Brooks Brothers 200th Anniversary Runway Show At Pitti Uomo

Update: At 3 o’clock on Brooks sent out an email blast plugging the runway show with a link to this page on its website, which includes video of the event.

* * *

Brooks Brothers officially kicked off its 200th anniversary celebrations with a runway show yesterday in Florence, Italy. After all our years here complaining about how the company has abandoned the traditional customer — at least that’s how it feels to the traditional customer — this is probably the greatest fodder for Internet outrage yet. Not that I’m encouraging it: isn’t it more fun to build an ideal trad wardrobe, as in our last post, than to castigate Brooks once again for failing to be something that it’s not even trying to be?

After all, a European runway show isn’t the kind of thing you go to great expense to produce in order to show traditional classics that haven’t changed in 60 years. It’s the thing you do in order to simultaneously blend in and stand out with all the other international fashion houses. So from that point of view, how did Brooks fare? Here’s what Vogue correspondent Luke Leitch has to say. First, the show’s setting:

Why celebrate the anniversary at Pitti instead of New York? Probably because the current owner, Claudio del Vecchio, is from around these parts—although, there are plans afoot for further celebrations that will continue through the year. As a party-starter, this show proved mixed. The Salone dei Cinquecento is surely one of the most magnificently overblown rooms in the world, and a full orchestra playing “Empire State of Mind,” Muzak-style, only added to the incongruous and fusty grandiosity of a context that was always going to be a struggle for any clothes to complement.

As for the clothes:

Those clothes, when they came, were neither all bad nor especially good.

If it had not been for some truly deranged, done-in-the-dark styling that saw cable-knit sweaters worn over tailored jackets, a raincoat worn inside out, a check jacket over a seersucker suit, cardigans over jackets, and plenty more such unimaginatively disruptive gestures, the men’s component would have been okay, too, but, sadly, these interventions undermined the so-so collection.

Vogue’s coverage includes a full 52-image slideshow of the event. As has been the case for so many years now whenever Brooks releases a catalog or other marketing imagery, so many looks appear as if they could be any random fashion house, often from any random era. For example, what does this remind you of — I mean besides the Napoleonic Wars or ’80s pop singer Adam Ant. Is it Thierry Mugler from 1991, or Krizia Uomo from 1992?

But those such images you can see for yourself, and there are too many to post here. What’s perhaps more interesting are the looks that employ some traditional element, but hyper-stylized for the context and with too many levels of fashion irony to keep track of. Take this look. If layering is a preppy tradition — including a polo or turtleneck under an OCBD — then why not wear a tweed jacket over a seersucker suit?

And if everyone around you is wearing Untuckit shirts, why not make a fashion statement by tucking in your sportcoat?


Not impressed yet? Bet you haven’t seen this before: sweater vest worn with a suit — on the outside:

Here’s a twist on the classic chest-pocket monogram:


Finally, this one makes me think of Doctor Who:


Leitch ends his piece with a well known quote from the last of the Brooksmen to run the company:

Del Vecchio’s predecessors at the helm of this famous firm include the four original Brooks Brothers, sons of the founder Henry. One of their descendants, Winthrop Brooks, was the last in the family to run it, in the 1940s, and during that time came up with a line that rather finely encapsulates a still very relevant menswear dialectic. This is how he put it: “Let me say here a word about conservatism. It does not mean a stubborn refusal to discard what is old and outworn, nor an old fogeyish prejudice against innovations of any kind. It really means a determination to retain what has been tried and proven to be good, and to refrain from the exploitation, simply because it is new, of what is essentially cheap and silly.” Winthrop would not have allowed cheap and silly styling to undermine the anniversary of this magnificently storied company.

Check out Vogue’s coverage and slideshow here. — CC

74 Comments on "Brooks Brothers 200th Anniversary Runway Show At Pitti Uomo"

  1. Eric Twardzik | January 11, 2018 at 2:05 pm |

    “Empire State Of Mind” instead of “New York, New York.” That unfortunate choice seems to have set the tone for the rest of the proceedings.

  2. Herr Doktor | January 11, 2018 at 2:29 pm |

    Maybe we’re the problem and haven’t been wearing BB Clothes right.

