Today Brooks Brothers is running an online campaign for its buttondown “polo” collar shirts. The tagline is “the shirt that changed history” (it’s also running as “a shirt that changed history”). Introduced in 1896, within a couple of decades it was already the default shirt for style-setting college men in the Northeast, and on places such as Wall Street, where such men went on to work.
But now history itself — namely the future history that is being made right now, if you follow me — is changing the shirt.
Last week a reader informed us that he spoke with Brooks Brothers’ customer service department as was told that traditional-fit shirts would no longer be offered in stores, and could only be purchased through the website. We reached out to a contact at the company to verify. A spokesperson reiterated that Brooks makes four cuts of shirt — traditional, regular, slim and extra-slim — but that traditional needs to be ordered online or in-store, as it’s not stocked on store shelves.
There is simply less demand for the traditional-fit model, whereas sales for the other three fits continue to grow each year. We recognize that that the traditional-fit shirt is important to some customers, therefore we continue to make it available in all the same fabrics.
The key phrase is “less demand.” Don’t blame the retailer, blame your fellow men. — CC
August 28th seems like an odd day of the year to dedicate to the wearing of bow ties. It’s summer, when many are trying to avoid ties if at all possible. And everyone’s preparing for the long weekend, if not already somewhere coastal or tropical.
Yet tomorrow is indeed National Bow Tie Day. Consider this your 24-hour notice (perhaps R. Hanauer, who operate bowties.com, can overnight you one).
It’s also the perfect excuse for a poll. Come on, tell us how you really feel. — CC
Recently J. Press sent out an email plugging its fall items, so if you haven’t visited the “new looks” page, take a look.
And while you’re there, tell me if things look a bit different compared to seasons past. The mannequin forms, shirt collars, tie choices — something feels like a piano slightly out of tune. (Continue)
We’ve had such a steady stream of newsy material that the menswear trade shows have been put off for months. So for the rest of this week I’ll be posting photos from shows in January, springtime, and just a couple of weeks ago. In other words, there will be a seasonal mixture. Check back on this post; new photos will be placed at the top. — CC (Continue)
Nick Hilton just sent over photos of the new Norman Hilton sportcoats we posted about recently. Made in the US, they will be priced at $695-$795, or about the same as last time around. They are scheduled to arrive in Hilton’s Princeton shop in the next few weeks. — CC (Continue)
In a previous article, I mentioned that native prints are not common among Ivy retailers today. This possibly overreaching assessment prompted me to make a more thoughly investigation of current offerings.
I approached O’Connell’s, the purveyor of all things traditional and known for its expansive collection of old stock. I struck out in finding any vintage heyday batik, but manager Ethan Huber shared with me the news that he was successful selling native prints last year and is offering again this year. The supplier of O’Connell’s native fabric items is Bills Khakis.
Readers who have followed the brand over the years have watche it go from one product to many. I asked founder Bill Thomas about native prints, and he said he’s offering the Parker model short in a kalamkari fabric. Kalamkari is an Indian fabric similar to batik. “The patterns were discovered in the archives of an old mill,” says Thomas. “It went back 50 years and took two days to look at all the samples of madras and kalamkari.” The fabric was introduced on a whim and is one of the more playful items in the collection. Thomas admits that Kalamkari is “off the register” both in wildness and in production. The hand-screening technique used creates imperfections in the print design. The shorts offered by Bill’s are in a 4.5-ounce cotton and 9.75 inseam. The Bills website offer two colors of Kalamkari shorts, golden sand and beach grass. Thomas suggests pairing them with solid polos, washed oxfords and chambray.
As we reach the heart of summer, I sense a deprivation. It goes virtually unnoticed, and yet it is there for any Ivy enthusiast to investigate. The stores are full of the requisite madras and seersucker, but little else. Compared to the Ivy boom years, or even the golden age of the 1930s, it appears as if part of the color palette is missing, pattern is virtually nonexistent, and ethnically diverse fabrics are nowhere to be found. Some will contend that this is natural selection, that madras and seersucker won fair and square. Others will point out that in a shrinking market, you offer what sells and no longer take risks. A third faction will wish we not peruse the subject at all. But we are going there.
Before the full ascent of the counter culture, back in the days of in loco parentis, there was a burst of sartorial hedonism on campus that students took to with Tahitian abandon. This was expressed in an appreciation for native fabrics. The first fabric family are those that use a dye-resistant technique. This style of cloth dates back at least 1,500 years, and is found in Africa, the Middle East, India and China. For many enthusiasts, the pinnacle of this style is represented in the batiks of Java and the East Indies. Batik takes it entomological roots from the word “ambatik,” which means “to write with little dots.” The word harkens back to the Dutch colonial period, when various forms of the word like mbatek, batik, batek and battik were used. Dutch records from the 17th century report “highly decorated fabrics,” but it wasn’t until the importation of fine quality cloth in the 19th century that allowed the elaborate style to flourish. (Continue)