A couple years ago, when a guy at Brooks first mentioned they were considering a restaurant next door to the Madison Avenue Flagship, I thought it was a great idea. I still do. I mean, assuming there’s a bar, won’t it be the ultimate place to have a drink among fellow trads?
And for guys who work in menswear, it’ll be the obvious place to rendez-vous for a cocktail:
“Brooks, where else?”
But some don’t think it’s such a great idea. Writing for Forbes, Jonathan Salem Baskin notes how Brooks Brothers “invented apparel retailing for America’s ruling class,” and that it shouldn’t have to look beyond its sales floor to chart its direction. But the most interesting passage is this:
Brooks Brothers never sold products that were symbols of success; rather, it was where the successful shopped to eschew symbols. Sure, there were distinctive looks to the fabrics, colors and cuts, but the brand was less about selling a lifestyle as it was selling to it.
Buzzfeed, however, took a contrary view, saying the restaurant plan is actually a return to the brand’s roots — to catering to the very robber barons that Baskin says the brand built its reputation catering to:
While plans for the retailer’s new restaurant, “Makers and Merchants,” raised eyebrows when it was first reported by the New York Post earlier this week, the reality is that the Brooks Brothers aesthetic and core customer dovetail perfectly with the prototypical steakhouse diner. Think bankers, politicians, corporate executives who have no problem dropping $200 or more on a meal for two.
One more quote about well fed captains of industry. While preparing a piece on the upcoming Gilded Age exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, yesterday I came across the following passage in the accompanying book:
[Brooks Brothers'] reputation for fine quality was unparalleled, and many of the most famous men of New York society turned to Brooks Brothers for their evening ensembles…
Brooks may have spent the Gilded Age catering to New York’s fancy-dress-ball set, but in the 21st century the sun never sets on its retail doors. As the Buzzfeed story points out, nearly half its 300 stores are located overseas. — CC
Sperry Top-Sider recently announced it has revamped its collection of shoes and accessories called Gold Cup. Quality is promised to be higher, and of course prices are about double the usual, with boat shoes priced at $150.
For that you get, in the company’s words, “premium hand-sewn leather uppers, butter-soft deerskin lining, and Sperry’s patented ASV Technology (which reduces shock and vibration up to 30% for optimal comfort).”
There’s also quite a range of color choices, and the eyelets are 18k gold-plated, the prep equivalent of bling. — CC
This morning Kamakura Shirts alerted us to this recently produced, 11-minute, English-language TV profile of the company. It’s very interesting for its business and manufacturing insight, and if you’ve already become a fan of Kamakura, I think you’ll enjoy learning more about the great value and attention to detail that goes into its shirts. — CC
As speculated a couple of years ago, Brooks Brothers announced today that it plans to open a restaurant in the space on 44th Street that previously housed its women’s collection.
The news was broken today in a New York Post exclusive:
Brooks Brothers, the “Makers and Merchants” of fine American suits and ties since 1818, is turning its talents on another Yankee Doodle favorite — steak.
The legendary apparel emporium plans to launch a huge steakhouse, branded “Makers and Merchants,” at 11 E. 44th St., around the corner from its flagship store at 346 Madison Ave., sources told The Post.
The beefery will take over the three levels that Brooks Brothers took over from J. Press in 2008 and used for several years for its women’s line. The 15,000 square-foot space is now vacant, although Brooks’ awnings still hang over tall sidewalk windows.
A Brooks Brothers spokesman confirmed the plan, saying the company was “looking at summer 2014” for the opening, but emphasized, “It’s still way out.”
In other Madison Avenue news, a source at J. Press told us today that the company is planning to move its New York location in the near future, though it does not yet have a new location. — CC
Assistant editor Christopher Sharp takes the reins as we celebrate five years of news and commentary, words and pictures, clothes that make you cheer and clothes that make you cringe.
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As Ivy Style reaches its fifth anniversary, we are certainly now post-grads no plans on giving up the old alma mater.
