Yesterday the trade publication WWD ran a slideshow of the Brooks Brothers Spring/Summer 2018 collection, giving us the first glimpse of what the company has up its sleeve in celebration of its 200th anniversary. Alas it was more of the same, and we will have to wait and see if Brooks has any kind of heritage collection planned. Those with high tolerance for heartbreak can view the full set of 35 looks here.
In summary, it’s more of that generic global look, with plentiful use of a penny loafer/sneaker hybrid:
The driving mocs help make this look feel Italian rather than classic Americana:
This sweater is probably meant to harken back to Brooks’ GTH classics ….
… while in this outfit nothing says forced nonchalance like a pocket square paired with sweatpants:
This is the closest thing in the collection to a trad outfit:
In other Brooks news, a source has told me that over 20 veteran salespeople at the 346 flagship store were offered buyouts or early retirement. The salesman said he’s now twice as busy, making much more in commission but also exhausted by all the running around. He also said that customers will need to be patient as the clerk to customer ratio has been essentially halved.
The legendary Tom Davis, decades-long head of Brooks’ custom-shirt program, was one of the vets to leave. I have spoken to him and Brooks PR on several occasions about doing an interview, and apologize to you readers for not pursuing it with greater assiduity. If anyone out there is a longtime customer of Davis and has his personal contact information, please let me know.
Finally, today’s email blast from Brooks plugs its new Golden Fleece footwear collection, which features more comfortable soles and Old World construction. Viva Italia. — CC
“… nothing says forced nonchalance like a pocket square paired with sweatpants…”
To say nothing of sweatpants with a presumably ironed-in crease…
I like the leather/Dainite hybrid sole on those gunboats, which looks like the best of both leather sole feel and the traction of a rubber sole… The rest looks like pish, though I imagine the “traddy” outfit features a two-sizes-too-small jacket on the model. Bum-freezer action going on. Very un-trad.
I’m all for contrast collar dress shirts but that contrast collar polo shirt looks awful. Must be a Milano fit. 😉
The shoe looks nice.
Everything else ranges from ridiculous to abominable.
I have a pair of Allen Edmonds long wings with Dainite soles that I use for sloppy weather, so I can’t complain about the shoes (although I know I paid hundreds less than $598 for mine). The rest is pretty bad, though. I thought the shrunken suit moment was expiring, but I guess that was wishful thinking.
Christian — I spoke to the young woman who is running Brooks’ custom shirt business since Tom Davis retired, and she said that he is living n the area and I gathered that she was in fairly regular contact with him. She might be your best source for his contact information.
Off the subject, I have noticed a ghastly new trend locally. Men are wearing sandals to work with dress pants or Khakis and OCBDs or other “business” attire. They are sockless, but not in a tradly way. Just to be clear, these are not transplants from tropical climes that may have different norms for business dress. It’s like they just woke up one morning and said, “To Hell with it; I ain’t wearin’ shoes no more.” I saw two guys yesterday, and three more today. I pray it was just an unfortunate coincidence.
BB is another old name on the way out. It’s amazing how quickly this venerable menswear company was destroyed by its recent owners. Then again, older men are no longer of interest to any retailer outside of the ones selling Medicare supplement plans and prescription drugs.
It’s a damn shame.
Have to say I’ve never actually seen a guy wearing sweatpants and a sport jacket. I hope this photo doesn’t start a trend. What’s the sartorial goal with that? “Hi, I’m an idiot”?
I skimmed through the full “set” of looks linked to, and in one the model appears to be wearing a sport coat made out of a sweatpants-like jersey material? (over a perfectly nice-looking olive colored cardigan sweater). Am I seeing that correctly? Is Fred “designing” for BB these days? (all things considered, that would actually make [grotesque] sense).
In other news: in addition to receiving the email on Golden Fleece footwear, I’m also starting to receive notices and email teasers for Duckhead’s projected relaunch this Fall. They are clearly going all-in with a citified/Banana Republic/Urban Outfitters aesthetic. Hang on to your old stovepipe khakis, boys, ’cause they ain’t coming back.