  3. Ugh! Could del Vecchio please sell back to Marks & Spencer??? Yes, it’s that bad.

  4. I’m with Jim. Leitch perfectly sums up the article with that wonderful quote. The Brooks Brothers are spinning in their graves.

  5. Charlottesville | January 11, 2018 at 2:52 pm |

    I suppose Brooks went down the drain some time ago, so what else would one expect? Well, I did not expect it to be quite THIS bad. Inside out raincoats, sweaters over suits, tucked-in sport coats, truly bad combinations that no one would wear in real life (at least, I hope not). Just ghastly. Clownish. The shirt and tie worn under the sweater-topped suit look like Brooks, aside from the oddly placed tie clip and of course the suit and sweater worn with them. The same goes for one or two other pieces, but not much else.

    Why do we care? I suppose for the same reason one would be sorry to see an old friend drink himself to death, or a beloved niece run off with a crack dealer. Wasted heritage and potential; once top of the heap (to quote “New York, New York” cited above by Eric), and now squandered and squalid. As CC quite rightly observes, it is better to celebrate the good that remains (such as the aged but remarkably still immaculate navy blue 3-piece Brooks No. 1 sack suit I am wearing today), but I will permit myself a frown and a shake of the head to see what has become of the old place. It really makes one appreciate J. Press, O’Connell’s, Eljo’s and the others that have not descended into self-parody.

  6. Indeed, Jim.

    These are outfits for kids, and hipster kids at that. The images hardly get me, as a middle-aged professional who needs a tasteful, serious, traditional wardrobe of business suits, shirts, and ties (but also unserious items I could wear to a club on evenings or weekends) excited about Brooks Brothers. They simply reinforce my impression that, even though I grew up on the brand, there is nothing for me at Brooks Brothers any longer.

    And no, “club” in this context does not mean a nightclub.

  7. Mitchell S. | January 11, 2018 at 3:14 pm |

    Yeech! This has got to be the worst fashion show I have ever seen. Ugly, pale, emaciated, androgynous models wearing ridiculous get-ups. Example: an alligator money clip used as a tie clip.

    It really can’t get any worse than this. In terms of drug addicts, this show is like the crackhead living in a cardboard box in the alley eating food out of dumpsters. Excuse me while I vomit…

  8. Well the models are quite ethnically diverse, so not all of them are pale.

  9. I’ve been wearing my raincoats inside out and tucking my Own Make Harris Tweed coat in for years. I never thought of wearing a money clip as a tie clip though. I’m heading out to my local BB store with all possible dispatch.

    Cheers,

    Will

  10. Sacksuit
    You sir are far more woke and sophisticated than we mere mortals. You are razor’s edge of the forward lean. 😉

  11. This actually makes me think of The Sartorialist website.

    http://www.thesartorialist.com/

  12. The girl in look #9 looks pretty nice except the girl looks like she is about to pass some bad clams. I actually did wear a red and silver repp tie as a belt with Duck Head khakis back in the ’80s so maybe I was cutting edge.

    Will

  13. I’m curious what could possibly be embroidered on the chest pocket of the shirt on the girl with the tan cap.

    Will

  14. STOP. Please just stop now. I can’t take any more. NO.

  15. Marc Chevalier | January 11, 2018 at 4:56 pm |

    It’s as if someone stumbled blindfolded into a particularly bland Manhattan Goodwill, picked out clothing by feel from the racks, and then dressed blank-faced, sullen models in whatever was chosen.

  16. Marc Chevalier | January 11, 2018 at 5:13 pm |

    I take this decline to heart.

    My first summer suit was from Brooks Brothers. A tan poplin “Brooksgate”.

    I was 16. My father took me to the old, oak-paneled store in downtown Los Angeles. It was full of customers back then; all of the sales clerks were at least 60 years old, and they knew EVERYTHING.

    That store is also where I purchased my first detachable wing collar and stiff-bosomed evening shirt, and my first pair of sock garters. In 1985, Brooks Brothers even sold Donegal tweed plus-fours (knickers). It’s true. Hard to imagine today.

    Fond memories of a once-great company which now seems hopelessly clueless.

