In The Wrong Hood: Brooks’ Logoed Merchandise Languishing

You know the “back to campus” theme Brooks Brothers has been using the past couple of seasons, with youthful models and even more youthful clothing? Perhaps it should be retitled “back to the drawing board.”

Old-school curmudgeons will quiver with schadenfreude at the latest news Ivy Style gleaned at 346 Madison Avenue.

According to a high-up Brooksian, the collegiate sportswear collection — specifically the logoed stuff — isn’t selling. The older customers either “don’t get it or it doesn’t fit,” said the source, and the merchandise is not attracting the younger consumer it was obviously targeting.

“There are others who do that better,” the employee admitted, adding that many in the design department lack the sensibility to appreciate the company’s unique place in the history of American apparel retailing.

On the brighter side, this week Brooks Brothers tapped into the made-in-America trend of the past few years by highlighting its domestic manufacturing in an email blast and on its home page. Smart move.

As for the overseas manufacturing, I mentioned recently that I’m currently romantically intertwined with a woman who represents the company that manufactures Brooks’ Chinese-made clothing. For those who consider China a dirty word, she recently pointed out to me during dinner (menswear, golf and jazz being our usual topics of mealtime chitchat), that although the factories are located in China, the equipment and management is Japanese.

That may be a worthwhile distinction for pragmatists, while idealists will surely counter that clothing from the most quintessential American brand shouldn’t be made anywhere but here. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

38 Comments on "In The Wrong Hood: Brooks’ Logoed Merchandise Languishing"

  1. This is just another reason why I rarely purchase from BB’s anymore, other than their oxford cloth buttondowns. When they started betraying their customer base some time ago, in order to sell their new lines of “updated-classics” (oxymoron) I went elsewhere.
    Classics are what they are for a reason. If I wanted trendy clothing, there are plenty of other places to shop.

  2. BB customer | October 27, 2011 at 7:16 am |

    I’m surprised Brooks didn’t try to go more down the J. Crew route of touting their partnerships with “iconic” brands, kind of like J. Crew did with Alden, Barbour, Red Wing, etc. They sort of did this with Black Fleece (Thom Browne) which I imagine has been pretty successful, so I’m confused why they would have tried to go more downmarket with “streetwear” instead of appealing to the whole heritage craze which, as far as fashion trends go, is pretty harmless given the emphasis on quality and long-lasting appeal.

  3. Actually Brooks has done collaborations with such iconic brands as Levi’s, Ray-Ban, Red Wing and Edward Green.

  4. The Rugby-ization of Brooks Brothers……so, so terrible.

  5. Made here, made there… does it matter when it’s as ugly as that thing is? You pegged it, though…schadenfreude.

  6. As a fresh college grad trying to polish up my wardrobe for the office, I am dismayed when I see clothes like these when I walk into Brooks. They are exactly what I am trying to get away from.

  7. Good. This was a terrible decision from the start. Wasn’t this “trend” started by Abercrombie 10+ years ago? And since copied by others well before the Brethren? I was boggled by the move in the first place and filled with dread at some of those catalogues. It was a bad idea, meeting an appropriate end.

  8. Dear Brooks Brothers,

    You’re like an old guy trying to be hip by hanging around his old college fraternity. Old guys can be hip, but not by pretending they’re 21 again. Oh, sure, the frat brothers might pour him a drink, but they laugh about him when he’s not looking, and the sorority girls don’t think his expense account is sexy enough to overcome his lame trendy chardonnay and his man-boobs. Meanwhile, more’s the pity, he’s lost sight of all the great-looking and interesting 45-year-olds out there. When I was 23 I looked up to you because you knew how a 50-year-old should dress, but now the tables are turned. You’re like Benjamin Button, Brooks, aging in reverse. Grow the hell up and make real clothes for men, not boys, like you used to.

    Wistfully,
    A fmr. admirer.