What is Claudio thinking. Tradition is dead Brooks Brothers is now making suits for Pee Wee Herman. The shoes look good but that’s about it.
Please, for the love of heaven above, can we stop using Pee Wee Herman to describe short suits? Not only was it barely funny to begin with, it’s been repeated for the last decade so much that it annoys to no end. Come up with something else. Be more clever!!
-A Pee Wee Herman fan
That models looks as though he’s wearing his younger brother’s suit. A sort of reverse hand-me-down.
The model’s expression in each look seems to suggest “My wife bought me this and is making me wear it, please stop looking at me.”
Bruce Boyer called BB a “low-rent Italian department store,” and sadly, I have to agree with him.
Many of the looks shown here have a forced sprezzatura and appeal to the lowest common denominator. The departure of Thom Browne was a huge loss and the quality of merchandise and design has nose-dived since his exit.
I’m working very hard, but failing miserably, to un-see the jacket-OCBD-sweat pants disaster and the light-jacket-half-zip-OCBD fiasco. And why in gawd’s name do I have to endure another cliched pic of a guy with sweater sleeves crossed over his shoulders? All of it is just dumb. It makes me glad they shuttered their Austin store. It will save me from seeing this crap in person.
Yet combine Italian style with Americana-Ivy-trad would be possible ( if one know the Americana tradition).
Neapolitan soulders are very similiar to Ivy natural shoulders,and so the three buttons roll lapels.
You can add to this a morerelaxed fit,with curved darts or none dart.
You can add hook vent and two buttons at the cuff,and flat front trousers.
Carmelo is correct
Sorry that sent too quickly, the rest of my point is that good Italian style plus good American style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is it what Brooks Brothers should be doing? Debatable, but places like The Armoury are doing it quite nicely, as is Sid Mashburn.
Unfortunately, Carmelo, nobody at the company understands what you’re talking about.
And if he does, he only understands it intellectually but lacks the taste for it and senstivity to it.
Once it was second nature to the men in the company. It was in their blood. But it’s a different era now, and a different company.
“Hand-me-up” I guess we should start saying.
“The departure of Thom Browne was a huge loss…” Are you trying to be funny?
Thom Browne may have left, but his influence can still be smelled.
That smell is the smell of a still wet wool suit being removed from a dryer on the hot setting for cotton.
Incidentally, who makes the shoes? There is something not quite right about them. IMHO
I believe Allen Edmonds had the same comfort fold the sole in half shoe in the Forties. Everything old is new again.
After 52 years of being a Brooks patron, I am done. Frankly, this cuts it for me. I am moving on. Sweat pants with an odd jacket – please. Well all good things come to an end.
I hate to say it but I am afraid the handwriting is on the wall for Brooks demise and ultimate closure. The demise has probably already occurred. Early retirement and buy-outs for seasoned employees? Yep. First step.
This is what happens when you abandon your core market for another and then try to bring them back into the fold while still trying to appeal to the other. It just doesn’t work. Your core market moved on. It’s Retailing 101, folks.
We have seen it time and time again with other retailers. We all know a few department stores right now who are the brink because they forgot their core market.
Blaming Amazon, or the economy or the “Walmartization” of America may be a convenient excuse for failure. But then explain why niche speciality clothing retailers are thriving now. Because they found their core market, stuck with them and resisted some overpaid, clueless CEO’s “vision”.
Your typical Brooks customer is not gonna to pay a premium for a ridiculously proportioned suit that is junk and overpriced to begin with.
Brooks lost its way like so much of our society. And, no, that’s not a political statement.
Well, in the interest of my role as moderator, I think that ceasing patronage of a brand because of one runway look is a bit silly. I wouldn’t give it that much importance. You can still find a few things there, though the theme for many years here is that there are a lot of trads who are happy to give Brooks their money but can’t find anything to get in return.
Yes. You can STILL find a few things such as rep ties, argyle socks, and belts. But, when was the last time you could walk in to Brooks and find a Shetland crew neck or a pair of trousers with a proper raise?
We all feel your pain, and yet thank god those things still exist.