  17. I am gobsmacked. I realize a lot of this is editorial and runway theatrics, but really, a tucked in sport coat? What’s next? Rolled up sleeves and a popped collar?

    And how old are these models? 12?

    This is just wrong on so many levels. Sad.

  18. Poor models So sad. Why so sad?

    Oh, wait a minute.
    I’d be sad too if I was forced to wear the clothing version of horse crap.

  19. del Vecchio, the final nail in the BB’s coffin.
    I would not wear any of these outfits around my house or to a Halloween party.
    Very sad!

  20. Seems BB would love to have the success Burberry had with their transformation. Note the attached collection and target audience.

    https://us.burberry.com/mens-runway-by-product/

  21. Sweater vest over suit isn’t that bad.

    I have worn vest sweater over jacket here in so cal for those cold 60 F winters wear wearing an overcoat feels like too much.

  22. In this discussion so far no one has mentioned quality.
    Last night I wore a pair of made in USA BB oxford
    cloth pajamas probably purchased 20- 25 years ago.
    They certainly don’t look new, but are intact. Similar
    BB pajamas bought 10- 15 years ago have long since
    disintegrated. So even for basic items BB’s decline
    is obvious. I now buy pajamas from LL Bean. My guess
    is that they will “outlive” me.

  23. For the longest time, Brooks Bros. was a single store that sold high quality, value-for-money conservative clothing to a large (NYC) market of affluent business and professional men. That’s how they made the name, and they seem to want to keep that reputation, at least sort of hovering in the background.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out what they thought they were trying to do with this hodgepodge of “runway” idiocy. At least half of the “looks” reminded me of little kids throwing together some of Dad’s clothes for an ad hoc Halloween costume.

  24. john carlos | January 11, 2018 at 9:39 pm |

    I’ve been a loyal BB customer since the late 1970’s. I live in San Antonio and back then BB didn’t have a store here so I would travel to either Dallas or Houston to shop at Brooks. Of late, I pick and choose what I buy (Alden’s, ties, $140 OCBD’s). After viewing the above, I’m done. I’m 68 years young and I can’t deal with such nonsense. It’s strictly O’Connell’s from now on.

  25. Are the police going to come and take statements? Considering the fact that we’ve all just witnessed a murder.

  26. I don’t understand BB doing a runway show in the first place. They’ve not been trend-setters for a long, long time.

    What really strikes me is how BB seems to be disparaging its own style (or what’s left of it). They literally tore it to pieces. And they went after the image of a BB customer. I’ve never seen a coat-and-tie businessman who looked like a pouty, androgynous teenager kidnapped from an Armani photo shoot.

    Are they signaling a major change? Amid the upheaval in the current retail environment? Or because of the upheaval? Would anyone care? Regardless, Italians sure have an odd way of celebrating 200th birthdays.

  27. Nauseating.

    They still do have some nice ties at BB, though. Some.

  28. Grey Flannels | January 12, 2018 at 12:57 am |

    “a determination to retain what has been tried and proven to be good”

    Those were the days!

  29. But they sell this stuff?
    Ah, we in Sicily have a outlet (Sicilia outlet village) in which is a Brooks Brothers store.
    I visited the last Christhmas,and…i’m not impressed.
    Obviously nothing sack suits or undarted blazers,only anonymous two buttons and other rather mediocre stuff.
    I have buy a tartan sport shirt in blue-gray tone…more than anything else for sympathy.

  30. Ezra Cornell | January 12, 2018 at 1:49 am |

    I suspect readers here need a trigger warning anytime Brooks Bros. gets mentioned, given all the hyperventilating and hysteria the place evokes among Trad snowflakes. Even stranger, the place seems like catnip, irresistible for the opportunity it gives folks to lament and reminisce about the Golden Era that Has Passed Never to Return, woe and woe! Please. A century ago this site would have hosted endless affronts over this ridiculous new fad for buttoning down the shirt collar. And a soft collar, too, by God! The stiff collar, now those were the days!

    Folks, it’s been 29 YEARS since Marks and Spencer bought Brooks. 29 years of one prolonged whine. Get over it.

