Spalla Naturale: The New Brooks Brothers Natural Shoulder


I posted this on Ivy’s Facebook group a couple of hours ago, and, as with everything Brooks, it inspired enough fireworks to justify posting here.

The company’s latest head-scratcher comes in the form of a mailer sent out today touting the new natural shoulder “inspired by soft Italian tailoring.”

Heresy. Treason. WTF.

I realize that may sound snazzier to a non-trad consumer upgrading from J. Crew, but given that Brooks is synonymous with our own native tailoring tradition, you’d think the company would take this opportunity to educate the consumer while simultaneously playing up its heritage with a tagline such as, “The American natural shoulder as we perfected it.”

The shoulders themselves are another matter. What I’m calling out is why the company that invented the American natural shoulder look would invoke another country’s tailoring tradition.

Oh yeah… — CC


29 Comments on "Spalla Naturale: The New Brooks Brothers Natural Shoulder"

  1. “It’s good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that and I know. But lately, I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end.” – Tony Soprano

  2. Marc Chevalier | February 23, 2016 at 1:53 pm |

    At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I say that this is another nail in the coffin of Brooks’s heritage.

  3. Some years ago I read that the spalla camicia was very popular in England long before the Great War. Apparently, wealthy British men vacationing in Italy liked the Neapolitan shoulder and, on returning home, asked their own tailors to imitate the jackets. (Who knows if it’s true.) Brooks, of course, was always influenced by London, it’s proprietors making yearly trips to determine what to imitate. If I recall, Zack Deluca’s” blog, The Suit Room, featured some beautiful mid-century Brooks garments which he described as very much approaching a true spalla camicia, right down to the slightly gathered stitching around the top of the shoulder which, personally, I like. To me, the picture above doesn’t even come close to looking like a real shirt shoulder. But, perhaps it’s the angle of the camera or some such problem.

    As for Brooks, I don’t care to whom they attribute a real natural shoulder, as long as it’s a real natural shoulder.

  4. John Bracken | February 23, 2016 at 2:27 pm |

    Egads is nothing sacred anymore?!?

  5. Charlottesville | February 23, 2016 at 3:23 pm |

    When I saw this BB flyer in my e-mail this morning, aside from noting the general nuttiness of the copy, my main thought was “What an poorly cut suit!” Look at the button stance. The flyer had a larger photo, which better shows the tight, gaping jacket, and tie flapping out below the button. The poor model needs to move up 2 sizes, but even that would not fix everything. Is it any wonder that on Monday I bought another 3/2 sack suit from J. Press while they are still available? Let’s hope that the new Press “Blue” line does not take us further into the abyss. I suppose all of this is good for O’Connell’s.

  6. Makes perfect sense for an Italian-owned business like Brooks Brothers to be promoting Italian clothing.

  7. Pietro Bruno | February 23, 2016 at 4:23 pm |

    Why in the world would anybody go to Brooks Brothers for an American version of Italian style when the real thing is readily available?

  8. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | February 23, 2016 at 4:51 pm |

    It’s all marketing of course. In the context of fashion, preface any description with “Italian” and it adds an extra sense of pizzazz.

    Has anyone actually tried this on yet? It would be funny if you do and it feels/looks better than what they were trying to accomplish with “Milano.”

    Oh yeah, BTW:

    Madison = Trad
    Fitzgerald = Modern
    Milano = Italy
    Regent = Savile Row

    … is my guess. What’s new here?

  9. What is the actual difference, if any, between “American” vs. “Italian” natural shoulder? I assumed the Italian natural look came from many of their jackets having no lining, being unconstructed, etc., as opposed to the American shoulder coming from the lack of padding only, while retaining a lining. Someone want to educate me?

    On a related note, called the BB in my town today (a major American city), and as a young guy with a new-found love for this Ivy style stuff, you’d think they would be enthusiastic and helpful, as I really want to try those Own Make coats and related things, just to get a vibe for what looks good on me and what kind of things I should be interested in. I was told to either go to the NYC store to try it on or order it online – so helpful…

  10. I get that darts aren’t a big deal for a lot of guys. Most guys, probably. Hell, the vast majority of guys. There. It’s been said–again.

    That said, darts are awful. They serve no purpose (a skilled tailor can create shaping without them) and throw off the entire front of the jacket. Not as bad with solid cloth, but, with stripes and check patterns–ugh. Unlike a lot of other attributes of the (by now) classic jacket, it’s almost entirely a matter of–(shut your eyes, Christian)–aesthetics. You know, what something looks like. To repeat: shaping through the middle can be easily achieved without them.

    So–why the abiding commitment to them? I get that Italian tailoring aims for “sleek.” “Suave” too, maybe. So, perhaps the mission is to make the jacket look less, well, “sacky.” Less, you know, old Brooks.

