Brooks Brothers Made In China: Better Than Brioni?

This post from 2013 sheds a different light on the made-in-China issue explored in our last post.

* * *

James here is holding out my latest sportcoat to wear today. It’s the same one I’m wearing in the previous post, which a reader inquired about. It’s actually this jacket from Brooks Brothers; I’d been eyeing it since the beginning of the season, really digging the fabric and knowing it would look great with my grey flannels and wool challis ties, which has been my uniform this winter.

As I was wearing it for the first time when I met with Crittenden Rawlings, and as he works as a consultant for Daidoh, the Japanese company with factories in Japan and China that manufactures for Brooks, and where my girlfriend used to work, I thought I’d ask what he thought of it.

Critt opened the fully canvassed jacket to the inside to look for signs of hand stitching, which he immediately found. Not only does Daidoh do good work, he said, but Asian factories in general that use hand tailoring often produce exceptional stitching, being more disciplined by nature than their European counterparts, he said in a sweeping but fair generalization.

But even Critt was surprised to find hand felled edges along the inside of the vent. “Not even Brioni does that,” he said.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to defend outsourcing nor the foreign ownership of iconic American companies. But I did think it worth broaching the topic that China is capable of producing better quality than you might think, and — for better or worse — that quality usually comes at a cheaper price than on a comparable item made here.

In the interest of a balanced review, I should note that the attention to handwork on the jacket is grossly undercut by the extremely cheap buttons Brooks Brothers uses on most of its tailored clothing. I’ve replaced buttons on trousers as well as this sportcoat, something I never have to do with clothing from Ralph Lauren. From a manufacturing standpoint, all details should matter, not just certain ones. — CC

33 Comments on "Brooks Brothers Made In China: Better Than Brioni?"

  1. Two spaced buttons on the sleeve!

  2. And two darts on the chest!

    And two buttons on the front!

  3. You enjoy the thumbing of the nose at Heyday orthodoxy far too much.

  4. I purchased the same jacket back in the beginning of the season. Interested in knowing what buttons you used to replace the originals.
    BTW, I am currently returning a brown Harris Tweed I purchased from J.Press, their Presidential collection. Shoulders were so incredibly padded I looked like David Byrne in “Stop Making Sense.” Ordering similar jacket from O’Connells in Buffalo, hopefully that works.

  5. Looks very good on you.

  6. Thanks, Sartre.

    Bill, the buttons are dark brown/amber English horn from Tender Buttons.

    Rest of the kit, incidentally, was blue oxford by Kamakura, navy grenadine tie from Paul Winston, grey flannels and paisley square from RL, brown tassels from Crockett & Jones, and gator belt with engine-turned buckle from Brooks.

  7. In an interview, when asked why his suit is so big, David Byrne answered “To make my head look smaller.”

    Gotta love that guy

  8. I agree that very good workmanship does exist in clothing made in China. Look what they’re doing for Ralph Lauren.

  9. It would be interesting to know where in China these suits were made.

    It is common knowledge in Asian countries that Shanghainese tailoring is among the best in the world.

  10. Not surprised about the Asian quality, my father had many beautiful suits tailored there in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Dad gave me a tan gab and when I had it altered by my old German tailor, he commented on the detail and quality of workmanship. I loved that suit, it was like wearing pajamas to work.

  11. Edinburgh Trad | January 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm |

    “…quality usually comes at a cheaper price than on a comparable item made here.”

    While the thesis of your argument may be correct, it fails to consider the dimensions of supporting “traditional craftsmanship” – cultural heritage – and by extension “good jobs”.

    The stitching may be comparable, but the quality of the fabric, in my experience, is not comparable. For example, I have a few so-called USA heritage brand, made in China mind you, wool sweaters that their only distinguishing features are pilling and fuzz.

    On a lighter note, I visit your wonderful and insightful website almost everyday and have never felt the urge to respond until now. Thank you Sir.


    PS. Captain Currey corduroy or moleskin trousers are the perfect example of British craftsmanship sold at similar prices to Brooks Brothers (of course, the pound stirling is at a 25 year low and we pay a premium for USA products in the UK).