    If you like Brooks shop there, if not, keep moving. This site advertises a whole raft of incredible heritage makers eager and ready to ship their goods around the world, and largely to your specifications. Pay attention to and patronize their work rather than constantly returning to your hurt feelings about a company that moved on before some of our readers were even alive. It’s clothing, not the apocalypse.

  31. Well said Ezra. I’m with you all the way.

  32. Rene Lebenthal | January 12, 2018 at 6:06 am |

    Gentlemen,
    This is a runway Show; Nobody would never ever dress like that on a daily basis.
    BUt there are still many good old items at BB. This is just an opening for new costumers as they already did when opening the red Fleece line.
    Time is evolving and we won’t stop that. Let’s be happy that you can still find a Navy pea coat or the famous BB OCBD Maker’s Shirts amongst all the other, “less charming” items.
    Never Forget that this is clothing Business, BB is a huge company and they want to remain in Business or even grow.
    Maybe they won’t be able to do so when not trying to step on….

  33. @Rene Lebenthal – New costumers or customers? I suppose that you could mean either one with this sorry show.

  34. Boston Bream | January 12, 2018 at 7:20 am |

    @ Ezra Cornell
    “Trad snowflakes”? Hardly!
    I’d prefer to describe them as gentlemen of good taste.

  35. Ezra Cornell | January 12, 2018 at 7:30 am |

    Yes, Trad snowflakes: fragile and unable to get over their perceived injury twenty-nine years ago at the hands of a changing retail giant. Indeed, the mere mention of “Brooks Brothers” sends these snowflakes looking for safe spaces where they can recover their equilibrium, and pen scornful missives about timid college students “these days” who are overwhelmed and incapacitated by the merest zephyr of ideas that are incongruous from their own.

  36. Len Longville | January 12, 2018 at 8:08 am |

    @Ezra Cornell: “incongruous FROM”???
    Are we now expected to accept that as proper English in the same way that we are expected to accept BB’s travesties as proper clothing?

  37. I fully support Brooks Brothers in their new endeavors and am behind this show 100%!!!
    Sincerely,
    A Grateful J.PRESS Minion

  38. Dennis hughes | January 12, 2018 at 8:28 am |

    The death of a loved one.

  39. Ezra Cornell | January 12, 2018 at 8:37 am |

    When logic cannot be engaged, attack grammar. Fire when ready!

    Furthermore you are not being asked or required or expected to accept BB’s clothing. We can instead embrace the many wonderful alternatives rather than continually wallow in outrage and self pity.

  40. When I read about someone getting their first BB clothes in LA a long time ago — about the same time I got mine in NYC — the point we’re all missing is that the market they were aiming for then is no longer there. The “crowded” stores full of businessmen buying things then would not be crowded now if BB was selling the trad clothing we all would like them to. Yes, some bad decisions have been made over the years, but BB has had to evolve to the new marketplace if they need to survive. Could have done it better, and perhaps succeeded if they retained the store on Madison Ave and relied on mail order. There just is not enough broad demand for the clothes we want to keep having access to. I’m sorry they’ve moved away from the style I like; happily I bought a couple of 3-piece flannel suits a couple of years ago (and thought at the time I would see more the next year, but sadly no), and two nice odd jackets. Now all that’s left that interests me are blazers and gray flannels and OCBDs (sorry, I do not like nearly all of ties) and I’ll keep getting them as long as they’re available. Since I’m not a 3/2 fan, JPress won’t work for me, so I’ll find somewhere else, probably Ben Silver, for jackets.

  41. Tom Tom Ivy | January 12, 2018 at 9:28 am |

    Ah , damn you! God damn you all to Hell!….he shouts trough the tears…RIP Brooks Brothers, they killed you , abused the body and urinated on your grave…

  42. whiskeydent | January 12, 2018 at 9:28 am |

    @Ezra

    When I first wandered into the blog, I ignited outrage when i wrote that people should not be surprised and angry about BB’s decline. Ambition for growth and fighting off competition forces companies to cut costs and appeal to a wider audience than a small, stagnant group of customers.

    So I’m amused to be called a BB snowflake, but I fully admit to being surprised by the message BB sent through the show. They shredded their own image to celebrate its 200th birthday. I’m in the communication business and was struck with that.

