Sir, Is This Your Coat?: Introducing The Brooks Brothers’ Own Make Collection


When Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop quips that Brooks Brothers today looks like “an Italian department store,” he knows whereof he speaks. He’s one of the few menswear professionals still around who’s known the brand since the late 1940s.

I attended Brooks’ spring 2014 presentation last week. When it came time to craft a post, I looked over my photos and without thinking it over too much, instinctively decided to show the one thing I thought noteworthy, both for its vices as well as virtues. It was a madras jacket I liked for the dark navy and green (so much madras lately has been patchwork or overly bright; I prefer something more subdued, like that jerk in “Dirty Dancing” wears). It was a jacket that seemed to look back to the Brooks jackets of yore thanks to a button stance of three rather than two, but it came with double vents, which would be a dealbreaker for me on such a casual American classic.

I don’t know what’s more frustrating: that Brooks merchandisers chose double vents to deliberately break with the American tradition, or that they’re locked in such a Continental mindset when it comes to the tailored clothing they don’t even realize it’s a break with American tradition. Most of the jackets in the presentation had nicely rolled 3/2 lapels and soft shoulders, but European-looking fabrics and double vents. Frequent comment-leaver “Carmelo,” an Italian and clothes geek of the first order, pronounced the madras jacket “very Italian.”

There was plenty of American sportswear in the presentation, of course, and Brooks continues to do much of that well. But I think we’re all more interested in what Brooks is doing with its tailored clothing.

This fall Brooks Brothers has brought back its Own Make label, calling it “Inspired by iconic styles from the Brooks Brothers archives and made in the USA.” As with the new Natural Craftsmanship collection, prices are high: a tattersall sport shirt runs $225 and tartan trousers are $395. Of most interest to us here are the Own Make sack suits, sportcoats and blazers. The 101 model comes with a 3/2 button stance, no darts, natural shoulders, 3/8 lining, 5/16″ edge stitching and a hook vent. Own Make sportcoats start at $895, with suits and blazers in the $1,300-$1,400 range.

Although Brooks Brothers says the jacket silhouette is inspired by a 1960s model, don’t expect anything like this one below, from the brand’s book “Generations of Style”:


Own Make jackets seem to trace their lineage to the more recent creations of Thom Browne rather than the relaxed-cut sack suit the brand was known for from 1896-1987.

I asked Brooks the difference, if any, between the Own Make jacket and the Cambridge updated sack introduced last year. The company responded:

The Cambridge fit is a slim fitting version of our iconic sack coat but with a shorter length and more fitted. The Cambridge fit is undarted and is similar in proportion to our Milano.

Own Make is really inspired from our archives and fabrics we used in the 1960s. Jackets are the slimmed down versions of the original No 1 and No 2 sack silhouettes hence the names of the products #101 and #102.

It’s hard to tell from that description exactly what the differences would be when it comes to cut and fit, so let’s just get down to how the jacket felt on me — following a brief disclaimer.

After 800 posts, you readers have no doubt surmised by now that I’m not a tailoring geek. I don’t fetishize clothing, I don’t stockpile multiple versions of the same item, I don’t get tempted by weird items simply because they have a thrift-store price of $3.99, I don’t hang on to things I never wear, and I don’t do blog posts comparing the stitching of different shirtmakers. I like the social history and ideas that spring from man’s need to clothe himself, and I enjoy wearing clothes. This is all to say that I go by feel when it comes to selecting clothing: I go by how something looks to my eye and how it feels when I put it on. If you want to know what the stitching looks like inside of Own Make jackets where the sleeve is attached to the shoulder, you’ll have to go and look yourself, because I wasn’t paying attention.

I checked out Own Make at the Madison Avenue Brooks flagship, formed some impressions, and then went back a second time to see if my initial impressions stood. I also enlisted the help of a friend who’s very much like me in that he really enjoys clothes but isn’t a geek about it. Where we differ, and this is important, is body type. I’m tall and thin and generally take a 40 long. My friend has been a stout 44 but is dropping weight, and is somewhere between a regular and long.

Own Make jackets didn’t seem to fit either one of us.