Brooks sweaters are mostly made in China these days but as for a proper trouser rise, they can still be counted on. I bought a pair of grey flannels from them back in December and they have a proper fit and rise. Too bad they’re made in Thailand.
Euro style abundant, maybe because the guy is one and knows nothing else.
No shocker here, BB’s should just call it quits once and for all!
@Cort: “…explain why niche specialty clothing retailers are thriving now.” Huh? The retail sector as a whole is struggling. In Boston, where I live, mens specialty clothing boutiques are losing business to Amazon and other online retailers like Gilt and Mr. Porter. The legendary mens clothing store, Louis, Boston, closed their doors permanently several years ago. Who knows, maybe Amazon will buy Brooks Brothers the way they purchased Whole Foods on discount.
Niche menswear retailers, with brick & mortar stores, like Suit Supply, Sid Mashburn, Harrison, and The Armoury seem to be flourishing. And in my neck of the woods, try booking a weekend appointment at Tailors’ Keep.
By niche I meant the mom and pop clothing stores all over this country that have been in business for years. The bedrock of our country’s retail environment. Most town or city worth its salt has one. Downtown on Main Street.
The kind of store that found its customer base early. And stuck to it. And got it right. Stores that survived economic downturns, wars and political upheavals. They don’t trade on trends or fancy gimmicks. The fixtures are worn and they don’t have a fancy website, but they do have great customer service, quality items, allegiance to their customer. But most importantly, they have a pride of ownership.
Here in Tampa we have Greiner’s. In business four decades and now catering to second generation customers.
Sometimes we forget bigger is not better and getting back to basics and getting back to work at what we do best is how we really survive.
Where I live, niche retailers like Ratio are springing up to replace the old ones that passed away. I’d rather buy my Brooks shirts through them where they serve you a drink, chat for a bit, and get to know your style/needs instead of the local Brooks store replete with pushy salesmen.
I also think part of the problem facing Brooks is that it has lost its cache. When people high-end shop they want to feel like it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
Used to be Brooks had locations only in major cities. You had to travel there to shop there and that was something special because it said you had the means to do so. Or, once a year a Brooks salesman came to your city with his samples, set up shop in a Downtown hotel for a week and you ordered your shirts for the next year. Talk about customer service!
Then Brooks started opening up locations in practically every city and airport (and, gulp, outlet mall) and it became just like any other chain store. So now not only are you buying overpriced, poorly made items you also lost the luxury shopping experience.
Another good example: Ralph Lauren.
The tender corporate coaches from the human resources departments always advise to start with a compliment before you open fire.
1) For many years, Brooks showed its models’ neckwear tied in full windsors, even under buttondowns. The one in the suit photo may be a half-windsor. Next stop: four-in-hand. Maybe in 2018.
2) There is no 2).
I agree that you can cherry-pick Brooks’ stock and make off with a few nice things. My idea of a specialty store (and admittedly Brooks is a “special case” where specialty stores are concerned) is similar to a well-edited magazine: the entire contents seems to proceed from a single sensibility. Think of the William Shawn-era New Yorker (aka, the pre-“f*ck” New Yorker). You (or I, anyway) wanted to read every article every week; the drawings were all funny. Similarly, a specialty store, ideally, is full of clothes you really like. The taste (if not the quality) is consistent piece to piece. Naturally, you can’t like absolutely everything, boxers AND briefs, hats AND…well…no hats. Every tie can’t catch your eye, but picking a tie should be a matter of winnowing a wealth of possibilities, not a desperate search for even one that will do. Can you imagine the warm pleasure of walking into a store where it seemed that everything was selected with you in mind?
It would interesting to hear Brooks’ vice president for men’s merchandising (or whatever he’s called) stand up and defend the decision to carry each item. In almost every case, the question from the audience would be the same: “What the f*ck were you thinking when you signed the order for that?” The answer too often, I’m afraid, would be, “To me, it was just an SKU, a quantity, and a mark-up. Without having to lay my eyes on a sketch or a sample, I could tell that, at $12 cost, we could mark it $125 dollars, reduce it by 70 percent, and still sell it for three times what we paid for it. People still love the Brooks Brothers name, but they think we are too expensive for them. At 70 off, they’ll buy anything”.
