Straight Dope: Connecticut Teen Discovers Brooks Brothers

brooks-brothers-light-purple-golden-fleece-slim-fit-novelty-performance-polo-product-1-4110408-837945020_large_flexDo kids still use the term “dope” to describe something cool? Evidently they do, and they’ll even use it to describe stodgy ol’ Brooks Brothers.

If you’ve puzzled over who exactly is the target customer for Brooks’ more youthful offerings, I think we’ve found the answer.

This week a Cornell-bound teen wrote a piece for his Connecticut community website about shopping at Brooks. It’s a fascinating look at the brand as seen not from the point of this website’s more advanced readers (especially the kind with words such as “curmudgeon” or “reactionary” in their usernames), but the actual youth of today.

The author’s opening is a zinger, the key words being “myth” and “only”:

Before I actually visited Brooks Brothers, I believed the common myth that only WASPs, old men, and pretentious Ivy League snobs wore the brand’s clothing.

The kid goes on to recount his shopping experience — a positive one, which is a positive thing. But somewhere along the way he seems to have gotten confused:

Not only does this style leave me with the feeling that an Italian artisan in Florence handcrafted my clothing…

… which is just the prelude to this:

As the longest running clothing company in the United States, Brooks Brothers also owns the distinction of being the most reputable and popular brand to still manufacture almost all their apparel within its borders. Trust me, once you feel the quality of clothing that was not made in China, Vietnam, or Malaysia, the chant “USA, USA, USA” will carry a different meaning; instead of thinking about the 1980s USA Olympic hockey team, you will nostalgically relive the times you caught everyone’s attention while strolling down a sidewalk in the Hamptons.

If that sounds a bit daffy, this next remark will have the curmudgeons and reactionaries assuring the kid that he is not the crazy one here:

You may think me crazy for saying this, but Brooks Brothers has somehow added an indie flair to their famously preppy style.

He concludes that all is “dope” at Brooks. At least he puts quotation marks around it:

When you first glance over at the selection of polos, t-shirts, and shorts, your immediate reaction to the eclectic, modern, and fun array of colors and styles will be to say “dope” out loud. At least that’s what I did, and in the end, I believe that particular first impression sums up Brooks Brothers. The formerly stuffy and antiquated brand has become positively, well, “dope.”

In the end, the kid says he came out with a purple polo with a green logo. In other words, the colors of The Joker. — CC

16 Comments on "Straight Dope: Connecticut Teen Discovers Brooks Brothers"

  1. This genuinely made me smile.

  2. Pale Male | July 11, 2013 at 1:30 pm |

    I wonder what he considers the “common myth” of Ralph Lauren?

  3. *Don’t make a Cornell joke, don’t make a Cornell joke, don’t make a Cornell joke. . .

  4. A. E. W. Mason | July 11, 2013 at 4:34 pm |

    From the “I’ll take what I can get” school of thinking: It’s just nice to see a young man interested in being well dressed, whatever his level of sophistication. I think this post is consistent with that sentiment in stating that it’s a “good thing” that this young man had a positive BB experience. I, like many, pine for the old BB. But I also think Brooks today has a particularly difficult role in catering to a wide range of sartorial hearts and minds encompassing an equally wide age span. To be fair, this role was to some extent imposed on it simply by the march of time and changing tastes. Brooks is discharging its “modern-day duty” pretty well, and I dare say this young man’s article is probably a welcome review to Brooks’s management, suggesting to them that they’re achieving one of their goals; i.e., an expanded client base.

  5. Glad BB has a new fan, but he must not be reading the labels very carefully!

  6. Mr. Wyllys | July 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm |

    A shiver ran down my spine when I read this… I’m just a bit older than this young man, and something about it rubs me the wrong way…I guess I’m just not “with it” enough…

  7. Mr. Wyllys | July 11, 2013 at 6:54 pm |

    Also as an aside, I rather like dark purple sweaters…I think they go quite well with tweeds…

  8. I’m not sure I understand why the “myth” is “common.”

    And please, no “Oh, come on. You know what the fellow means.”

    In fact, I do not.

    What’s plebian about the “myth” in question?

    One would think that, since said “myth” has to do with WASPs and “pretentious Ivy Leaguers,” it would be a not-at-all-“common” myth. A decidedly UNcommon myth.

    Cornell offers courses in writing, right?

  9. “And in the end…”

    So this is how the human drama unfolds. “Dope”…Eschatological too.

    This piece is straight-up Def, yo.

  10. Neo-Colonialist | July 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm |

    I am a long time B-B customer and have to say that Claudio Del Vecchio is doing a very good job of helping to destroy much of what was great and legendary about the brand. Too much of the B-B merchandise, to include the polo shirts are manufactured in China. Too many of the dress shirts are made in Malaysia and Del Vecchio, money grubbing pig that he is has continued to increase pricing on many items by unconscionable double digit percentages.