    Many of the commenters here are passionate about Ivy style, which was essentially invented by BB. So it stands to reason that they would give a damn about what BB does. I don’t, but I understand it and move along to something else if I don’t have something to add to the conversation.

    Now who is the snowflake?

  43. whiskeydent | January 12, 2018 at 9:39 am |

    Grammar note: I should have written “their 200th.”

  44. whiskeydent | January 12, 2018 at 9:47 am |

    At three minutes apart, it appears that Alan and I were on the same wavelength.

  45. I’m guessing that you were so aghast at the event that you mistakenly closed the article with “Check out Vogue’s coverage and slideshow here” and meant to say “SIDEshow.”

    I am now officially logging off the internet for the rest of the week. God help us.

  46. Cool songs Thomas Dolby played,
    Music all on cassette tape,
    Guys like us we had it made,
    Those were the days,
    And you knew who you were then,
    Girls were girls and men were men,
    Mr. we could use a man like Ronald Reagan again,
    Brooks stores in a tradly state,
    And their closes looked first rate,
    Gee my old Datsun ran great,
    Those were the days.

    Will

  47. Prodigal Prep | January 12, 2018 at 12:28 pm |

    I still like to walk into the Brooks Brothers flagship store in NYC once in a while, even if to just look around a little. I like the articles on this site about the history of BB and also the article with their 1980s catalog. Also the tips from readers where to find trad clothing now. I have a collection of vintage BB sweaters, made in England. I think they were manufactured by Alan Paine under the BB label.

  48. Vern Trotter | January 12, 2018 at 12:55 pm |

    Doesn’t Brooks still own Southwick? I don’t get it; Southwick remains pretty much unchanged and is still sold in those few remaining stores that have always carried the brand. I have never seen any explanation of what their thinking is to have one trad line and one that has just gone to hell.

    Maybe somebody has a theory or at least some guess that would try to explain this corporate schizophrenia.

  49. whiskeydent writes: “(BB) shredded their own image to celebrate its 200th birthday.”

    Exactly. WTH were they thinking?

  50. Marc Chevalier | January 12, 2018 at 2:03 pm |

    The VOGUE article was more perceptive.

  51. To be honest I haven’t purchased anything from BB since the 1960s at a trunk showing in a Kansas City hotel, I was in high school. In around 1980 I was excited when BB was opening a large Country Club Plaza store, but was disappointed when it opened, meh. I did purchase a pair of Alden cordovan penny loafers, but only because the shop three blocks away didn’t have my size. I’ve always thought small Ivy shops did it better and with the interweb one doesn’t have to rely on crappy catalogs with drawings and bad descriptions. Cheers to Press and O’Connell’s.

  52. Will/Sacksuit: based on other pix I’ve seen, “DISRUPTER” is what is stitched on the cap-wearing girl.

    I know….. :-\

  53. whiskeydent | January 12, 2018 at 3:21 pm |

    Disrupter is so 2017.

  54. Your days are over Will. Sorry. Time to move on, snowflake.

  55. As my younger sister says: “I.just.can.nawt.”

  56. I don’t really think menswear needs fashion shows: men’s clothing has changed very little since Beau Brummell convinced Prince George one could wear trousers instead of knee breeches and stockings.

    If, however, a show celebrating 200 years of the brand is absolutely neccesarry, why bedeck these poor, undernourished souls in such an awful way? I would have replicas made of important items in the company’s history, such as suits made for Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Rider’s Uniform.

  57. Will, thank you for that beautiful rendition of ‘Those Were the Days.’ I’ve got to write that down.

    The Times article explains why the model has the word ‘disrupter’ printed on her shirt. Del Vecchio claims that Henry S. Brooks, the company’s founder, was a ‘disrupter’ (what ever that means) and that there’s some sort of philosophy behind it.

    Joel, lest we forget how triggered you got the last time.

    I wonder if the real Ezra Cornell bought clothes at Brooks. His doppleganger, who haunts this site, seemingly does. I think that what Brooks has done, that is trying to capitalize off its legacy while paying it no homage, is indefensible and repugnant.