Earlier today, was in the Brooks Brothers store in Beverly Hills. Many of the male sales staff were not wearing either ties or jackets.
Also noticed there were far fewer sales staff than there used to be, however there weren’t any customers in the store, so the staff reductions didn’t seem to be causing any problems.
As for shoes, a while back Brooks Brothers told me they didn’t want me buying shoes from them any more when they stopped offering anything except “D” widths.
I actually have to agree with all of the above. Sure, I have access to Brooks here in SEA because of globalisation, but what the hell is the point when you go in and you don’t get the experience you want? Not to mention at a ridiculous price hardly asking of the quality. I’ve recently found out I can get a pair of wool pants MTM at a price comparable to the Advantage chinos at Brooks. Talk about ridiculous. I’d rather have Brooks shutter their stores here but go back to the merch I expect. If I go through the trouble of getting it, at least I’ll get what I want.
@ RMD – I was in the Seattle Brooks Bros. about a dozen years ago and asked where I could find their club ties. The three 20 somethings had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
Perhaps it is the millennial in me, but I would prefer to discuss the future of what BB could be. There is no argument that, as it stands (or falls), Brooks is good for few things. I’d like to imagine that the Italians finally come to their senses and restructure the whole organization.
They close all but 10 stores internationally – all of which would operate as flagships for their region. They focus 75% of their effort on online retail, perfecting the at-home try on experience. They drastically scale back their offerings – in keeping with current online retail trends. BB sells a few shirts, ties, and jackets. The only accessories they offer are made in partnership with other companies – shoes from Alden, ties from Drakes, etc. Costs may go up, sure, but so would quality of merchandise and customer service. Most importantly, BB scales back its clearance sales to once or twice a year. The business as a whole would shrink, but I can’t imagine proportional net profit going down long term.
Yes, this may sound a bit like Sid Mashburn or the Armoury, but those brands do not carry the same cachet. This would be a completely new BB, and yet it would be a return to the older model of doing business. With fewer brick and mortar stores, they could be more selective about the type of salesman they employ. Moreover, they could still do trunk shows in their modern incarnation as “pop-up shops.” I, for one, believe BB can be made great again.
I wish that I could share your optimism and enthusiasm JDD, but as long as Del Vecchio is running the show, Brooks is doomed.
JDD — I wish that what you suggest would happen. BB should close most stores at home and abroad, including all of the airport shops and most certainly their branches in my little town and other similar markets. The overhead for all that brick & mortar must be astronomical. Southwick could make their tailored clothing, Mercer the shirts, Alden and/or Allen Edmonds the shoes. Not all that much would need to change, but the near complete lack of classic American design sensibility needs to go. I am a 3/2 sack guy and that is definitely a niche market these days, but Sid Mashburn, Ben Silver, and Eljo’s in Charlottesville all show that one can be contemporary while staying true to the spirit of traditional American design. Ralph Lauren used to do this, combining English and American design elements in the 70s and 80s Polo label. O’Connell’s seems to do a good business while staying true to the classic heyday look, and I am also hopeful that J. Press will stay on track, even if not everything there these days is for me. The guys at the N.Y. York Street store indicated that the fall would bring some great natural shoulder 3/2 sack coats in the new 44th Street store. So, while we all miss Brooks, all is not lost.
Charltsville my buddy works at a small mens shop from what he tells me a lot of places that used to use S Cohen are dumping them since they no longer make in canada, I wouldnt be surprised if Press started using someone else in Canada like Samuelson, in the past they occasionally used Empire those were pretty good shoulders
Gene — I was told by the sales guys in the J. Press NY store that the new suits are coming from Montreal. I asked if it was Empire, and they said yes. Eljo’s, our local trad shop, uses Empire and Southwick for most of its tailored clothing. I am hopeful.
No cuffs on the suit trousers?? Completely and utterly unacceptable. Cheap looking.
DCG says fall samples of J. Press look terrific and they’ll be unveiled soon. Shoulder much improved.
Thank you for the update re J Press. This is very good news.