First off, there is no 40 long, but that didn’t matter as a 40 was so small I couldn’t move my arms. Determining that a 40 wouldn’t work for me, therefore, took merely a matter of seconds. What was surprising, though, was how much of a jump there was in sizing to a 42. The 42 was too big across the shoulders, as a salesman I’ve known for two years immediately pointed out. But strange was that the waistline looked good along the sides when viewed in a mirror, and yet it felt like I could pull the button closure eight inches away from my abdomen. Here’s where we need a tailoring geek, since I can’t explain it other than by saying I had the impression that the jacket was cut in a way that made it fitted in the waist but large in the chest. Perhaps this has something to do with the sort of hybrid quality that comes from making a slimmed-down version of a jacket originally designed to be roomy.

There were no 41s in the store, and later Brooks confirmed to me that the sizing runs like this:

Own Make is offered from 36 to 48 (all even)
Shorts – 38-44
Regs – 36-48
Long – 42-48

So it’s possible that a 41 long would have fit with only minor alterations needed, but again there are no odd sizes. (For the record, last year I purchased one of Brooks’ higher-priced, full-canvassed Fitzgerald models, which did not pose a fit challenge and which quickly improved with each wearing, thanks to the canvassing. The jacket is available again this season with some minor changes.)

Now here’s the experience of my stouthearted friend with Own Make:

The fabrics and the cut both look very nice on the hanger, in particular the chalk stripe suit jacket I tried on. Hook vent, three button, no darts —overall promising. I was told by a candid salesman, however, that the line was “fashion-forward” and cut very short and slim.

Feeling he’s around a 43 these days and having just come from trying on 42s at J. Press, he tried on a 44 long:

The sleeves were long, but the body seemed as if it were from a different jacket, as if a short jacket had been extended at the bottom, but the stance had remained where it was. Most notably, the waist suppression seemed to cinch over my rib cage rather than close to my natural waist. This jacket fit me like no other garment I’ve ever tried on, even Black Fleece or York Street (both in size 44, both of which fit me better).

It seemed to be a well constructed garment, but the cut was puzzling. Perhaps I should have sized up to a 46(!), but earlier in the day I was trying on 42s at J. Press and discussing tailoring down my 43s, so if that is truly the case, Own Make should rethink its sizing.

In conclusion, those of us with narrow shoulders and meek chests or beer bellies and man boobs have no right to complain if a clothier wants to make jackets intended for a man with a no belly fat, broad shoulders and a muscular chest. The thing that leaves me curious, though, is why Own Make is offered in sizes such as 44 short and 48 long. I mean, if Own Make is a tough fit for a tall thin guy, what’s it like with a short, portly guy or a tall, muscular linebacker?

Own Make is not your father’s sack suit, and it certainly isn’t intended to be. The question is — based on price, cut and styling — just whose is it? — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

53 Comments on "Sir, Is This Your Coat?: Introducing The Brooks Brothers’ Own Make Collection"

  1. Thanks, Christian, for reporting on this.

    After hearing several months ago about this line, I was excited as it seemed it would be a reason for me to shop at Brooks again.

    Alas, it appears that Brooks holds nothing of interest to me other then the occasional odd item and the unlined cordovan loafers–and I may well pass to the grave before I require another pair of said loafers.

  2. Own Make is for those fashion victims just dying to overpay for another Thom Browne clown suit or jacket. Usually I would not bother to comment because, really, what’s the point. I quit buying anything from Brooks Brothers a while ago. I imagine what set me off this morning was receiving the latest Style Guide from J. Crew in the mail. Just full of those delightful
    Thom Browne clone suits and blazers. So now I’m reduced to only 3 places to buy clothing: J. Press, O’Connell’s, and Mercer. Time to take my meds.

  3. Brooks Brothers is out of business and has been for years, although its various trademarks are currently owned by a marketing company that sells various mid-level lines of clothing here and abroad. For some reason certain nostalgic fashionistas keep waiting for this company to make clothes that look and fit like those sold by Brooks Brothers over twenty-five years ago, which is sort of like waiting for Sears, Roebuck to start selling Sta-Sharp straight razors again (carborundum barber’s hone included for $1.00 extra). It is not going to happen, no matter how drippy the drool when labels like “Own Make” are resurrected for their PR value.