    Not sure. I mean, I’m really not. But, to repeat, they’re hideous. A nuisance.

  11. I’m getting a flashback to the time (1960s or so?) when every mid-level dept. store and “Shoe-O-Rama” carried cheap shoes with a made up Italian name.

  12. “Brooks was a fixture in affluent urban and suburban life, when clothing was meant to be comfortable, non sexual and signaled that you were a member of the right circles.”
    –Film Noir Buff

    No more. Fashion prevails. Runways in Italy, GQ, and so on. They’re the new male clothing establishment. Which means that, these days, a sack suit and OCBD is about as anti-establishment as it gets.

  13. Henry Contestwinner | February 23, 2016 at 7:23 pm |

    Note also that while BB sells suits and not the material for suits, the ad copy goes with dumb-as-two-rocks trendy solecism of spring “suiting.”

    I wish I could blame this on the Italians, but it wouldn’t be fair.

  14. The suit looks uninspired to me. Dig the head of hair on the model! That guy was around in the ’80s when GQ was, well, better than it is now. The Elements of Style sections were great.


  15. My blazer and chalk stripe suit from RL are both “Made in Italy.” Yes, RL was flashing Italy years ago.

  16. I thought of this as I too was wearing an RL Italy-made jacket today with a lovely shoulder. But RL is a newcomer, and is not the historic king and dictator of the American natural shoulder.

    The more I thought about this today, the more I thought it treason. How could they so go against their heritage by invoking another country’s tailoring tradition? I guess with each season it’s increasingly clear that it’s not an American company, but an Italian one.

  17. @NCJack

    I clearly remember “Filippo Verde” shoes at cut-rate shoestores.
    They were made by a company owned by a guy named Phil Green.

  18. I get why though.

    To most non- mid twentieth century men’s style aficionados, fine tailoring is equated with ‘Italian’.

  19. When I saw “Italian”, I just shook my head. I knew that Brooks was going down the dark, ‘Modern’ road that it had embarked on. All salute, young and old, the death of the American legend.

  20. Bags' Groove | February 24, 2016 at 6:20 am |

    “Dig the head…” reminded me of that old Hank Mobley number “This I Dig of You”, or when applied to whatever is on that unnaturally-shouldered cat’s head, “This I Do Not Dig of You”.

  21. SE
    I agree with most of what you say, but there is a point at which a waist can’t be tailored into a sack coat unless MTM. A man with a 44+ chest and athletic waist doesn’t want to wear a lab coat with a tie to work. I also believe many off the rack manufacturers moved to darts to cut down on alteration cost.

    It’s been many many decades since I’ve been impressed with BB.

  22. Drew Richard | February 24, 2016 at 9:18 am |

    I was just in my local BB and it was a preppy WASP party. Plaids, argyles, oxfords. I bought a patchwork madras cap with the golden fleece logo and a pair of red white and blue argyle socks. They also had a 70% off Presidents day sale going on. There was no Italian influence seen by my eye. BB is alive and well but if you want to feel depressed then go ahead

  23. I can’t help but smell another instance of self-dealing here. No doubt Mr. Del Vecchio, who belongs to one of Italy’s richest families, has a stake in (owns outright?) the manufacturers of Brooks’ Italian-made clothes. Hence rigatoni is being shoved down our throats instead of Maine lobster.

  24. @Drew

    Those items you purchased don’t seem to WASPy to me. Just saying.


  25. @ Drew

    One can tell you were never a BB customer before the Marks and Spencer period. It’s really a stark difference at this point.

    You can still get a decent Southwick MTM from BB. Not as great as they were, but the same as O’Connell’s is selling.

  26. A man with a 44+ chest and an “athletic waist” has no business wearing Ivy League clothing.

  27. That’s surprising, natural soft shoulder clothing always fit jocks best, well because they have natural shoulders. Didn’t a couple of Buffalo ballers start O’Connells?

  28. To paraphrase the old Zenith ad, “The name goes on before the quality goes in.”

  29. “What is the actual difference, if any, between “American” vs. “Italian” natural shoulder”?

    In Italian tailoring a natural shoulder is a shoulder that follows the natural line of the shoulder,and is not extended.
    and,have a very little and soft padding,or,as some Neapolitan tailors,lack of padding,
    I don’t think that this is different by American natural shoulder.
    More,if you take a Neapolitan three buttons coat of the Attolini school of tailoring,with 3 roll 2 lapels (tre bottoni stirato a due),and remove the darts and add a hook vent at the back,you have an American sack coat.
    And this is that Claudio Del Vecchio at Brooks Brothers should do…if it really knew the history of his firm.

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