  9. Thank God for J. Press, O’Connell’s, and the Andover Shop!

  10. I’m pretty sure Brooks could have paid just about anyone who comments on this blog a consulting fee to tell them that that garbage wouldn’t sell.

  11. And Cable Car Clothier’s!

  12. “I’m surprised Brooks didn’t try to go more down the J. Crew… ”

    I got a fall BB catalog in the mail yesterday. They could have put “J. Crew” on the cover and I would have been none the wiser!

  13. Brooks probably could do this. But they have to do what they used to do. Send reps to prep schools (The Manhattan ones are a long walk from the Madison Ave. store) and figure out the market. The problem with Asian manufacturing is quality control. You have to be there every step of the way. I looked at a made in China blazer 7 or 8 years ago. The canvas was thick as cardboard. I’ve never bothered to look again. You only get one chance to do it right and I think Brooks blew it. I hope they move all their quality dress clothes back to the USA.

  14. I have nothing against Chinese manufacturing per se. But with prevailing economic conditions being what they are, I think you have to assume that when someone chooses a US manufacturer for their goods, it is because they think the quality is better. They certainly don’t choose the US for price. So I’ve been seeking out the Press and O’Connels American made stuff a lot lately and am very happy with the quality. I love my Chinese made iPhone, but there seems to be something about textiles that gives us an edge.

  15. Need to be darker fo da blood to hide

  16. Brooks has lost its orientation and never went back on track.
    Though I don’t think switching back to made in America is the best solution. Brooks has a quite a high price and switching back to US will drive the price even higher, and whatever manufacturer that Brooks turn to will have a couple of years to get used to correct sizing and cut. J press had that problem years ago. What is done can’t be undone, Brooks cut off the link with its suppliers in the 80s, now it is very hard to restore to what it used to be.

  17. M. Farquharson | October 28, 2011 at 3:00 am |

    Pierre nailed it. I’m twenty-three and I tried finding the greatness of BB, and honestly, I couldn’t find it. I’m sure they had their day because it couldn’t have been as low as it is now.

    I bought my first sport coat from them, which ended up being part synthetic. I had only heard good reviews about them so I honestly tried to give them a chance, and I was constantly disappointed. My loyalties now lie to Phineas Cole and a bit of Ralph Lauren.

  18. Their neckties still produce the best knot and dimple.
    Their OCBD collars are still unbeatable.

    Apart from that, n o t h i n g.

  19. Brooks Brothers is just trying to stay in business. Our society frowns upon good manners and conservative attire. It’s just the dumbing down of America and beyond. Make the lowest common denominator the norm.

    Just happened to see a picture of Walter Hagen teeing of at Oakmont for the U.S. Open in the 1930’s. The gallery was filled with men in dress suits, ties, and hats. Walter wore a long sleeve shirt, tie, and plus fours, all beautifully tailored, not to mention he was freshly shaven and not a hair out of place. I can’t imagine anyone in that gallery throwing a hot dog at him, not even thinking about it.

    I feel sorry for you young fellows. It’s a sad time.

  20. “Their OCBD collars are still unbeatable”…. are you kidding? They’re lined now and nothing like what they were even 10 years ago. Brooks even managed to kill one of their classics by screwing with it. Either you haven’t even looked at a BB OCBD in the last few years or your a kid who doesn’t know how they used to be made.

  21. Your closing line is perfectly stated. Brooks Brothers clothes are well worth the price… but at that price, shouldn’t they be made right here at home?

  22. Richard Meyer | October 28, 2011 at 7:38 am |

    Pierre, Sir and others are so right! With the exception of some of the shoes, the BB merchandise is pure blah and worse.

  23. Does anyone at BB’s listen to constructive criticism/feedback such as this, from their once loyal old customers? If so, does anyone think that they will they ever return to what once made them an icon in the men’s clothing industry?

  24. @Sir

    I’m not a kid. I’m nearly 70 years old and have been a Brooks Brothers customer since the early 1970s.
    Their old unlined collars were clownish.
    To each his own, I suppose.

