Brooks & Hooks: The Cambridge Model Updated Sack Jacket

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

* * *

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

48 Comments on "Brooks & Hooks: The Cambridge Model Updated Sack Jacket"

  1. Outside of us, I doubt most gents would even notice if one day all the Brooks Brothers suit had a 3-roll-two lapel.

  2. Craig Sevde | October 16, 2012 at 8:29 am |

    Just an FYI from a very reliable inside source at B2 that the Trad cut 100% red label OCBD. Will only be available on line. The new B2 store opened in Orlando and they don’t even stock them. But the upside was. They knew what they were.

  3. The bottom of that jacket should reach the tip of the model’s thumb.

  4. I share your concerns about recent trends in slimmer fitting, shorter length blazers but it does seem as if Brooks is offering pretty much the more traditional jacket you described. Perhaps I have misinterpreted but isn’t the 1818 sack blazer pretty much a replica of the jacket you had illustrated?,default,pd.html?dwvar_793M_Color=NAVY&contentpos=60

    It’s offered at the same price as the slimmer Cambridge model.

  5. Thom Browne. Who would have thought that taking fashion tips from Pee-Wee Herman seriously would make you rich, famous, and influential?

    This is one time when history repeated itself, not, as Marx would have it, first as a tragedy, then as a farce, but the other way around.

  6. Richard Meyer | October 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm |

    Agree with Henry. Jackets MUCH too short, worn with trousers with much too low a rise. A dreadful, silly look.

  7. I have fear that the Pee Wee’s suits were better of these skinny & short ugly things!


  8. ROFL, I was just about to make a Pee-Wee comment, when I saw Henry’s and Carmelo’s. I agree. Utterly ridiculous IMHO.

  9. A safe guess is that most of the fellows who shop at Brooks are relatively clueless about many if not most of the specs. Remove the darts, soften the shoulder, and offer 3/2 lapel, and the vast majority would either fail to notice, or, upon noticing, not care.

    I think the owners have an aversion to the old tried and true sack. Maybe they affiliate it with boring, ruddy, New England WASPs. Who knows. But the change from the 80s to the early 2000s is too obvious to be accidental. Somebody took direct aim at the past and pulled the trigger.

  10. Thanks for the review Christian. I have been wondering how this jacket fits. I wanted to try one on as I often fall in-between sizes, but the Brooks Brothers nearest me seems to stock less than 1/3 of their offerings. They did not even have one color of the Shetlands that they offer this season. Glad to hear that I wasn’t missing much.

  11. I own a Cambridge Blazer, yet I wear Trad clothing. How did I harmonize the two? I sized Up. I normally wear a 38S, and was able to get the same fit in Cambridge with a 39R. My rear is covered, and the lapel is proportionally wider. Trust me, my lapels while trimmer, are not J.Crew proportions. Why did I do this? This blazer came with some amazing features that I could not find in other ready-to-wear BB jackets namely: ultra soft shoulder (we’re talking like non-existent), hook vent, 3/4 lining, no darts, in an ultra breezy hopsack. I live in the tip of Florida, these features made it very appealing. With sizing up, and wearing my trousers were they are supposed to, you would have no idea I was wearing what was intended to be a Thom Browne-esq model.

  12. Egad! The patch pockets have no flaps! Another piece of “new and hip” BB crap. If you’ve reached puberty, you should never wear this monstrosity.

  13. Boston Bean | October 16, 2012 at 6:05 pm |

    To quote some of the comments above:

    Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  14. Dutch Uncle | October 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm |

    @oxford cloth button down”

    “in-between” has a hypen when it modifies a noun, e.g.
    “Is it possible to find in-between sizes, like 39 and 41?”Otherwise, it isn’t hyphenated, e.g.
    “Size 39 falls in between 38 and 40”. Purists would argue that you should have written: “…I often fall between sizes…”, without the word “in”.

  15. Would you like to be Ivy Style’s official copy editor? Like on the masthead and everything?

    I shudder at my own mistakes, though more typos than usage (insert smiley).