I took advantage of their recent summer suit sale. I purchased a Red Fleece seersucker and a Milano fit Cotton blend. Both were a first for me and both fit very nicely. nice soft shoulders
Those of you wishing that Brooks would close (…er…consolidate) some stores are getting your wish in the puny Chicago market. Northbrook Court, Woodfield, and most recently, Deer Park have closed. The suburbs where you might (historically) expect to find Brooks customers, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Barrington, etc., must trek to Skokie. Only four stores, two of which are in the city, remain. Admittedly, the new store in Skokie has the old Persian-carpet-dark-wood-and-brass look, but the inventory level (maybe eight styles of shoes) hardly hints at a full-line store.
I wish I knew what could be done to save Brooks. Even if you gave Brooks brilliant merchandising, optimal real estate in its ten most enthusiastic markets, and closed down the rest of the stores, I doubt the store we all wish Brooks would be could survive for long. Retail is retail, and the sound that used to be cash registers ringing is a death rattle.
I think one of the problems guys like us face is that most people in this country don’t dress very well anymore. We are a tiny, tiny section of the market and fashion seems to have moved to Street Style AKA Hood Rat style. I think even if by some miracle BB went back to its roots, it wouldn’t matter a whit. Amazon is taking over everything. We’ve seen how things have changed these past ten years. The next ten years (for brick and mortar retail) is dismal.
I’m glad I was around for the heyday of classic menswear and will continue as best as I can to wear the clothing I’ve worn for decades. But BB will be less and less important to me because they no longer care about me as a customer. I’m not leaving them, they are leaving me.
“I think one of the problems guys like us face is that most people in this country don’t dress very well anymore. We are a tiny, tiny section of the market…”
Truth. But this can be reframed: “Most people don’t dress very well anymore. We represent a tiny portion of the market. All to the good. We’ll look better than our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. And they’ll know it.”
They’re keeping the faith by way of Garland and Southwick. And since they’re probably (still) Alden’s best client, they’re keeping several American manufacturers going. I mean, they basically saved Southwick.
The sack coat and button-downed oxford cloth “polo shirt” are artifacts of 19th/20th century Americana. They’re charming in the same way that, say, on old fountain pen is charming. Was Ralph Lauren the most probable/logical inheritor (savior?) of the look? Maybe. Especially if he had wanted to reshape the RRL brand. We tend to connect the style with the 1950s and 1960s, but what about the late 19th century and early 20th century incarnations? Before the absurd skinniness too hold.
* ‘took’ hold.
One of the benefits of people like us who lived around Boston, in pre-outlet store days, 1970s and 80s, was being able to shop at Filene’s Basement. Twice a year, after their in store sales, Brooks would send all their leftover suits, sport coats and other merchandise, except shirts and ties, from ALL their stores nationwide to Filene’s downtown store on Washington Street. Aging prepsters would line up for blocks in winter snowstorms to buy Brooks own make at dawn. Own make suits were 75% off Brooks label prices. It was not uncommon for gents to buy five-six suits or all they could carry and how I was able to have a closet of 50 Brooks suits and 12-15 sport coats and Blazers. It was Heaven for somebody like yours truly.
On those wintry mornings, an old Evangelical type would often show up with a ragged sign asking,” Do you think there is a Brooks Brothers in Heaven?” or “Does God wear a Brooks Brothers suit?” Of course he had a metaphor or sermon of another intent in mind. I often think of this scene.
The merchandise being sold back then was not what we see here.
There’s no denying that throughout the 20th century, a WASPy (forgive me) New England look developed. It just did. It’s been well chronicled here and elsewhere that by 1960, the fundamentals of the look had been established–by Brooks Brothers and their numerous college shop imitators. Oh, and Ralph Lauren.
But New England, Old Money WASP isn’t in. In fact, it seems to be very much out. For some reason, the acceptable alternative is what we see in these pictures–the direction Brooks has taken. A very modern, Italian vibe. CC’s observation: “…feel Italian rather than classic Americana.” He (rightly, I think) contrasts the two.
I can only imagine the subtle, subconscious signals an old-school trad ensemble sends to those among the intelligentsia who, as they decode and exegete, find it all stuffy and insular and frumpy pompous and, well, offensive. Probably other things too.