    So forget about it. Death is final.

  4. Points taken, DSF, though there’s some sloppy language there. I’d hardly call old-school trads who just want the brand to prove they can make a traditional sack jacket “fashionistas.” In fact, “nostalgic fashionistas” is a delightful oxymoron!

  5. In general, all the manufacturers of men’s tailored clothing seem to have gone somewhat crazy in the past ten years or so. I always used to be able to pull on a 44 regular, and it was just a question of how much the waist had to come in, and whether the sleeves needed to be adjusted. For the record, I’m 6′ tall, and 180 pounds; I’m quite wide across the shoulders, but not a “big guy”. I still have some of those 44R jackets I bought in the late 90s and early 00’s, and they still fit me. So I haven’t gotten bigger. Around ten years ago it started being hard to find 44R jackets that fit my shoulders, and within the past 5 years or so it’s become impossible – I always need to go up to a 46 to fit my shoulders and the rest of the coat is a tent at that point. I went into Charles Tyrwhitt last year and tried on their jackets. I went all the way up to a size 52 and the shoulders were still too small. The rest of the coat was billowing around me like a sail. Who on earth is that thing meant for?

    So I basically have to go bespoke or made-to-measure at this point.

    I still fit in the shoulders of a 44R coat I bought at J.Press back in ’03 (I think it was ’03) but on my last visit to their NY store (a month or so back) only the 46 fit me – and the scope of the alterations needed was such that it was clear made-to-measure was the only option for me at that store. So J.Press (or the manufacturers they buy from) are also party to this conspiracy to clothe only the narrow-shouldered.

  6. Thanks very much. That was an excellent report. Not very encouraging, but excellent.

    The jacket above fits that young man in a way I would attribute to a woman’s blazer. And, it appears that were the young man to sit down he might spit his trousers. I would never be able to take seriously someone who came into my office dressed like that. Of course, it could be said that the current fashion of menswear being made to look like clothing for boys is in harmony with the way young men think and act nowadays. But, then, I’m just a guy getting older and crankier every year.

  7. Doesn’t all the brouhaha explain why fewer suits are worn nowadays?

  8. Someone put the “Nouveau Preppies” issue of M magazine from 1988 on eBay. Seller says it’s very rare. Do IS readers know if this is true?

  9. Yes we do, and we charge a 25% finder’s fee to tell you.

  10. I really don’t mind darts, everyone has their must haves when buying a sport coat, (mine is patch pockets, traditional fabrics and natural shoulders, everything else is up for debate when I buy)…I mean, a well done darted jacket is miles ahead of a poorly done sack coat…

  11. In addition to the above, I also don’t like side vents, unless the back in belted…Is that the term?

  12. I read DSF’s comment and immediately thought, “This is the best comment I have read in a while”.

  13. by the way, when was this “Thom Browne” look ever fashionable?
    It looks ridiculous, and if it looks ridiculous now, it would have looked ridiculous 2 years ago, 5 years ago, and will look ridiculous next year.

  14. Robert,

    Your fawning praise for DSF’s comment is akin to saying, “Justin Bieber’s latest album is the greatest work of art that I’ve listened to in a while.”

  15. These look to be excellent jackets for very short men or big women.

  16. BB really deserves to go bankrupt for having betrayed their ıvy heritage, but they won’t, because the market seems to be full of guys who want to dress lıke narcisstic gigolos.

  17. In both the Chicago store, and our BB store here in Indy, it can be very challenging to find a suit that fits me well. (46 reg, normally). The sack fits just fine. Pants are taken in a touch, and sleeves shortened maybe 1/2 inch. Problem is, the selection is abysmal. At least the fitter and salesman in Chicago, said they could order me the suit in any pattern they have. Then, I looked at the patterns, and they were very few. This is not just happening to BB’s. Its even happening to my old favorite Filson!! Have you seen what they are doing to their line? They are offering “Alaskan Fit” and the new “Seattle Fit.” Bet it won’t be long till the Alaskan Fit is out of “style.” Have you noticed that as the US man becomes larger, the stylists and designers are making their clothes smaller. BTW, regarding the JPress comments, the last two JPress shirts I purchased have cuffs I can hardly button around my wrist. Now THATS a new complaint on any shirt I have purchased! I even measured the cuff on new ones vs old ones (flap pocket oxford on one, pinpoint stripe on the other one) and the cuffs are almost 3/4″ smaller!

