Back in January, when I learned about what we now call the new/old Brooks Brothers oxford-cloth buttondown, Ivy Style did something unprecedented: we ran two posts in one day. And the next day we did it again. These four posts — the news announcement, followed by analysis pieces by myself, Bruce Boyer, and Dan Greenwood — were picked up by various menswear blogs and forums around the web, and after eight years we broke all previous traffic records.
Today that little fact is recounted in the New York Times in a piece that quote myself, along with Lisa Birnbach, author of “The Official Preppy Handbook.”
Entitled “Brooks Brothers Revives The Preppiest Shirt Collar,” the piece is authored by Troy Patterson, a Princeton alum (for those keeping track of that sort of thing) who writes on men’s fashion for the paper, plus the “On Clothing” column in the NY Times Magazine.
The piece is a witty and erudite telling of the story that’s so central to us in Tradsville, but full of quixotic humor for those outside our borders. Most of the piece is devoted to the concept of collar roll, and it concludes with the observation that fussing over something that’s meant to look unfussy seems rather silly.
I spent over 30 minutes on the phone with Patterson, trying my best to summarize the sentiments of Ivy’s readership, much of which has been wearing the shirts since before I was born. A few quotes made the final copy. Here’s a sample:
“The distinctive roll was prized for its nonchalance going back to the 1920s,” said Christian Chensvold, the founder and editor in chief of the trad-fashion website Ivy Style. That Mr. Chensvold broke traffic records with his coverage of the new button-down suggests the peculiar gravity of the quintessential American clothier’s reworking of its quintessential product.
It also indicates the richly complicated feelings of Brooks Brothers’ most passionate customers, who double as its least patient critics, vexed that its emergence as a global brand complicates sober stewardship of its establishment legacy. “For basic men’s wear, Brooks Brothers is the source; it’s the prehistoric mud,” said Lisa Birnbach, editor of “The Official Preppy Handbook” and a co-author of “True Prep.” “Because of that, people get very proprietary.”
Mr. Chensvold said, “What they did with this shirt is symbolic of what’s going wrong with the whole company.”
Despite the major transformation of Brooks’ merchandise over the past several years, the trad community still retains a degree of fidelity based on personal memories and the larger-than-life role that Brooks had in American culture. It stood in symbolic relation to the times, to borrow a phrase.
If there’s one recurring motif I hear from longtime patrons, both in the store and in messages I receive, is that they want to give Brooks their money but have a hard time finding products to receive in exchange. Apparently the merchandising strategy of the new/old shirt — which removed material while adding to the cost — has worked. There are men out there happy to pay $140 to have a Brooks shirt with a collar that rolls. As Patterson writes, “This is the sort of detail in which God is said to exist.”
So they have or plan to attenuate the lined collar which was a stupid move in the first place. Now some nearly 20 years hence, they are seeking old lovers. I say that we are happy with our current squeeze, Mr. Mercer!
What a wonderfully written NYT piece, with well-deserved shout-outs to Ivy Style! Keep it up, folks. Your writing provides welcome periodic respite as I slog through the workday.
Much too funny. $140, all for a theoretically better collar roll. I have mixed feelings–if it helps Brooks stay afloat, fine. If iGents and old customers are fooled into thinking this is anything more than merchandising, not so fine. The well-known quote from Abraham Lincoln comes to mind, and the allusion to the emperor’s new clothes is much too easy. For me, and I’m sure for many other the men, and at least until the pocket returns, the older roll is just fine.
Directly across from my office, in a very cool mixed-use commercial/residential/retail ‘town center’ sits a Brooks Brothers store, from which I’ve purchased all kinds of things over the years. Every time I walk by it on my way to the gym, I feel a slight (and growing) pull to go in there and buy one of these damned shirts. But I also think to myself, “You know, you really ought to get Mercer’s version first”. The overarching voice in the back of my head, of course, is my wife’s, asking, “How many oxford shirts does one man need?” And that’s without her even knowing the cost (of both Brooks’ and Mercer’s). Still …
I’m waiting for the Father’s Day Sale.
Is it still necessary for us to underline our masculinity by saying “on my way to the gym”?
Excellent article and fun quotes.
I think we should follow Paul’s lead, and always insert a phrase like “on my way to the gym”.
Otherwise people might think we were on our way to a needlepoint exhibition, a quilting bee, or a Tupperware party
I was actually on my way to play ice hockey, followed by preparing for a hunting trip. But I didn’t want to make all you sissies feel bad, so I fibbed. Won’t ever happen again, ladies.
GG Fascot writes: “I think we should… always insert a phrase like “on my way to the gym”.”
I’ll build on that by suggesting everyone insert words along the line of “…on my way to the gym at the Harvard (Yale, Princeton, whatever) Club…” 🙂
Why not change your monicker to Rugged Masculinity?
On my way to the tannery to retrieve the hide from the rhinoceros I had shot on safari a couple of weeks earlier, I happened upon a quaint little teashop. Feeling the irresistable pull of the darling wee place, I hauled my size 13 blood-encrusted hunting boots across the threshold, to be greeted by the most enchanting collection of lace antimaccasars, hand-crocheted doilies, and absolutely scrumptious tea and scones. I had the most delightful time, regaling the diminuitive blue-haired denizens of the place with tales of adventure whilst on safari, all the time supping artisinal rose-infused micro-tea and munching on delicate cream scones that were to die for.
What a treat it was indeed!
You were crushing it until the last three words. With “to die for” I was suddenly back at the neighborhood grocery store with the Jewish and Italian ladies experiencing la petite mort over the Gabagool and Moozadell.