Brooks Brothers made news in a rather dubious fashion this week. The magazine Garage ran a piece entitled “On the Enduring Bland Appeal of Brooks Brothers — and the Freaks Who Love It.” This is followed by the subhead “How has this brand been around for so long?”
Quotes the piece:
The titular man from Mary McCarthy’s 1941 story “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt” buys said shirts “a dozen at a time.” He doesn’t relay to the narrator that there’s any special appeal regarding their fabrics, or their construction—just that they’re readily available in bulk. He buys everything at Brooks, a habit his wife finds “stodgy”; the only distinctive feature about shirts is the monogram on the wrist, which he only has because monograms are gratis when the shirts are custom-made. The shirts, it appears, just happen to him.Tom Yarbrough is a white Nashville businessman with a salt-and-pepper beard and the disposition of someone who would, similarly, happen into a lot of Brooks Brothers. And he does. He has more than 100 Brooks Brothers shirts, in fact, in every color and stripe and plaid imaginable, though he often defaults to blue. They hang and lay around his home, “stacks of ’em,” he says, proudly displayed on the Instagram he dedicates to them, @glengarrysportingclub. And he bought all those shirts on purpose.
Brooks Brothers shirts are not particularly collectible. For the most part, the company’s wares are decidedly nondescript and mass-produced. Further, there isn’t a huge difference between the preppy shirts that Brooks makes and the ones produced by its numerous competitors: oxford cloth, button-down collars (O-C, B-D), business-casual vibes. But in that mundanity, Yarbrough found something compelling enough to keep him coming back, over and over and over. ”There’s a power that maybe an article of clothing shouldn’t have,” he told me.
So there you have it: one man’s bland is another man’s power. Check the piece out here. — CC
Image from Glen Garry Sporting Club.