  18. It seems impossible to get a sense of these from the photos. Although they use the same human mannequin for all of the suits and sportcoats, the length of the jackets differ dramatically from one to the other, suggesting that the stylists have had a deleterious impact again. Compare, for example, the too-short blazer with the “102 wide stripe suit”. The jacket in the latter appears 2 to 3 inches longer, and very much within ordinary parameters, suggesting that the blazer is actually a “short”, worn by a man who clearly is not short.

  19. @ Christian

    “I don’t know what’s more frustrating: that Brooks merchandisers chose double vents to deliberately break with the American tradition, or that they’re locked in such a Continental mindset when it comes to the tailored clothing they don’t even realize it’s a break with American tradition.”

    I really don’t think BB’s senior most executives care if they break with American tradition or if it’s their own Continental mindset. I suspect it is their need to capture a much larger client following than the “American tradition” look will provide.

    They are about moving product and making money. The research numbers probably tell them that by reproducing what BB sold years ago in hopes of a mass resurgence of that look will not happen or sustain them. So, get ready for more Continental looks, blending of old with new styles, etc, because new clients will prove more lucrative than pleasing the diminishing number of past clients.

  20. I, for one, do like that companies like BB, JP, and FSC are trying to come up with modern versions of classic american clothing. Do their actual items work? well, that’s an individual thing. Are they too expensive? absolutely. But here is why i love them: I can print the ideas and fits, give the picture to my local h-freeman dealer and he will make something that is a) affordable and b) fits me based on those ideas. I’m not creative. Frankly, if it was not for these fashion forward traditionalists out there, I would be ordering suits straight from the 60s.

  21. I see a lot of pretty slim silhouettes in take ivy, especially in the trousers. I mean theres a photo of a guy at princeton in there who’s pants are tighter than mick jaggers. Is it the relaxed fits of the 80s everyone is nostalgic for? I’m with everyone that the jacket looks to small on the model but I’m just confused about the overall anti-slim on this site, I think I’m missing something.

  22. BB’s is one of the stores that I wouldn’t miss a single bit, were they to close their doors forever.
    They should seriously consider moving their headquarters to Milan and concentrate on the Euro market!!!

  23. Richard Meyer | September 20, 2013 at 9:47 am |

    I actually prefer side vents, but the fit of the jackets-way too short and tight-and the trousers, with their much, much too low rises- is just awful. Pee-Wee Herman seems to be the role model.

  24. As I have asked several times in the past (and never received any answers) has anyone ever seen anyone actually wearing any of the “Black Fleece” products in public? I never have, nor have I ever seen any pictures posted online of anyone wearing any “Black Fleece” products in public.

    Whenever I am in Brooks Brothers, I always ask if they ever sell any of the stuff, and I am always told that they sell a lot of it. Does anyone know anyone who has actually bought (and worn in public) any of the Brooks Brothers “Black Fleece” products?

  25. Some thought:

    1- Italians not understand Ivy look;when see an undarted jacket they think that is absurd and add darts.
    Same for the one vent; “two vents are better for put hand in the pokets” they think.
    Italians have a prejudice on American clothes; the stereotype is the bold look suit with a tacky tie with palms and flowers,or the shapeless boxy coat.

    2-This thing of skinny,short coats with pencil trousers is an insupportable fad.
    But like every fad is sooner or later passes.
    I notice that is particularly strong in USA; the fact is that you Americans often repeat the phrase “Is not your’s father suit” as is this is a positive thing.
    Every good taste man in Italy wants wear like his father,at same level of taste and quality.
    So,luckily,by us these skinny oddities are less see in shops (and no see at all at bespoke tailors).

  26. Okay, let’s not get carried away.

    Norman Hilton’s master tailor extraordinaire–yes, the one responsible for the Hampton model that has been (rightly) exalted as the Holy Grail of top drawer natural shoulder clothing–was Italian.