  16. I’m also interested in what you Purists think about the 1818 sack? I’m getting a new blazer this weekend and I want to be sure to get the right one. I’m only 17, so I could probably pull off the shorter-cut Cambridge, but I, too, shudder at the thought of “What was I thinking?” when looking back.

  17. Dutch Uncle | October 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm |

    Thanks for the invitation Christian.
    I think I’ll just stick to occasional comments,
    rather than becoming a full-time nitpicker.

  18. Mary M. Webster | October 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm |

    @Dutch Uncle:

    How does one decide whether it’s “nitpicker”, “nit-picker”, or “nit picker”?

  19. @Tabor Kid

    Alan Flusser is spot on. Do not buy your blazer until you have read the following.

  20. NaturalShoulder | October 16, 2012 at 8:15 pm |

    @Tabor Kid. I purchased an 1818 blazer several years ago and recommend it highly.

  21. I was shopping for a sport jacket this past month at Brooks Brothers.

    I shared with them my concern over the length of their Cambridge fit, and they said one can always go for the “long” size. Now from what Christian mentions, even that may not be enough.

    Also, when I was there, I asked them whether the fact that most of B2’s coats are two button is a new development or has been B2’s style forever? (I’m 19, so forgive me.) They told me that even though they’ve been introducing more 3-buttons recently, 2-button coats have been the norm at B2. Now I wonder if that’s true.

    Nonetheless, though, notwithstanding the darts and the 2 buttons, Brooks offers rather orthodox clothing. I eventually settled for this coat —,default,pd.html?dwvar_MM00172_Color=BLUE&contentpos=13 — and all the other aspects are just perfect and pure: the length, the shoulders (natural), and even the vent (It’s center-vent as opposed to side-vents, which it wrongly says in the details).

  22. Thanks for the insight M. Arthur. I was wondering why this post is critiquing the Cambridge model rather than the 1818, which seems to me more “Trad.”

  23. And if you were to make a 3/2 with side vents and darts (I know the trads wouldn’t like it, but everyone else wouldn’t care or wouldn’t notice) it might actually bring in some folks who otherwise wouldn’t join the 3/2 club.

  24. Craig Sevde | October 17, 2012 at 5:55 am |

    Gentleman I believe this is all trend. Whee it goes I have no idea.
    I think maybe we should revisit history to find our true traditions. They came out of prep schools (Exeter/Andover/Choate) and were carried to the Ivy schools out of habit (in over words these are the schools we wear to class).
    They all had dress codes most of which were kakis, ties and navy blazers embezzled with their school crest. Boat shoes fell in because that was a summer shoe if you spent any time at summer camp in the NE. And everyone packed them off to school. Penny loafers were one of the few casual leather (dress) shoes available. Remember you actually had small mom and pop shoe stores in CT, MA, NH, up state NY and Maine. There was limited selection. There were no malls. A larger number of our traditions grew out of those area manufacturers. Sperry/Alden/LL Bean/Southwick etc. We all have driving by the empty textile mills in New England. Economies and distribution were largely regional “back then” Lol. Offerings were limited and style was what you limited to what the mills produced.
    the short inseam was not designed your kakis actually fit when you purchased them they just happened to all be 100% cotton and they worn very well but shrunk in length over the months (and years).
    The OCBD is the only true trad shirt that it seems everyone agreed on.
    My opinion all our true and trad came from prep schools and was just carried on the IVY (and refined).
    What we celebrate as Ivy style is actually Prep style. And all the moms provided it. They all talked and they all purchased so no one looked out of place. And I owe the haberdashers a little credit as well because they new you where an Andover student. And they knew what Andover expected.
    What happens to this new trend is simply that it is a trend and everything will gradually and quietly return to normal with no fanfare.

  25. Craig: Are you even American?

  26. “Embezzled” for “emblazoned” was pretty funny….

  27. Three to four years ago Brooks offered a couple of Southwick made sack sports coats, beautiful fabrics, normal length. They sat in clearance, available at half off or less in basically all sizes for more than a year. If there were any market for the old standard, I am sure they would try to fill it. But lets face it, there’s not.

