Paint It Black

Yesterday I realized that Brooks Brothers is gone and it gave me a real sadness.

A year ago this weekend, on a sunny day much like today, I took one of my nephews into Brooks Brothers and showed him around. I told him that one day I would buy him something there, when he was grown up, just like I had done once for his big brother. This was just a few days before the pandemic hysteria hit and the store shut down. It re-opened last summer, but I had not been in there until yesterday, when I was walking by the store by coincidence and saw a sign on the street for 25 percent off. I went in and the entire store had been re-arranged. Suits, shirts, and ties were pushed to the back of the store and kept to a minimum section. Up front and spread all around were sweatpants, t-shirts, and some other frivolous wear. Where once I saw distinguished salesmen in nice clothes, this time I was greeted by a teenager wearing an untucked polo shirt over a long-sleeved t-shirt and immediately noticed that his fingernails were painted black.

I asked him if the blazers still would be on sale tomorrow at 50 percent off, and he initially did not seem to know what a blazer was. Look, I love sweatshirts and t-shirts and shorts because I use them every day when I exercise, but they don’t belong in such a prominent place at Brooks Brothers. I don’t know if I can ever take my nephew back there. I still may go back there this week and get a made-in-the-USA tie and a buttondown shirt, but I’m not sure I can ever rely on it to fill out my wardrobe like I used to.

J. Crew used to be next door to Brooks Brothers, but it shut down a year ago, before the pandemic, and never came back. Around the corner was a great Johnston & Murphy store, but it left in a dispute with the landlord in the shopping center, which is now in bankruptcy.

The last year has been such a waste, but maybe it just hastened what was already on the way.  So sad. — CG

Screenshot via Masslive.com’s report on the Brooks Brothers abandoned warehouse in Enfield, CT

18 Comments on "Paint It Black"

  1. What never fails to amaze me is that so many people seem perfectly happy to appear perpetually and terminally bedraggled. It boggles the mind.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

  2. Masslive.com reports that Brooks Brothers will have to pay $250,000 to dispose of 100,000 ft.² of fixtures, furnishings, and equipment.

    $2.50 a square foot to dispose of it. It boggles the mind.

  3. elder prep | March 29, 2021 at 6:20 pm |

    Another piece of civilization disappears. Are we traditional dressers an endangered species? O quam cito transit gloria mundi.

  4. For what it’s worth, I recently visited the Brooks factory store on Eastern Shore of Maryland and nothing had changed since the last time I was there, about the time the new ownership was announced last year. A wall full of dress shirts, racks of ties, including bows, another wall of suits and jackets, and so on. I saw only a few discreetly displayed T-shirts. The store was neat and well-organized and the clerks were nicely dressed and polite. For me, the great tragedy is the closing of the Madison Avenue store, where I was a customer for many years. That was the symbol of what Brooks Brothers once was, the Brooks of Fitzgerald, O’Hara and Cheever.

  5. John Carlos | March 29, 2021 at 6:56 pm |

    I used the scissors to dispose of my BB charge card which I have had since 1978. It’s that bad.

  6. I have fond memories of taking a bus to the downtown BB when I was in grad school and looking for my size shirt in their full-wall shirt display. I think that they were $35 each, which I could easily afford on my teaching assistant’s salary back then.

    I somehow got by with a single suit and 5 or 6 sport coats in those days. The suit was BB, the sport coats from the little boutique places that used to be common in New England. Getting that first BB suit was sort of a rite of passage back then.

    More recently, I have memories of walking into the Tysons Corner BB and being unable to get the attention of the staff. I never had that problem at the Georgetown store, but they would often try to sell me Red Fleece stuff. This seemed a bit odd, because this was back when I was doing lobbying for a big tech company and was definitely dressing the part. And I was probably 30 years older than any of the models that they would show wearing the Red Fleece line.

    I never had these sorts of issues at the DC J Press store. They always seemed friendly and on the proverbial ball.

    But since I’ll be retiring in about 10 months and probably have enough clothes to last me the rest of my life, the fact that BB has gone to h**k isn’t that big a deal. I’ll miss visiting the J Press store. Not the BB stores so much.