    What we know as Southwick was, once upon a time, Grieco Bros. They were Italian brothers who knew more than a thing or two about softy tailored, natural shoulder clothing.

  27. @ Roy R. Platt

    How do you expect to be able to see whether someone’s wearing “Black Fleece products in public”? Some BF jackets come in long sizes, and pants can be hemmed to your preferred length, if you don’t wish to go for the cropped look. So perhaps one shouldn’t expect everyone wearing BF suits, sport coats and/or odd trousers to look like Thom Browne-lookalike fashion victims that you can spot a mile away. Besides, “Black Fleece products” is also US made OCBDs and ties, which I happen to be wearing right now. And I doubt anyone would have guessed the brand, had they seen me in public.

  28. Good article. I’m certainly not a fashion expert. I find these cuts to be really weird and can’t imagine wearing one.

    I go by the eyeball test. If the manufacturer can’t even make it attractive on their model, there is no way in hell it’s going to look good on me. These jackets look comical on the models. No mas!

  29. @ S.E.

    Good points. The true natural shoulder owes its pedigree to the “Neapolitan shoulder.” I’ve read that the natural shoulder was first adopted in Britain by Englishman who, summering in Italy, returned with examples which they asked their English tailors to copy for summer clothing (less weight and structure) and for their country tweeds. Photographs of English gentlemen from before the Great War give pay to this.

    Ivy adherents (such as our good selves) are swimming against the tide. We live in an age of exaggeration. So, Thom Browne takes the basic proportions of a vintage 60’s sack suit and exaggerates it by a factor of three or four. The trousers become clam-diggers. Creative? Compare a vintage BB tie from the 50’s or 60’s with what they offer today. The vintage item, at least in my experience, is shorter, lighter in weight, subtle, and restrained in fabric and pattern. Today, however, you might want to wear sunglasses in approaching the BB tie counter. And, I suggest, it wouldn’t be out of step for BB to attach little trumpets to the sides of the tie counter whose celebratory bursts could be activated by the approaching customer stepping on floor sensors. J. Press (not York Street) recently advertised a “Power Suit.” I never thought I see the words J. Press and Power suit conjoined. Have you been to a movie lately? The decibel level of the previews is greater than a Who concert circa 1968. I know; I am embarrassed to say I was there in ’68. (Okay, maybe not quite as loud.)

    The great poet of WW I, Wilfred Owen, said the experience had numbed his senses and charred his soul. So too today’s consumer. But not from war but from a different onslaught; the 24/7 bombardment of media with its ever more exaggerated lights, colors, sounds and images. Alas, a restrained, graceful suit of clothes has less and less place in this world. Nevertheless, I intend to die with my Aldens on.

  30. Attolini pioneered the Neapolitan, natural shoulder jacket in 1930. Heavy linings and shoulder pads were removed and a soft, flexible collar was introduced.

    The Japanese have a strong interest in tailoring Neapolitan-style, natural shoulder suits. Here’s a link to the article:

  31. Just want to confirm that when you say you “crafted” a post, you mean that you wrote it. Or was your post artisinal?

  32. @ Carmello

    And to support your point, some even wear their grandfathers suits!! Lapo Elkann in Giovanni Agnelli’s suits.

  33. I must admit I find the idea of a 3/2 roll jacket with side vents appealing.

  34. “‘The great poet of WW I, Wilfred Owen, said the experience had numbed his senses and charred his soul. So too today’s consumer. But not from war but from a different onslaught; the 24/7 bombardment of media with its ever more exaggerated lights, colors, sounds and images. Alas, a restrained, graceful suit of clothes has less and less place in this world. Nevertheless, I intend to die with my Aldens on.”

    This is so good. And so true.

  35. Take Ivy provokes a variety of reactions. A friend of mine, happily unfamiliar with Ivy styling, flipped through the book and offered, “Wow, the whole preppy hipster thing is out of control.” The snug fit, combined with I’m-a-geek-but-a-cool-one horn rims, do indeed call modern-day hipsters to mind.