  28. Alden, I do remember one of those. There was a really heavy brown tweed that was on the cover of one of their makers and merchants catalogs a few years ago. That’s interesting to hear about the languishing (as I said, I’m curious about sales), but that’s also why I said assuming price and marketing were equal. Brooks has a bigger Internet presence than it did several years ago (Facebook, Twitter, and the Rogues & Gentlemen blog), and also puts out monthly catalogs now, which I don’t think it did then.

    A classic sack could be given a name (like The Classic), and rolled out with some fanfare.

    Again, I’d be very curious. We’re in the midst of an Ivy revival. Now would seem the time.

  29. A somewhat sensitive subject, but the feel or mood isn’t American Anglophile anymore.

    Yes, there are Shetlands. And it’s nice to see the English opera slippers (Draper?). And I’ve no doubt some of the silk for the repps is still woven by Vanners. A few nods to the past, sure. Still…

    …The older catalogs and brochures were English in spirit. Older Brooks customers have remembered the store as an outpost of British exports and well-done USA-made copies. I think words like “stuffy” and “old fashioned” have been used, but not always pejoratively. I wonder if certain shops, like Cable Car, for instance, intentionally followed in the hallowed footsteps of Brooks, as opposed to more self consciously “Ivy” (youthful) shops, many of them near a college campus.

    Pollock asked where the W. Bill books went.

    Well, it seems they were replaced with Loro Piana Super 150s and similarly fragile cloth. That’s all one needs to know. You can’t find a true 6 ply hopsack for a custom blazer, but there’s an entire book of Loro Piana hopsacks that fall well short in terms of heft. This makes sense, considering present ownership.

    How to get the Brooks look of old? Easy. Find the right tailor, and, equally important, source the good English cloth. Now that Fox offers plenty in addition to their legendary flannel (including panama and tweeds), one might begin and end there.

  30. GTwig1963 said,

    “Egad! The patch pockets have no flaps! Another piece of “new and hip” BB crap. If you’ve reached puberty, you should never wear this monstrosity.”
    Well, yes and no. As has been noted, if you choose a longer size than usual you can get a proper fit, rather than the Thom Browne “I am a doofus in my little brother’s clothes” fit. As for no flaps on the patch pockets—so what? Personal preference. Like you, I prefer flaps on my patch pockets, but open patch pockets, while perhaps not a traditional Ivy look,* are not enough to exclude it from consideration. IMHO, of course.

    * If open patch pockets are part of the Ivy canon, I am more than happy to be corrected.

  31. More proof here of why I do not purchase from BB’s anymore. These coats are not only way too short all around, but also lack pocket flaps. It is the exact opposite situation when a child tries on his father’s topcoat and the sleeves fall to his knees. Both of these extreme fits look totally rediculous.
    Once again, another oxymoronic example of more “updated classics” from BB’s. In my opinion, BB’s should call it quits in the Trad world, go totally updated/mod, fire Pee Wee Browne, or sell the company to an American owner who understands what the look consists of.

  32. I think I agree with S.E.’s basic premise that the more fundamental issue is that Anglophilia has been dwindling in this country and it probably is going to from what we can perceive. People who now have the means of patronizing and spending just have different preferences–the mere fact that we, for instance, in Minneapolis still even have a Brooks Brothers left is something I’m grateful for every day.

    However, my lingering question has not been addressed: say a natural-shoulder, center-vent, but two-button Brooks Brothers sport coat: would that be considered trad/classic/ivy or if not, then how do you classify it?

  33. the only place for short jackets is on the back of a scooterist. in that case, the jacket should not be long enough to reach the seat.

    but that is mod, not ivy.

  34. Christian: “Brooks has a bigger Internet presence than it did several years ago (Facebook, Twitter, and the Rogues & Gentlemen blog), and also puts out monthly catalogs now, which I don’t think it did then.

    A classic sack could be given a name (like The Classic), and rolled out with some fanfare.

    Again, I’d be very curious. We’re in the midst of an Ivy revival. Now would seem the time.”