    Come to think of it, there was a bright side to the Georgetown BB store. There used to be a young Iranian woman who worked there who was also a fan of their Black Fleece stuff. We’d show each other pictures of us getting drunk in various outlandish BF outfits. Unfortunately, she’s no longer there, so I have a very hard time thinking of any reason to go there again.

  7. Gary Glazer | March 29, 2021 at 8:15 pm |

    I remember my first visit to the store at 346 Madison Avenue as a 16 year old from Cleveland in 1966-first time I ever set foot in a BB store. It was a pure unadulterated joy- I purchased two striped shirts,a repp tie and a pumpkin color crew neck sweater.I also bought some lemon scented soap. I paid for the purchase with money I had saved working all summer as a bus boy in a restaurant. Nothing can obliterate that memory-I am sorry that those days are gone but the fond memories remain. New times and hopefully new memories.

  8. Gary,
    I have similar memories- a sense of wonder when entering the place. I,too, had to save my money beforehand. The only difference between us: you were 16; I was in my late 30’s. But going there, especially for the sale every December 26th, is an experience I wish I could go through again.

  9. John Carlos | March 29, 2021 at 9:35 pm |

    In spite of my cutting up my BB card, I, too, have great memories. My first visit to a store was in Houston in the late 1970’s as a young lawyer. A magical experience. I just wish it was still so.

  10. Bastian what have you done?!?!
    Although they fucked around with the dress shirt fit enough that I search deadstock on eBay instead.
    At least they still have polos…

  11. Gentlemen, a couple of you left long comments that were auto-held in the queue for moderation. They’re so good that I think they deserve their own posts.

    It’s going to be a week of fond memories of something that once was but now is no longer.

  12. Dutch Uncle | March 30, 2021 at 6:25 am |

    Re: “something that once was but now is no longer.”

    Fortunately, the BB of fond memories still exists in my wardrobe.

  13. Old School Tie | March 30, 2021 at 12:09 pm |

    Well, living in Europe seemingly has its benefits. I have managed to acquire a good amount of virtually new BB bits and pieces for more or less pennies, I kid you not. Some online sellers have an inkling of the value of vintage Made in USA garments but many do not. That’s where I come in and you all could too.

  14. Echoing CC’s thought: It’s going to be a week of fond memories of something that once was but now is no longer.
    Currently on Netflix is a documentary titled “The Last Blockbuster”. From something that was ubiquitous in our daily lives to merely a memory. Wondering where the last Brooks Brothers location will end up.

  15. The death of Brooks Brothers and so many other institutions, especially over the last year of covid madness, reminds me of a quote by Ronald Reagan in which he warns of the fragility of the freedoms we enjoy and that we must fight for, protect and hand them down to the young or on day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

    Will

  16. AtlantaPete | March 30, 2021 at 3:37 pm |

    As with many others, fond memories. Bought my first blue university stripe OBD in the downtown Chicago store in 1960, my freshman year in college, and paid something on the order of $7.95. In 1968, went from the bar exam to the downtown Atlanta store (come to think of it, there were only downtown stores in 1960 and 1968) to have a navy MTM suit done by Nick Fiorello, who was ingloriously fired by BB just before his retirement date in the early 2000s. In 1968, most of the salesman in Atlanta were retired military officers and they sure weren’t wearing untucked polo shirts. Yep, something that once was but is no longer.

  17. Father Brown | March 30, 2021 at 10:32 pm |

    All the classic items are still available from J. Press, The Andover Shop, O’Connell’s, Cable Car, Clothiers, not to mention quite a few shirt makers who produce OCBDs, The demise of BB is hardly cause for mourning.

  18. I remember going to the 346 flagship store on December 26, 2006. I had just enlisted in the Marines and my parents met me to celebrate the holidays in NYC. I think my dad was excited to walk around the massive store (he has always dressed well/appropriately, so much that my mom’s friends will ask her what they can do to get their husbands to understand dressing well), and he treated me to a light grey suit with faint blue pinstripes (Made in USA), a light blue shetland with saddle shoulders (Made in Scotland) and a couple of tattersall sport shirts. I still have all of those pieces, except for one of the sport shirts. I think the Made in Scotland shetlands were replaced with “Made in China of Shetland Wool” in the following year or two. I always dreamed of going on full on shopping spree in BB, but I don’t think I can bring myself to do it. However, I would happily visit O’Connells and go hog-wild some day!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*