  12. @Gooser and MAC

    In my go go years, I would not leave Hong Kong without a suit or two and shirts made while there. Never a doubt about the workmanship.

  13. My Grandfather used to rave about how good the Hong Kong tailors were…I actually never had much problem with over seas made clothing, I’ve seen excellent workmanship on clothing made overseas…

  14. @Edinburgh Trad

    everyday = every day

    I visit your website every day (adverbial)

    Visiting your website is one of my everyday (adjective) habits.

    stirling = sterling

  15. Edinburgh Trad makes two very good points. Although the quality of Chinese handwork may be very good (as long as wages are very low), the quality of the materials is generally very poor. This includes both the thread used for seams and button attachment as well as the fabric of the garment. I have had so many buttons detach from Brooks Bros. and Filson garments that I will no longer buy their products if they’re indicated as “imported”–which always means made in China. It’s interesting how so many retailers will proudly state “Made in England” or “Made in Scotland” but Chinese goods are simply “Imported.” Fabric quality in “imported” garments is also typically poor. Premature wear to woven materials and pilling in knits is common. And getting back to the “handwork”–while it may be good, look closely at how the buttons on your “imported” garment are sewn on. The amount of thread used is scant; hence, buttons are easily lost. The second point Edinburgh Trad makes is about supporting cultural heritage. Although traditional manufacturers can lose their way even when they don’t outsource, the best chance of ensuring the survival of traditional clothing and quality is to support those firms that keep their production close to home and in-house. This is what “cultural heritage” is. There are so many wonderful manufacturers of quality garments that are now gone and nothing comparable has replaced them. Does anyone remember, for example, McGeorge of Dumfries? There’s no knitwear of comparable quality available anywhere, for any price, today. At this point, I have to apologize for there being no paragraph breaks in this message. The Enter key on my imported Mac gave out months ago. Finally, are there any Shattucks of 1954 out there? (This question will be meaningless to most people.)

  16. Ken Pollock | January 27, 2013 at 8:15 am |

    Next time you have LS Men’s Clothier have H. Freeman make you a MTM garment, ask Izzy to get it to use Norman Hilton buttons. Izzy has a huge supply of them.

  17. Thanks. Coincidentally I’m going in for sleeves and buttons on Monday!

  18. Ken Pollock | January 27, 2013 at 8:21 am |

    I remember McGeorge of Dumfries well. Its shetland sweaters were beyond compare. I still have about 6 of them.
    Now “McGeorge” is just a brand label that Ballantyne puts on some of its lesser quality, Asian made, sweaters that it supplies to off-price retailers to sell at “reduced” prices.

  19. RLN
    I believe that when most posters here refer to tailor made suits from the 1940s on, the are referring to very high quality workmanship and materials. Historically, many of the fabrics use in western clothing have come from all over the world over centuries, for example, silk from Asia, cotton from India ( khaki is an Indian word ). As materials moved to Europe, European colonist and military took skills, technology and fashion with them around the world. I doubt the upper end tailors in Asia are any less skilled than those in Europe or America and probably so for over a century. I do agree that most of mass produced Asian clothing, especially in China, sucks when compared to “old school” western companies. Even Chinese consumers prefer western made goods.

    Filson’s buttons have always been their weakest link. I’ve worn their hunting gear for over a half century, first thing you do is resew the buttons before wearing. Every man should know how to sew on a button, unless you have a man servant or still live with your mother. 😉

    No need to apologies for posting form, only Orthograph grades them for punctuation, spelling and syntax, which is actually helpful. Besides, I don’t write well, I blame it on the nuns’ violent attacks about my head.

    I got to ask, what is / are “Shattucks”? The only Shattuck I know of has nothing to do with clothing.

  20. McGeorge an old standby of Squeeze in back of Drumohr.

  21. MAC – If you’re not a Shattuck, you’re a Halcyon. That’s a clue. You can google for the answer.

  22. RLN

    Brands of Yarn? I do own Halcyon motorcycle goggles.

  23. MAC – No, Shattuck and Halcyon are crew clubs at St. Paul’s School. You’re assigned to one or the other. We Shattucks have a beautiful blue as our color. Halcyons have an ugly red.