  58. Ezra Cornell | January 13, 2018 at 12:01 am |

    @GS
    Thanks for the shout-out. I’d like to think I’m not “haunting this site,” I’m reading it and reacting with occasional comments sort of like, well, you.
    Furthermore, I can agree that I don’t like what Brooks has been doing of late, but haven’t you ever been with a friend who insists on taking every opportunity to tell you how horrid is his ex, even years after the breakup? It just gets tiresome and since there are so many other great makers available for showcasing, why beat this dead horse — yet again? It’s like catnip, however, for those whose preferred mode of clothing is lamentation and “those were the days.”

    As to Cornell, the university early on adopted a uniform, in fact. Why? “To break down the bulwarks of caste, a university uniform is provided, to prevent the contrast between the fine apparel of the rich and the plain apparel of the poor.” (1863) Those were the days, indeed.

  59. Yes, it’s a conservative brand but the trick is to make it look fresh to the eye which it didn’t do.

  60. Mitchell S. | January 13, 2018 at 2:20 am |

    Brooks Brothers, you put the “pity” in Pitti Uomo. You’re not old because you’re good, but good because you’re old.

    Happy 200th.

  61. Fran Lebowitz quote:

    “If you’re going to discontinue an item that thousands and thousands of people buy, announce it. Say, ‘We will no longer be making our excellent Brooks Brothers cotton shirts that we made for 5,000 years. We’re going to change them in some awful way. We’re alerting you so you can buy a lifetime supply.’”

  62. @Joel

    I’m doing great but thank you for your concern. I hope your having as great a day as I.

    Will

  63. Old School Tie | January 13, 2018 at 12:40 pm |

    The Vogue slideshow contained over 50 images, yet only the handful of weird looks were selected to confect this ‘article’ which is little more than clickbait for frothing-at-the-mouth fuddy-duddies. The same people who smuggly back-slap each other over a naff illustration for Haspel suits which ‘drip dry’. Hmmm. The age of nylon and polyester is more acceptable than some avant garde styling….?

  64. Rene Lebenthal | January 13, 2018 at 1:10 pm |

    @ Jim indeed… a Freudian lapsus, I meant “customers” but could also be “costumers”…..
    Buy what you like at BB and for the rest….pass on and buy somewhere else…
    JPress, Ben SIlver, or any other brand that does real nice clothing!!

  65. More evidence we are living in some surreal times.

  66. Gerlando, are you such a little bitch IRL? I imagine you being that twerp in class who tries to correct the teacher every five minutes and eventually gets stuffed in a locker when your fellow students get sick of hearing your screechy nasal voice.

    Will, If things are so good, stop whining so fucking much. All you ever do on here is whine about what a victim you are. Not very conservative.

    You both are truly miserable people.

  67. @Joel

    Yesterday, ran six miles in the park with three other families with all the kids and dogs. We are training for our next 200 mile relay. Afterward, we all went to Panera’s for breakfast. Back to the house to pick up the yard after our recent snow storm. (Wore beater Yarmouth shirt and RL Philip khakis with Bean Boots) A late lunch with the wife and a nice nap. Out to dinner with same friends for wagu beef and Stag’s Leap Artemis. (White BB shirt, old BB sack blazer and olive drab Duck Head pants. Old BB cordovan loafers by Alden. No tie, no socks…it was 70 degrees!) A gentleman does not discuss later activities.

    Hope things are going well with you.

    Cheers,

    Will

  68. Old School
    Thanks for the Fran Lebowitz quote. I smile when I even think about her. I wish she would write more.

  69. Will, you have revealed a disturbing lack of sloth. Less work, more whiskey.

  70. Joel, for a conservative you sure swear a lot. You’ve out-triggered yourself.

    P.S. my voice is rather baritone.

  71. I swear a lot less than your daddy Trump. I guess it’s because I’m a Yankee and not from a shithole state like Virginia or Kansas where people act like thuggish apes, but then pretend to be polite as soon as someone calls them on it.

  72. @Joel.

    Not your best work. Try harder.

    Will

  73. Joel, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘daddy Trump.’ The man is my president, our president, not my father and I don’t recall him openly swearing as president.

    You may be a Yankee but you’re no gentleman. Kindly take your indecorous remarks and repugnant attitude elsewhere.

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