    Cas in point: The calfskin tassel loafers have been increased in price from $378 to $498 in the last 16 months. These shoes and their shell cordovan brothers are manufactured by ALDEN Shoes of Massachusetts and Del Vecchio has been feding with them for as long as he’s owned B-B. His first increase was from $378 to $398, then within 90 days to $418. This past spring, this grub raised prices by another 20% to $498 and I was told that there is another increase to come. It is obvious, that this billionaire Italian (who inherited rather than earned his money), cares little for long term customers who while dedicated to the brand, do not see the point in paying his grossly inflated prices while the quality of the merchandise spirals ever downward.

    I’ve dealt with the saem salesman at the Short Hills, NJ store for almost 30 years and while I am not wealthy make a comfortable living. That said, this storied brand is being diluted and debased by a “poseur” who insists on inflicting non-traditional lines like Thom Brown, Black and Red Fleece that make a mockery of the Ivy League, Preppy and WASP styles.

    CDV and his inane style introductions have compelled me to re-evaluate my relationship with Brooks Brothers and now, buy there very, very selectively.

  11. @Neo:

    Shoemart charges $472 for tassel loafers, Ben Silver $475. Perhaps Alden is behind the price increases?

  12. Neo,

    You get two concerns very wrong.

    First, as Don pointed out, Alden’s prices are going up and Brooks is simply following suit. Complain to Alden. Furthermore, if you have a beef with Brooks, don’t buy their Alden versions. The only difference on the tassels is the Brooks’ version adds foxing on the heel.

    Second, the great decline of Brooks was set in motion by Marks & Spencer. The current owner hasn’t returned Brooks to its glory but he surely hasn’t dragged it down in the manner that M&S did. As far as returning Brooks to its glory, it’d be great to stock up but one would have to do it fast before that restored entity went out of business. The old Brooks isn’t a viable business model for today. If you haven’t noticed, the Ivy League look isn’t moving units as it did in days gone by.

  13. Lexcanuck | July 17, 2013 at 9:05 am |

    I’m a long time listener, first time caller.

    Biff gets it. I have shopped BB for almost 40 years. When I go in a location for the first time, I ask for a manager and tell him to inform his supervisors that another customer was asking for more American-made “non non-iron” OCBDs and dress shirts. I also mention I would gladly pay extra for basic penny loafers from Maine.

    No need to be greedy. The BB of yore simply could not survive. Let’s be thankful for the last surviving shirt factory in The Middle of Nowhere, NC and the old Southwick factory that Del Vecchio saved from bankruptcy. He also bailed out Harris Tweed—shameless pun intended.

    A tip of the hat to Mr. Mason as well. Give the kid a break. True style, even Ivy style, requires personal flair and the random idiosyncrasy, not mindless repetition of classics from the past. We all made wardrobe mistakes in our youth. Just look at C’s next post. I mean really………..Dacron?!?! Brooks loaded their shirts with it in the 50s and 60s. How many do you own Neo?

    And talking about shirts, all you Neo Reactionary Curmudgeons should buy (on sale) a made in NC Black Fleece OCBD. They are dope!

  14. Notes on BB, etc.

    Much at 50% off is a good deal.

    Having distinctly different lines is a great idea. There’s almost nothing in Black Fleece that I want, but most of the fabrics are suburb. I would buy a few bow ties since they’re the “just right” in terms of width. Red Fleece is stylish, slightly trendy, sometimes silly, but the spirit is campus-ivy. And if one is in good shape, quite a few of things look simply smashing. The Social Primer stuff is nifty. I have two blazers, and a few belts, but I find the bow ties just too wide for my taste.

    RE: Purple Sweaters

    My favorite from college and a long time after was a Purple-Purple Shaggy Dog. Second favorite was a Red-Red-Red. Press had a lot of vibrant colors when Drumohr produced them in numbered sizes. Of course, the fit was perfect, too.

  15. I was going to check out BB’s Red Fleece at some point, it seems like they have sports shirts for $80 instead of $100+. All the regular BB shirts I own I have to get about $20 worth of alterations for because there is so much cloth it’s like I’m swimming in it. Alternatively, for Polo, I can get my neck/sleeve or just M and it will fit fine off the rack for the most part. Anyway, if I can get BB quality sports shirts from Red Fleece for less money without the need for tailoring (assuming they are cut slim like RLP or other brands pushing for slimmer cuts), then I think it seems like a positive direction. I’m pretty sure none of the shirts I own from BB are made in America so what’s the difference between their “cool” brand and their real brand at that point? I haven’t look closely at the shirts in person, but is this Red Fleece negativity just the lurking fear that BB will turn into A&F?

  16. Andrew K. | March 1, 2020 at 8:51 pm |

    Regarding “tradition”, BB has always come out with cutting edge stuff (button down collar, pink shirts, etc etc) in addition to traditional. I bet back in the “heyday” there were traditionalists bemoaning the absence of detached collar shirts in BB’s then-current catalogue.

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