

  8. Adding on to DCG’s comment:

    I got participation trophies from Little League in the ’70s. It’s always strange to me when people talk about them like they’re something new.

  9. “sacksuit”

    I am not sure why you are using my name. And I don’t think our black brethren would agree that America was a lovely place before or after liberalism, not liberals, began to erode the country. As DCG indicated, “liberals” does not mean what you think. I am exceedingly conservative and yet I consider myself to be a classical liberal.


    I hope married life is treating you well.

    Olive drab poplin sack suit today with crisp white oxford with knit navy tie and cordovan wingtips. Indian summer wear.


    The real Will

  10. “After one essay my English teacher (an Englishman) took me aside and said I already had my A for the semester…”

    Not surprised in the least, sir.

    My dad would argue [in detail] that the decline of BB dated prior to the M&S purchase, back to the 1946 Garfinckel purchase. He became almost unrecognizably enlivened on the subject of the popover shirt pre- and post-Garfinckel, detail by detail. I can still hear him talking about the button placket, how it ran all the way just beneath the beltline, no clue that the thing was a pullover.

  11. “Honestly I have to say the selections for women look atrocious.”

    By 1988 yes, but early 1980s they did some very nice almost men’s cut coats and straight skirts for the women’s suits. Very taste, If a gal wanted even more tad gear not found at BB she could head over to the boys dept. at the Polo Shop.

  12. NaturalShoulder | October 18, 2016 at 8:33 pm |

    I would happily wear most of the offerings in the catalog and would gladly pay the inflation adjusted price as well.

  13. Beverly Carlton | October 18, 2016 at 9:21 pm |

    First crossed the threshold of 346 Madison in autumn 1988, freshman year at Columbia. If I suck in my paunch I can still pull off that first tweed gun club jacket I brought back to my dorm room all those years ago. At least I think I can; nobody has said anything unkind to date.

  14. Andrew: I agree that, in my very limited experience, the ’80s were the beginning of the end for many “storied brands” which began to cheap-out on their products.

    I am seriously nostalgic for BB’s drawn advertisements. I remember opening the NYT just to see what BB put on page 2, almost every day.

  15. Henry Contestwinner | October 20, 2016 at 6:47 pm |

    Yes, the majority of our black brethren would probably not agree that pre-liberal America (by which we might mean pre-1960s America) “was a lovely place before or after liberalism,” but we must ask, just how much of that perception is affected by current ideology? Before the Civil Rights era, non-Jim Crow America was actually a pretty good place for blacks to be. The black middle class was strong and growing, and black neighborhoods were filled with black-owned businesses. Black families were intact, with school and church attendance high, and drug use and unwed pregnancy low. Law-abiding blacks had little to fear. It was not ideal, but for most, life was good, or at least acceptable.

    What have we now? For those blacks who are fortunate enough to even make it out of the womb alive—every year, more black babies are aborted in NYC than are born—life is less than ideal. The current black illegitimacy rate is about 75%, which means that the black family barely exists anymore. Rather than working an honest job—made harder by the massive influx of illegal aliens, who not only compete for low-end jobs but who also, by their mere presence, drive down wages at the low end of the job market—many blacks turn either to crime or to welfare. Drug abuse is rampant, and the high incarceration rate—high because so many blacks are criminals, not because there is any systematic prejudice against blacks—has turned a significant portion of the black population against not only the police but against the law itself.

    No one—let me repeat, no one—is advocating for a return to the 1950s, or any other previous era. However, our immediate ancestors were a lot better at maintaining a civilized society than we are. The responsibility for the destruction of our society lies squarely at feet of the political left—and make no mistake, many Republicans and “conservatives” are liberals, too.

    P.S. to the real Will Sacksuit: There have been some comments here made by another “Henry,” and even by a “Christian” who wasn’t CC. It can get confusing and annoying when when that happens.

  16. Henry Contestwinner | October 21, 2016 at 4:36 pm |

    Sorry about the formatting error. If only this blog had a “preview” feature for comments….

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