  36. @ S.E.

    Thank you. It’s much appreciated.

  37. I have made the decision not long ago, to get my one or 2 suits a year, from Hickey Freeman, and have it made the way I want, in moderately modern styles. (frankly, I like suits in 2 button, and sport coats in 3/2) Whether Bespoke, or Made to order. I did this in the past with Abboud, till they started this high 3 button thing, where the top button was buttoned. (might be the buyer at Nordstrom’s that selected their clothes, and lets just say in a PC way, he was not my kinda guy nor had the same “tastes.” I need 2 new suits, and think I will slink over there and grab one of the gray haired salesmen on Commission. Actually years ago, a very capable woman assisted me for years, before her retirement. I will make it a point, to stop off at the HF store in Chicago next trip up, just for kicks, and a fitting. BB lost my business when they started coating their cotton shirts with no iron, and serving up suits made in asia. If I’m gonna buy a suit from asia, I’m sure I can find just what I want in Hong Kong. (no, never been there)

  38. “Criticize everything and you can easily pass for intelligent: that’s a well-known trick. Well disposed people are at once ready to conclude that you are above what you criticize. And this is not often so.”
    –Ivan Turgenev
    Given the tone and level of complaints here, please see the above quote. Or may I assume you all long for the ‘glory days’ of the Marks & Spencer era of Brooks? But, if your interest lies in a complete resurrection of the IS heyday, you’ll first need to resurrect the mindset that fostered it….

  39. D.B.
    I can’t criticize Ivan and I’m afraid the culture has already unspooled.

  40. “But, if your interest lies in a complete resurrection of the IS heyday, you’ll first need to resurrect the mindset that fostered it….”

    No you don’t. You start with making clothes that fit, then you throw in a few faithful details, and then you stop. It’s not that hard. That’s why we whine so loudly, and why people who don’t sweat these details feel it necessary to whine about the whiners.

  41. Gentlemen:
    If you want to know who is buying this shrink-wrapped stuff, take a look at the “Suits and the City” feature on (Financial Times). All these guys are into the short jackets and the skinny pants. Does anyone outside NYC look like this?

  42. A.E.W. Mason:
    Indeed, the picture shown accurately depicts how WOMEN wear their blazers. My wife confirms it. Men, be they young or old, should not want to dress like women. This isn’t about young guy versus old guy, it’s about what looks good on a MAN.

  43. “But, if your interest lies in a complete resurrection of the IS heyday, you’ll first need to resurrect the mindset that fostered it….”

    I have always found inexplicable the theory of cultural development which posits that if we wish to return to, or to preserve, positive qualities such as civility, restraint, grace, etc.–which at one time coexisted with social evils like intolerance, racism and bigotry–then we must accept that those evils must inevitably accompany a return to those finer qualities or, perhaps, continue to exist in those who are preserving them.

    I apologize in advance if I’ve misunderstood the implication of the quoted comment.

  44. @Don
    Indeed, that is the way that a woman wears a blazer, and that split plaid skirt goes well with it.

  45. Richard Meyer | September 22, 2013 at 7:03 am |

    A.E.W. Mason is so very right!

  46. I agree with you A.E.W. Mason, tomorrow can never be like yesterday.

  47. RKW: Hickey Freeman has so many different models in their suits, it’s difficult to appreciate what the (subtle) differences may be among them. Do you know of a HF model which approximates a natural shouldered 3/2 sack, at least with the shoulders, center vent and FF pants?

  48. I met the model in this photo on a rooftop in Bushwick on the Fourth of July. He handed me a grilled sandwich, for real.

    MM MBA Cornell ’15

  49. I just picked two Own Make sport coats and two Own Make suits. They were very good deals and they fit perfectly, although up by a size (I’m usually 38R but took 40R in Own Make). I have to say that they’re all very nice. Perhaps not worth their full price, but very nice nevertheless.

    Sorry about contributing to the flame war.

  50. The Own Make 101 I own fits me better than any other off the rack I own, and is almost identical in measurement to my 1960s Norman Hilton. The main area where it could be improved is in the fullness and belly of the lapel roll. But unfortunately it is apparently no longer being offered.

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