I say as I reach for my old Weejuns.
Chris, S.E. and Vern –All sadly true. I will continue to dress as I have since coming of age in the late 70s, which was arguably the last gasp of widespread Ivy availability, but I doubt I will see the classic Ivy look on too many others around me. However, I wish that the current style were not so sloppy (hoodie and ratty jeans) and clownish (shrunken suits, displaying naked ankles on top of double monks, which I see regularly on young lawyers in this area). They will look back and cringe one day, as would anyone unlucky enough to have worn platform shoes and a leisure suit in the 70s, which I thankfully managed to escape, although I wish I could disown my teen and college-age hair style. This is just a very ugly time for men’s clothing for the most part. I hope the pendulum will reverse directions, but it is unlikely we will get back to anything approaching tradition or elegance.
My husband relied on Brooks for years, but when we were living in California, we found that the service and quality of Carroll & Company in Beverly Hills was much better. As a woman, I purchased a few basics from Brooks, but I was not one for full on androgyny that could easily be achieved with many of their offerings back in my earlier working years. I did, however, appreciate the nice shoes they had for women that were made in Italy! Now they are “imported” and of very poor quality. The irony. I purchased lovely classic loafers of soft leather, and I miss those. I still visit the store in Charlottesville on occasion and have purchased some sweaters and shirts there. It’s an ugly time for clothing and the passing parade of people out there. I don’t think I will see a change in my lifetime, but I would certainly like to be wrong about that. Although we are retired and live in a small town, we will not emerge from our bunker (for any reason) looking like slobs. Someone once asked, “Are those pearls permanently attached to your neck?” Pretty much.
After reading about how over 20 veteran salespeople at the 346 flagship store were offered buyouts or early retirement which left at least one salesman exhausted by all the running around I wrote to Brooks Brothers asking them to please take better care of their employees. Nobody wants to support a business that doesn’t treat its employees well. I doubt it will make a difference but I had to speak up.
Ms. Grossman – Keep up the good work. My wife and I have a bit of a bunker mentality as well, but are meeting friends at an outdoor children’s concert tonight in a nearby town. We are picnicking in 90 degree heat and dress will, quite properly, be informal. However, I imagine my khakis, and madras or seersucker shirt will be in the minority in a sea of t-shirts, cargo shorts, and giant, brightly colored athletic shoes. At least the company of our friends, the fried chicken and, with luck, the music will be enjoyable.
I second those who mentioned O’Connell’s, Ben Silver, and (with fingers crossed) J. Press.
@Charlottesville: I hope you had a nice evening free of biting bugs. Your post triggered a memory of being at Tanglewood back around 1986. What a different world it was then.
Mrs. Grossman — 1986 was a pretty good time, being post-hippie and pre-grunge. What is Tanglewood like these days? I have never been. Family picnics at the Boston Pops outdoor concerts on the Charles River Esplanade, and the pre-Kennedy-Center, pre-hotel outdoor concerts at the Washington Watergate on the Potomac are among my childhood memories from, I suppose, the late 60s. I don’t know whether they still exist in some form. The last time I attended a symphony performance at Wolf Trap near Washington, dress was decidedly casual, but the music was lovely. There is a scene in the 1950 film version of Born Yesterday set at a Watergate concert, as I recall. Last night’s performance by the municipal band in Staunton, Virginia was also fun but, as a children’s concert, it devoted a great deal of time to the music of recent Disney princess cartoons, which was unfamiliar to me. At least, DEET kept the bugs at bay, and the numerous younger tots in attendance were adorable and seemed to enjoy it all.
I was both shocked and disgusted that Brooks opened an outlet in my smallish to mid-sized home town a couple of years back. It’s in one of the most downscale parts of town, far from those who (along with their ancestors) liked the store’s classic style, and picked up stuff on NYC visits or simply did mail order. Agree with others who wish most of Brooks stores would close. They’ve extended way past their core customers.
I’m looking forward to seeing the new items that are designed or overseen by Michael Bastian – I believe some of his influence may be appearing already.