    Maybe that is so, I don’t know. One interesting datapoint is that the F12 line for the Norman Hilton revival will be in double vented darted jackets. Maybe you should ask Nick Hilton about his experiences selling sack jackets, might make for a good story.

  35. If we were true Preppies as described in the Official Preppy Handbook, there would be little for us to buy because a true Prep is still wearing their blazers or suits from years ago. A true Prep is not a victim of marketing ploys such as shorter jackets, narrow ties, narrow lapels or wide lapels. I was reading an article the other day and the fashion director being interviewed pronounced, “pleats are back!”. How do you sell a blazer to a guy that is perfectly happy with the one he bought 10 years ago? You make this years blazer slightly different and tell him it’s now the rage!!! Am I wrong?

  36. @AldenPyle – Maybe Southwick is the answer for those seeking the classic sack as they may be the last manufacturer of the soft shouldered American jackets. They probably still manufacture quite a few BB jackets just to BB’s standards and not their own.

    @Dutch Uncle – Thanks! I need all of the grammar help that I can get. I depend on spell check for far too much.

  37. This is a great opportunity for someone that wears a 40 short to buy a 40 long on sale at season’s end and actually get a jacket that fits. Who traditionally wears a short length jacket, can you say WOMEN.

  38. I see your point, Alden, though BB has a slightly larger marketing presence.

  39. Re: M Arthur’s comment above.
    The guy with the 10 year old jacket, probably still wears it because he cannot find one as good to replace it with that has the same details and is actually affordable. If I could still fir into my old Huntington Clothiers jackets from 25+ years ago, they would all still be in my rotation.

  40. I have a question:
    If they want the “slim look”,why not reproduce the Brooks Brothers’s silhouette of 1965?
    1965 is not “slim” enough for this peoples?

  41. In (limited) defense of the short coat trend, I have to say that its proliferation has vastly benefited short people like me. While it looks ridiculous on an average or tall person, the short coat length works great for short people. Whereas before this trend, even a “regular” sized coat at BB would be too long for my torso.

  42. I recall Flusser using the phrase “the sterilization of Brooks.”

    So, we wonder, when did said “sterilization” (apt phrase, btw) happen? What was the cause?

    It’s a safe hunch that the legendary focus on quality tailoring and superb English cloth was lost around–shall we guess the early 70s?

    Whenever, it happened.

    I’m not sure it’s fair or accurate to lump Brooks in with the many Ivy shops that took their lead from the New Haven tailors of yore. Was Brooks ever as consistently soft-shouldered and narrow (lapels and pants) as they were? My point is I think Brooks never (or, if they did, only briefly) succumbed to the excesses of Ivy styling.

    Take a look at the photo of the Brooks shop window featured in the book Take Ivy. The year is 1965. At least three suits are shown. I see longish button down collars, ties of at least three inch width (dimpled, all), suit jacket lapels that flair to (probably) around 3.25-3.5 inches, and plenty–yes, more than plenty–of shoulder. Certainly not the narrow, rounded shoulder most affiliate with the Ivy look in its pure form. Again, the year is the 1965. Ivy Heyday. Brooks hadn’t budged much if at all.

    The jackets look longish, and a safe hunch is that the pants were authentic (as opposed to the radicalized) takes on classic Oxford Bags.

  43. I have a few suits and jackets in my shop of this model (Still called Cambridge in Southwick, but US made) and have sold them well to my younger clientele. Some i have had to size up as a 40R has a 18 Point-to-point, but those shoulders are what sells it, absolutely perfect.

  44. just asking | October 21, 2012 at 7:06 am |

    a little ot, but… years ago there was a great men’s suit store called gorsat that had the same cut as brooks brothers but was 1/2 the price. (it was on murray street, i believe).. any place like that in NYC today??

  45. @just asking

    Gorstadt Clothes
    9 Murray St
    New York, NY 10007

    (212) 608-5863

  46. BB was rightly grilled here for the length of this jacket. But then I ventured upon this other Camel Hair Sport Coat, which is exactly like the top depiction, except that the length is right:,default,pd.html?omnpp=recently%20viewed

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