  25. Shame to spend all those decades defining what one is good at only to walk away from it. Don’t change your clothes for the culture. Change the culture for your clothes. If you are BB.

  26. Brooks x Ed Hardy. Horrifying.

  27. As a member of the target audience of this nonsense, I can guarantee you that none of this is worn on my campus. Sure, you see lots of Brooks Brothers being worn by students, but they are wearing OCBDs, sweaters (not hoodies!) and blazers! BB should do what it does best and not try to branch out. They might think it will be profitable in the short term but in 10 or 20 years, this will all be out of style. This is the problem when home-grown American companies get bought out by people who have neither the appreciation nor the knowledge of the brand and the tastes of its core consumer base.

  28. Before the decline of civilization, we called them “hooded sweatshirts”, and they only came in grey.

  29. 3 button max | October 29, 2011 at 8:02 am |

    Langyuishing is right!, “logoed” or otherwise.. i enjoyed shopping in old “downtown:” Brooks establishments c 1980(before the mall rat period)- remember the 6 button front , unlined collar-?—little did i realize that 1980 was the bottom of the 9th..-

  30. The hooded sweatshirt has been around for years, and isn’t going away any time soon. It is a staple item at many of the best colleges. But not with the silly logo etc. that BB is putting on theirs.

  31. I suppose that the difference is this one who wears a hooded sweatshirt wears it for the hood for warmth. One who wears a hoodie wears it to look like he’s from “the hood.”

  32. Regimental Stripe | October 29, 2011 at 7:55 pm |

    “Hood” is the abbreviated form of “hoodlum”.

  33. @Old Ivy. I have one from the late 70s. They were well made and outlasted me. I’ve erm filled out a little since then.

  34. Brooks is jumping on the Polo train. Crests, logo’s, no, make that LARGE logo’s! How much bigger can Ralph make them? The pony takes up half the shirt now!! :-). Yuck!

  35. “currently romantically intertwined” — i’m sure she’ll be thrilled to read that

  36. I looked at some of this stuff in the Madison Ave store. While most of it appeared to be well made, it had those logos. I did not recognize the crest and the 10th floor people I have spoken to had never seen it before during their career with the company. A salesman swore the stuff was “jobbed” and no one in management had any idea what it was until it was delivered to the warehouse in North Carolina.

    I’ve always gotten the impression that Brooks never utilized brand managers or a compliance department that has responsibility for protecting the brand and vetoing foolish ideas.

  37. Like OldSchool I’m in my sixties and as quick as any that age to be dismayed by the state of men’s apparel. But don’t be too quick to venerate everything that’s gone. In the sixties Brooks’ shirtcollars were unlined, but also shapeless–particularly after a few washings; the shirts were traditionally cut, but everyone I knew had them tapered; raw spots in the side seams weren’t uncommon.

    Brooks is finding its way after a long time in the wilderness. Ties are peerless, evening wear has reassumed importance in the stores, and accessories frequently celebrate Brooks’ traditions like Paul Brown. It’s returning production of important items to the U.S., and even to its own factories. The manufacture of Golden Fleece tailored clothing to its own Southwick factory really will leapfrog the American-made but subcontracted lines of many of its competitors. But all of this takes time.

    In the meantime I blame Brooks’ website and mailers for emphasizing so much of this “collegiate” merchandise. There are still beautiful things on the racks of the Madison Avenue flagship and beautiful made-to-order things to be had too, but they don’t pop up on the website or in the mailers. Fortunately, what Brooks’ loyal, discerning customers buy will prevail, and what they reject will disappear. It’s just part of Brooks finding its way back from the wilderness.

  38. I went to a college where Brooks Brothers was worn frequently, and nobody would’ve worn that crap. Someone at BB confused “marketing to the collegiate crowd” with “marketing to the third-tier collegiate crowd”.

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