  24. James Redhouse | January 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm |


    Students who participate in “club sports” (intramural) at St. Paul’s are assigned to one of three teams for their time at St. Paul’s—”Isthmian,” “Delphian” or “Old Hundred”. Students also are assigned to one of two “Boat Clubs”—”Halcyon” or “Shattuck”. If a descendant of a graduate attends the school, she or he is assigned to the same clubs as her or his relative.

  25. RLN
    Cool, I note there are some very famous alumni.

  26. James Redhouse – Are you a Paulie?

  27. James Redhouse | January 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm |


    Not a Paulie, just a voracious reader.

  28. Dickey Greenleaf | February 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm |

    B2, is iconic first and foremost, Brioni is the Lamborghini of the suit manufacturers, and can’t be compromised. Comparing the two is an offense, and restriction, not Apples to Oranges, but impolite, because, these are more comparable to Oxxford Clothes suits, where the price range is about the same, also Purple Label by Ralph Lauren comes to mind aswell. B2 Bespoke tailoring is best at it’s best, and on that point I’m implacable. Chris nice Grey flannels, you always add a nice touch to you’re sport coats with this kind of detail to attention, or should I say outfit you bring attention to with this, kind or kinds of details. To my critics, call it prattle, it’s true, Baltimore 28, San francisco 21

  29. This is an old thread at this point, but in case it comes up in searches: Look at Brooks Brothers mens’ outerwear. 90%+ of it is now being made in China — how disappointing. The idea that I would pay $1k for a coat that is stitched in some factory in Shenzhen is offensive — they’re still charging BB prices as if these garments are being made in England or the US. Sorry, no thanks, I can take my business elsewhere. If I’m going to buy something made in China, you may charge me $200 for it, not $1,000. If I’m going to buy something for $1k+, it had better say “USA,” “England,” or “Italy” or you can go take a long walk off a short pier.

  30. Otis Brewster Hogbottom III | October 18, 2019 at 4:21 pm |

    A 2019 comment: let us not forget that China (esp Hong Kong) has a long tailoring tradition. “Made in China” is not *necessarily* bad (though it usually is).

  31. There’s low quality cheap and high quality everywhere, China being no exception. Not every Italian factory makes Gucci/Prada quality either. The factories making Brooks Bros. and Ralph Lauren are some of the best regarded in the world. Many cut corners are likely more out of being middle-class price point than whether or not they COULD do it right. While you decry the Brooks buttons for being cheap, we used to make fun of Ralph Lauren buttons for how they were usually machine sewn and once it unraveled, it would all come undone in one thread. Fancy buttons, cheap thread. There’s low grade and high grade cashmere, but it literally all comes from the same goats in China. For decades already, most “Made in Italy” ties are mostly assembled in China and finished in Italy just to be legally labeled “Made in Italy”, but insiders in the neckwear industry already knew Chinese factories were making better silk and learning Western luxury market construction very quickly. Which makes sense, since they invented silk in the first place. Just a matter of branding and perception. The reality is most places in Europe and US no longer have the space and aging workforce to do volume work in the millions like these factories can. All Europe/US business owners wanted Chinese labor for was their cheap bottom line concerns, so all you got was cheap. But the reality is luxury artisanship has always been a strong component in China, with the exception of 40 years out of many thousands.

  32. Christian, do you have any updated info on the state of Brooks Brothers?
    I am in Vancouver British Columbia, and the advent of a Brooks store has been a big deal to me for some years.
    But it shut flat in March for Covid, then went bankrupt; I’m told no decisions have yet been made re Canadian stores.
    Jamie Salter has bought the co., he is known for picking up known brands on their way down and pumping the remaining value out of the brand name while making poorer products. This happened years ago with Rockport shoes.

  33. Most of Chinese tailoring for BB is lower quality than the US work it replaced. It is all about higher profits, as anyone with a 30 + year history with BB would agree. Pockets on woolen dress slacks are shallow and usually misplaced a little. Legs are unlined. Flys are too short, buttons don’t hold, etc.

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