Christian reminded me that I have gone from reader to comment-leaver to contributing writer and finally to staff member. Unknown to him, however, is that I had followed Ivy Style since the press release announcing its founding. I loved the collegiate masthead and recognized early how powerful a platform it would become.
I’d thought my writing days were over, but Ivy Style provided a new venue to explore a cherished hobby, and I’ve inadvertently become the resident rain man when it comes to sourcing Ivy miscellanea. I have officially participated for four years, provided 18 articles, and am now assistant editor. For any of you who like financial references, I kind of see myself as the Charlie Munger to Christian’s Warren Buffett.
Having neither the ambition to blog nor the desire to toil in the anonymous neither regions of the Internet, it was the place for me. I spend my time chasing butterflies and falling into rabbit holes and Christian trusts that I will come up with something worthy of our enterprise. I hope that you’ll agree, whether you’ve been with us for five days or the whole five years.
As I write this, I wonder if how I approach a project is not indicative of how the site on the whole presents things. I literally gather ephemera, articles (especially contemporary ones to the subject), advertising, catalogs, trade publications and first-person interviews. The material goes from random facts to compelling narrative, so in a way I feel like a storyteller. I believe we provide much for new arrivals as well something for the mature reader that raises it above just a nostalgic twice-told tale.
Anniversaries allow some latitude for chest-thumping, so let me present what I think makes this site special.
Love or hate the content of any given post, you know who we are. With just a couple of exceptions, the several dozen who have contributed to the site all did so under their own names in the full light of day. I am well aware it would take little effort for any of you to find your way to my doorstep, so I’ll let you know ahead of time that I keep plenty of good spirits around in hopes that you prefer boozing to brawling.
As for that stable of contributors over the past five years, what a wonderful world of diversity. When I used to pester Bruce Boyer with my questions as a young aficionado, I never thought we would become web colleagues, but here we are. As for Richard Press, forget Kevin Bacon and six — how about no degrees of separation? Is there anyone he doesn’t know? Richard represents an unbroken chain to the beginning of Ivy. Did you folks know he used to spend Sundays as a boy looking at fabric swatches with his grandfather? We’re all fortunate to capture and record his memories for posterity. As for others, our man in Japan W. David Marx illuminates the eastern perspective. Comment-leaver and occasional contributor James Kraus reverberates the “Mad Men” era in every projects he tackles. Deirdre Clemente and Rebecca C. Tuite, have shed light on midcentury college clothes and manners and both have forthcoming books, and Jason Marshall has penned jazz portraits as artful as his own playing.
We also offer trade news to our readers. Unlike vanity bloggers, we can stay neutral and give you the facts about new products. We introduce you to players that want to court your business, with no requirement that we endorse every product featured. We encourage you to make your own decisions and to make your voice heard. And trust me, it is heard in some rarified corner offices.
Writing for Ivy Style has also brought me the unanticipated opportunity to connect with my family history. I had almost forgotten — like finding the scarlet letter in the old custom house — that my introduction to Ivy was a childhood glimpse of my father’s class blazer stored in a cedar chest. Natural shoulders, undarted, three buttons with a hook vent. Because of my association Ivy-Style.com, when it came time for the MFIT exhibit I offered up some of the cedar chest treasures. They said no to the blazer as they had more harlequin ones, but they said yes to a graphically interesting sweatshirt. So I got the rare chance to tease my father with the news that he “was going to be in a museum.”
I’ll always recall the fall day when we went to the exhibit to view his sweatshirt together. A nearly ratty piece of cotton with a fuzzy appliquéd cigar-smoking, cudgel-waving bear that he gave to a young nursing student and teenage beauty queen over 50 years ago. He married her, and the sweatshirt went into the cedar chest only to recently emerge. Seeing the sweatshirt that day, I drew ever closer to the memory of a woman we lost too early to cancer, and that handsome blue-blazered, young undergraduate with a shock of black hair who became the father of my youth.
Finally, and here’s where we go from chest-thumping to corny, there are you readers. Our comments section reveals a diverse group of passionate individuals participating in a cavalcade of conflicting opinion. More than anything, you help make the site a lively place to spend some time. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP