Update: I’ve just returned from Brooks, where I was able to try on and measure a Cambridge jacket. A 40 long measures 30.5 inches from the bottom of collar; industry standard is 32, so a Cambridge long is actually shorter than a regular in other models.
I liked the shoulders. The lapels are very narrow: Less than three inches, so down in J. Crew territory. Overall it felt like a Thom Browne jacket.
Label indicates the Cambridge is made in Thailand. — CC
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This fall Brooks Brothers unveiled its new Cambridge model updated sack suit. According to the Brooks website, it is currently available in two suits priced at $1,098 and three blazers and sportcoats priced at $598.
The description reads:
The three-button Cambridge jacket is a slim-fitting version of our iconic sack coat. It features a shorter length and a more-fitted body for a modern interpretation of the Ivy League mainstay. Made from luxurious Loro Piana® camel hair woven in Italy, exclusively for Brooks Brothers, this jacket will anchor your cold-weather wardrobe for years to come. Striped undercollar and interior red piping offer classic Brooks Brothers details. Half-canvas construction. 3/2 roll lapel. Center vent.
The vent in question is actually a hook, a detail more associated with Brooks’ smaller historic rival J. Press. Richard Press said he can’t recall whether Brooks offered hook vents, adding, “Norman Hilton and Southwick may have given it a shot, and both made for Brooks. I don’t think you will find hook vent mentioned in any of the old Brooks brochures, however.” And Zachary DeLuca of Newton Street Vintage says, “I don’t think they ever did, but there is a thread on Ask Andy where one of the posters claims his poplin suit has one. I’ve never seen one.”
Now let’s move on to the jacket’s length. Two things are going on here: First, according to the description the Cambridge is cut shorter. But second, we have no idea what size the models are wearing, so it’s impossible to judge from the photos exactly how short the jacket is.
So it’s one thing to cut the jacket 3/4 of an inch shorter, but another thing altogether to take a model who normally wears a regular or long and put him in what looks like a short. I take a 40 long, for example, and it’s fine to have a 40 long cut a tad short (long sizes are available in the Cambridge), because that basically means it comes out to a 40 regular, which I can pull off because it just covers my rear by a millimeter. But I couldn’t wear a 40 short, especially a 40 short that’s cut short. But that’s exactly what it looks like these models are wearing.
In this detail, note that the jacket is only a tad longer than the sleeves!
For reference, here’s what Brooks’ iconic sack jacket looked like precisely 30 years ago in 1982:
There’s no model wearing it, and yet note the long lean lines. It looks like it would make its wearer appear taller (something most men want). In other words, it’s flattering. The top image looks short and boxy by comparison.
Here, from the same year, was the jacket length in the youth-targeted Brooksgate collection:
Fashions change, but the Brooks sack jacket survived more or less intact for most of the 20th century. Lapels went in and out, and a 1949 jacket was probably a bit longer than a 1965 jacket, but I don’t think any of the concessions to fashion were as radical as this current incarnation of the sack.
One would think that a company that large, with thousands of items in its catalog, could offer just one exact replica of the jacket illustrated above — purely as a market test. I mean, it’s not like we’d be asking Brooks to make something it didn’t make countless thousands of times for 80-odd years.
I’m curious how such a jacket would sell, especially compared to its modern counterpart. What do you think: Assuming quality and marketing efforts were equal, would Brooks sell more Cambridge models to 25-40 year olds than it would “purist” sacks to the 40-plus crowd? And would there be more bonus, non-targeted sales from 25-40 year olds opting for the purist version than 40-plussers choosing the Cambridge?
In closing, I interviewed Alan Flusser the other day for my next HuffPo column, and the topic of Thom Browne and short jackets came up. Flusser said that Browne’s influence completely undermined Flusser’s efforts at educating men towards what he calls permanent fashion. A jacket’s length, he said, should be dictated by the wearer’s height, pure and simple, and not the whims of fashion. “In a few years,” Flusser said, “people will look at the short jackets in their closet and say, ‘What was I thinking?'” — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD