The Brooks Brothers Questionnaire

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In the history of the Ivy League Look, Brooks Brothers takes center stage. The brand has changed over the years, but so has society and the way men dress.

In the interest of research and to better understand this website’s readership, its perception of the Brooks Brothers brand, and its shopping habits at the retailer, Ivy-Style.com kindly asks you to respond to the following questions.

85 Comments on "The Brooks Brothers Questionnaire"

  1. BB does a small handful of things exceptionally we–must iron pinpoints and OCBDs, polo shirts, ties, some of the must iron madras/flannel/seersucker sportshirts (sizing and quality with these is very inconsistent though). I just wish they had some good khakis that weren’t pre-treated with the wrinkle free stuff and that didn’t have the Brooks Brothers label visibly printed on the back, sort of like what Polo does with many of their chinos. More non third world suits/jackets, too.

    Their sack blazer hits the target, from what I’ve heard. Suits seem decent, but I’d probably rather support Press.

  2. There’s a world of difference between someone who’s 29 and someone who’s 19,. There’s probably not so much difference between someone who’s 26 and 36. I feel your age ranges to be so arbitrary as to be meaningless. IMO, 16(or 18) – 24 is a meaningful age range, as is 25 – (35~38)…

  3. My main complaint about BB is non-iron shirts and pants. I won’t pick those up at a thrift store for $5. They shouldn’t make anything in Malaysia; expand operations at the North Carolina plant. I also wish they had their knit ties in stores (or even outlets).

  4. Don’t do much of any business with BB’s anymore, since they began their ongoing crusade with my favorite oxymoron, “Updated Classics”.
    Try finding things that they offered when the company catered to Purists. I wouldn’t mind their line of updated classics, if they still offered me the products that I wanted. They seem to offer one sack suit a year in their summer line of poplins. Either that’s it, or I’m missing out on something.
    I’ll support O’Connell’s, Andover, and J.Press. This being until BB’s does what Press has done, keep their line of classics and also offer their new line of “Updated Classics” with their York Street line!

  5. Non-Iron Fan | March 18, 2013 at 9:19 am |

    I am a fan o BB’s non-iron shirts because it is impossible to iron the must-iron ones. By the way, the non-iron shirts DO need ironing, but the result is perfection.

  6. I know I have said this before on this site, but Brooks sizing is completely out of line. I would purchase a lot more from BB if they had clothes that fit me. I go to their store and website and just leave frustrated.

    I wear a 16.5-33 and I recently bought a 15.5-33 extra slim fit just so it fits my body correctly. I had a gift card, otherwise I would have shopped elsewhere. I am 6’/195lbs, so I am not “small” but every time I try on one of their shirts I have enough extra fabric that I can make a matching shirt for my son.

  7. I’m 30 – 49 and shop only trad supima slim fit OCBDs. I’m with Robert (and I suspect a plurality of Ivy Style readers) on the issue of non-iron. Regardless of what one thinks of the “convenience” of non-iron and the “difficulty” of ironing, the materials do not square with the quality to price ratio of the must irons, particularly the original supima OCBDs. Non-iron fabric barely resembles the fiber it is made with. It is heavily chemically treated and in such abundance as to make it significantly cheaper than untreated cloth. A quick search reveals that, in general, non-iron shirting ranges from $1-3 per yard and regular supima starts at $8.98. BB sells non-iron supima and Egyptian yet the shirts cost the same. These shirts retain few of the characteristics that make supima or Egyptian worth the price. Additionally, you have to scroll, or search the shelves, forever to find a traditional shirt. Now that the majority of their shirts are non-iron that drives down their costs making the $88 per non-iron shirt an even bigger rip-off.

    I would buy many more shirts if they were of good quality. As it is now I buy only blue and blue stripe slim fit traditional OCBDs (as I have one white and one pink I don’t need to replenish those). All their patterned shirts have the non-iron problem.

    With the online market a store retailer has to compete on price, quality, and service. BB can no longer do any of these. When you go to their store you are basically paying for the overhead of their faux-trad store decorations and for the snooty attitude of their salespeople – I only buy during the sales. Even in-store stock is wanting. I went to the local store to get a 15 x 33 blue stripe slim fit OCBD and it took them 6 weeks to get it!

    I thrift their ties. Their prices barely compete with Sam Hober. If I want non-iron khakis I’ll just buy Dickies, thank you. For their shoes I just go to AE , C and J, Sargent, or Alden directly – why pay for a BB logo?.

    Thanks for the poll CC. Perhaps a little of this will get back to BB. It is really quite a shame what has happened to this great American style and former bench mark for quality.

  8. JJ Farnsworth | March 18, 2013 at 10:32 am |

    @barnaby

    It is not a matter of convenience vs. difficulty, it is a matter of looking sharp vs. looking rumpled. Non-Iron Fan has hit the nail on the head. Even with the most powerful steam iron and heavy spray starch one cannot get a really crisp look on a BB must-iron OCBD shirt.

  9. I am grateful. They saved Southwick. And those of you who have done the Cambridge MTM know why we should be grateful. Such a great jacket. I’m convinced they used old Brooks (maybe University Shop) papers for the Cambridge. I wish they’d become a bit more flexible and offer it with yoke lining only, but 1/2 lining is fine.

    The made-somewhere-not-in-the-USA Cambridge (a few examples featured on their website) is NOT to be confused with the made-by-Southwick model.

  10. Yoke as an option, rather.

  11. Christian,

    I think a multiple-question survey would produce much more robust and meaningful data than a series of single-question polls. It would serve to identify trends better (ie, 18-29 year olds tend to think of BB as being of poor value, but look favorably upon the diverse options), as well as making completion of the /full/ survey mandatory. There are many free or cheap survey-builder tools online.

    Now, I may only be seeing this from the front-end, so you as the administrator might have these data analysis options.

  12. JJ Farnsworth said,
    “It is not a matter of convenience vs. difficulty, it is a matter of looking sharp vs. looking rumpled. Non-Iron Fan has hit the nail on the head. Even with the most powerful steam iron and heavy spray starch one cannot get a really crisp look on a BB must-iron OCBD shirt.”

    Want to bet? Besides, remember when clothing had labels stating “guaranteed to wrinkle” or “bleed” or “fade”? I wonder, would BB sell more poplin or linen or drill cloth suits and jacket if they soak them in formaldehyde first?

  13. Amazing how people can speak up for outrageosly ostentatious pink polos and lavender bermudas which make one stand out like a sore thumb, but be opposed to non-iron shirts that allow one to project a neat, conservative image.

  14. As I read the above several solutions comes to mind. Mercer & Son shirts, a good laundry for them and non iron shirts equals clip on ties.

  15. JJ Farnsworth – I understand your point about looking sharp instead of the shirt being wrinkled. I agree that after 8 hours a non-iron will show fewer wrinkles. However, the price of a BB non-iron is not commensurate with the quality. The cloth has been fundamentally altered – the fibers lie in one direction and it retains the chemicals of the treatment process. You will notice that it will have a slight, or pronounced, chemical smell to it which is even worse when steamed or slightly ironed.

    A non-iron supima or Egyptian is the shirting equivalent of corrected-grain leather. A knowledgeable shoe buyer would balk at being charged the same price for corrected grain cordovan or corrected grain of the the famous antique Russian reindeer hide as they would the original leather.

    MAC – I fear BB would sell more of the items mentioned if advertised as such. I think the mass market shows that consumers want easy-care throw aways that approximate the original. We are a small part of the customer base so I can’t really begrudge BB running their business based on the average customer whose current tastes are likely to continue.

  16. If I were older I would be better able to contribute in this discussion. I will add that things always seem to have been better in the past as we remember the good more so than the bad.

    I do have a few older BB jackets and they did have some really soft shoulders, but I also have a Southwick Cambridge and I am pretty happy with it, too.

  17. Roy R. Platt | March 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

    Forty years ago, I bought almost everything at Brooks Brothers, most of which I still have and wear. I last bought a suit at Brooks Brothers during the Marks & Spencer era. The fabric on the trousers decided to unweave itself. I took the trousers back, and a large patch was sewn over the unravelled area.

    I bought two shirts in 2004 and a pair of repp stripe socks last year. Also bought two pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes at Brooks Brothers recently, because the Brooks Brothers versions came with poiron insoles and rubber (repp pattern, oddly enough) soles as standard rather than as special order features.

  18. As a current Columbia student, my main consideration when shopping is value, and after visiting both J. Press and Kamakura, I was shocked at how much lower the quality/price is of BB. Case in point: OCBDs: almost everything at BB is non-iron treated, has plastic buttons, has no pattern matching from the yoke to sleeve, and their sizing is very strange. J. Press and Kamakura were like a breath of fresh air, and guess what, I left Kamakura with a beautiful OCBD for the exact same price as one of BBs. Being a bit younger and without a fully developed style, the selection at BB is enticing, but honestly, I have a really hard time reconciling the quality with the price…

  19. G. Bruce Boyer | March 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm |

    I have taken this survey and seen the results so far. They seem to be accurate and reflect what I already suspected: those men over 50 will remember a time when Brooks clothes were better quality than they are today. Further, it can be said that their image is somewhat confused and has departed from their tradition” “Le stilo preppy” perhaps best sums it up. Whether this is good or bad I leave for others to decide.

  20. Hopefully, Brooks might catch the drift that the decades-old loyal customer base prefers their older, more traditional offerings and the UWS dentists and Audi-driving soccer moms that cyclically keep the brand alive will be moving on to the next trend in five years. That’s why they should at least stock one must-iron alternative to each of those stiff, awkward ( or “sharp”), embalmed shirts they label “non-iron.”

    By the way, I’m 17 so I defaulted to the 18-29 range.

  21. I am 55, so it won’t surprise anyone when I say BB could be better. But I think it is improved over the dreadful Marks & Spencer era. I prefer the must-iron shirts, but I do have several of the non-iron shirts which I find are great for travelling. We can carp all we want about the non-iron shirts, but the public has voted: they love them. But jackets made in China? It is to be lamented.

    I still like BB ties, but today’s version is a bit thinner than I prefer, so I’ll just bide my time until they get wider again.

    I also think it was a mistake for BB to expand so aggressively into the outlet market, to the point where they have to make stuff just for the outlets. I, too, wish BB could be just where it was in the early 1980s, say, but I’m a realist. There are not enough guys like me to keep them in business, and I’ll take BB as is versus as was but no longer around.

  22. @Dan: Agreed.

    @Everyone complaining about the prices: Buy on sale. Prices consistently drop 50% (sweaters even more so, to $30 from $108).

  23. MM Bancroft | March 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm |

    According to many commenters’ way of thinking, a guy can get away with effeminate colors, bit loafers, ultra-slim gigolo-cut shirts and trousers, and still be considered True Ivy as long as he wears must-iron shirts.
    If, on the other hand, he prefers easy-to-iron shirts, he has betrayed the Ivy corps and might as well be wearing clip-on neckties. I fail to see the logic. I only wear easy-to-iron shirts and have never noticed any stiffness, formaldehyde smell, or any other negative characteristics whatsoever.

  24. @MM. I’ll own the clip on tie comment, but my remark isn’t about judging, shooting at, or being better than anybody. To me, non-iron shirt fabric feels different than pure cotton…kinda polyester like. I tried two and gave them to my nephew. Same with non-iron chino pants. The notion of a non-iron shirt, I believe, is about convenience as is a clip on tie. I simply prefer pure cotton, non-treated. I also prefer to tie my ties versus the convenience of a clip on. There are a few luxury’s in life and a freshly laundered pure cotton shirt is one of them. The collars and cuffs set up nicely, ahhhh, it’s a beautiful thing.

  25. Buttoned Down | March 18, 2013 at 9:26 pm |

    As a admittedly pathological neatnik, I can only agree with those who have voiced a preference for non-iron OCBD shirts. By the way, the non-iron collars look far better than the all-cotton ones, too. The lopsided roll, which was/is nothing more than a manufacturing defect caused by shrinkage, has been turned into a fetishistic icon by self-styled Ivy purists.

    As others have pointed out, “non-iron” is a misnomer. They always require touch-up ironing. I would no sooner wear a shirt right out of the dryer than I would wear flipflops, or jeans, for that matter, although some self-proclaimed Ivy adherents seem to believe that jeans have a place in the Ivy wardrobe.

  26. Lapsus Linguae | March 18, 2013 at 9:30 pm |

    @J.J. Farnsworth

    My Chinaman does extra-heavy starch and the result is even more spiffy than a non-iron Oxford.

  27. I can’t answer some of these questions since I’ve only started buying OCBDs frequently in the past 4 years.

    My sentiments:

    Why bother producing in USA if you are only going to make OCBDs in a shitty cut?

    It’s either their too huge (regular fit) or they have so much excess cloth at the back they make you looked hunched (slim fit) despite having perfect posture. It really isn’t about the location – BB made in the USA and malaysia are equally bad. And what is up with all the puckering at the seams after a wash.

    I understand many people have a beef about RL shifting production to the lowest bidder (China, Phillipines, HK), but I think RL’s OCBDs are still well produced.

  28. Awoke to some odd comments this morning.

    We’ve got a “pathological neatnik” who might want to seek help for that. Another guy says “my Chinaman” as if he owns a slave. Then there’s a reference to fitted shirts as “gigolo cut” alongside another remark about how badly fitting traditional shirts are.

    Then we’ve got a guy who can’t stand how oxford cloth puckers in the wash, and finally a reference to “self-styled purists.”

    I suppose if you’re a purist it’s possible you’ve styled yourself that way.

  29. Correct Christian, I have styled myself as a “Purist” and am proud of it!

  30. Gooser
    You sound like you would have loved the original RL OCBD circa 1970. It had the BB collar roll, but slim fitting, made in USA, mother of pearl buttons. Unfortunately, sometime around 1980 when the preppy surge hit RL went to the smaller collar and the classic BB tent body. I transitioned into Gitman shirts, they don’t have the larger classic collar, but they are indestructible.

    I recently purchased some cheap RL fancy broadcloth BDs at Macys on sale for $25, list $89.50. They are cut like a Gitman, but made in China and had an extra button on the cuff, note I said had an extra button.

  31. Great post.

  32. I’m guilty as anyone in criticising some “looks”. There are somethings like black knit ties, Belgium loafers and bit loafers that aren’t for me, to name a few. Most of my critique is meant in jest, except for the short coat look. The short coat critique has mostly to do with warning younger guys with limited resources not to purchase an expensive item they will regret in time, a blazer can last decades. As to other items that are not my “cup of tea”, I know men that wear them, they dress ivy style top drawer.

    The truth is that ivy style is about finding your individual style within parameters. Also, remember that ivy style is subtly different in different parts of the country.

  33. Ethan Price | March 19, 2013 at 8:03 am |

    I assumed that when LL said “my chinaman” he was referring to a porcelain specialist who was moonlighting as a laundryman.

  34. To the people who prefer embalmed shirts because they want to look “sharp”: If you’re that dressed up, you shouldn’t be wearing a button-down collar, or oxford-cloth shirt to begin with. The whole idea of the OCBD is that it looks dressed down. A bit of rumpledness is essential.

    I only buy “must iron” Oxford cloth shirts, and never iron them. I do send shirts out to be pressed, but those are not my OCBDs, those are my dress shirts.

  35. MAC,

    Might I suggest that you give the black knit tie another chance. They look classy with a charcoal tweed jacket.

  36. Old Timer
    No doubt, but I just prefer a little more “pop” in my neck wear. I only do monochrome formally. Doesn’t make it right or wrong in terms of ivy style. I wear seersucker blazers, white buck, buck spectators etc, it repulses some, so what, some can’t pull it off, there is nothing wrong with that. Just not their “cup of tea”, it’s about essentials and parameters.

  37. @Cameron – for what it’s worth, I agree 100%.

  38. Felix Felix | March 19, 2013 at 9:36 am |

    Cameron,

    A gentleman always wants to look sharp.

  39. Ironchefsakai | March 19, 2013 at 10:03 am |

    Cameron took the words right out of my mouth. The entire point of the Ivy League Look was to dress down dressiness to the utmost while still coforming to technical guidelines. An OCBD “should be” a little wrinkled, if only because the whole point of the look is to dress on the fly–the true masters of the look (old money kids who grew up dressing this way) didn’t think but just did…do you think the sun-bleaching and cuff/collar fraying on their shirts and chinos was intentional? It just happened through normal wear and was incorporated into the look unconsciously as a natural reality. Anything more just comes across as affected, whether it’s pre-worn-styled clothes, or perfectly-pressed shirts of any finish.

  40. Ironchefsakai | March 19, 2013 at 10:08 am |

    Also, @Old Timer,

    Where would you recommend purchasing a black knit tie?

  41. @Ironchefsakai

    J. Press has black silk knit ties available in both a 2″ and a 3″ width.

  42. Has anybody tried Golden Fleece MTM recently? Still Greenfield, or has Southwick taken over the top drawer made to measure?

  43. Perhaps the following question would’ve been a good addition:

    “Do you think Ralph Lauren has outpaced Brooks Brothers in regards to traditional Ivy League style supply?”

  44. @Simon…..If you compare company valuations, RL creamed BB. BB had the ability to take the Ivy look to the next level, but didn’t see it as clearly as RL. Good case study….for Harvard?

  45. Ironchefsakai | March 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm |

    Thanks for the suggestions. PS and Press were both high on my list. I’ve got a Drake’s and a couple RLPLs, but the Drake’s has begun to fray already and the RLPLs lack body and are bizarrely long.

    Thanks again!

  46. I don’t know about the rest of you, but where I live it costs $2.25 to launder a shirt. That’s right, $2.25.

    Because of this, and even as a lifelong BB customer, I’ve switched to non-iron. There’s definitely an element of suckerdom inherent in paying this exorbitant price. It feels like extortion.

    And does anyone remember prep school when everyone went to class wearing un-pressed OCBDs? No big deal.

    Anyway, today I wear flamboyant BB Social Primer reversible bow ties with my suits and jackets so nobody notices my shirts anyway.

  47. DCLawyer68 | March 20, 2013 at 6:48 am |

    Where you stand on Brooks Brothers likely depends on when you first discovered it. I liked it best in the late 1980s when it came to Michigan and as a college student entering law school it was an appropriate place for me to shop. By the 1990s it had lost its way, and where it is now is a GREAT IMPROVEMENT over that period.

    I really don’t have a lot bad to say about it. It’s still my normal “go to” even if I sense it was even better in days past. The quality is better and style more traditional than Jos Bank, and the price is pretty much in line with the quality when you consider anyone can get 15% off everyday and frequently can get 25% and more.

    Brooks’s strategic relationships have not excited me (Thom Brown, etc) and there’s rarely the “wow” factor I get with Paul Stuart. Still if I could ONLY shop at one store it would be Brooks.

  48. BG in Virginia | March 20, 2013 at 7:51 am |

    Judging from the comments, most seem to feel, as I do, that BB has gone down the wrong road. Cordovan shoes, OCBDs, OC boxers, and detachable collar formal shirts are still on offer, I believe. And Tom Jackson in the Madison Ave. store’s custom shirt department also offers some good choices, but I haven’t seen any tailored clothing that I would want in quite a while. J. Press, some Southwick offerings if you can find them, and custom seem to be the only generally available sources for traditional suits these days. I would like to see the results of the survey, but cannot seem to get them to show; perhaps a computer glitch on my end.

  49. If they would just offer more must iron shirts with minimal interfacing, I would be happy enough with them. Right now my only cheap option for shirts like that is the polo outlet near me but with polo I have to deal with the stupid logo on everything.

  50. The following anecdote should prove illuminating. A few years ago I spent upwards of $700 on a Brooks blazer. So cheap and shoddy was the fusing that the blazer soon puckered all along the front darts. Three separate store managers declined to exchange the blazer for another or to credit my account. Such behavior–not to mention such inferior workmanship–would have been inconceivable even as late as the 1960’s.

  51. James Redhouse | March 20, 2013 at 11:07 am |

    The one-and-only complaint I have about Brooks Brothers is that they don’t have a university stripe/candy stripe Oxford cloth shirt available in the non-iron version. Otherwise, I am totally satisfied with the fit and feel of their OCBD non-iron shirts in the traditional cut and find that their ties produce a beautiful knot.

  52. I’m a realist, I live in Toronto so classic Anglo/American and Ivy League style is pretty thin on the ground in a sea of high end European designer threads. So I’m happy Brooks Brothers is here, I buy what I like, what I don’t, stays in the store.

  53. BG in Virginia | March 20, 2013 at 11:42 am |

    I began shopping at Brooks in the mid to late 80’s, just after graduating from school, and at that time the undarted, Golden Fleece label 3-button sack was readily available and very well made. I still have 2 of these suits from around 1987 that I have worn regularly for roughly 25 years. I dread the day when they finally wear out, as inevitably they must, because they are no longer available at Brooks at any price, or so I was advised by a salesman in the main NY store. However, as of a couple of years ago, BB, still offered some good shirts in the custom department, including must-iron fabrics to be run up in buttondown polo collars, golf (i.e., club) collars, eyelet collars, tab collars. etc., but I haven’t ordered any recently.

  54. It’s odd, maybe. I still think of the look as the Brooks Brothers Look. Affiliating a particular clothing style with a handful of colleges in the Northeast–it still feels weird. And it’s not entirely accurate, since the look predates the brief period during which Ivy League students wore it.

    That a few New Haven tailors borrowed heavily from the Brooks Look and marketed and sold the hell out of it–well, okay. This is history, remembered and documented. But it’s Brooks Brothers Style, simply stated.

    The sack, the Oxford button down, the Vanners silk repp stripes in bold colors, the Alden tassels–it’s all so, well, Brooksy. I think of “gray bottoms” (with everything) as Brooksy. Even Squeeze has hinted that J. Press, along with other Ivy Tog outposts, we’re basically selling Brooks Brothers style.

    Isn’t this precisely what Ralph Lauren did?

    Let’s hope the return of “Own Make” this fall signals the beginning of a new era. This suggests they’ll use their own New England factory to make more off-the-rack clothing. All to the good.

    Wouldn’t it be dandy to see a flannel sack blazer (with enamel Golden Fleece buttons), a few tweed sacks, and a few flannel sack suits in the “Own Make” lineup this fall? And they might do the # 1 Repp in a few addtional color combinations.

  55. One of my favorite “Trad” forum narratives is offered by “Tom Rath”/”Phil.”

    He goes to Winston/Chipp for custom clothing.

    What does he take, hoping to have replicated?

    A vintage Brooks jacket. This says it all. The roads are many and they fork often, but don’t they all lead back to Brooks?

  56. A.E.W. Mason | March 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm |

    I continue to buy certain shirts and accessories at Brooks. I will also buy their Alden and Allen Edmonds shoes during their semi-annual sale. Otherwise, since 1984 I’ve purchased only two BB sport coats; the quality was pretty good but not exceptional. So far as I know, excepting only the un-darted blue sack blazer, Brooks does not offer the 3-button sack cut. Although I see it offers some very nice darted, 2-button suits and coats which are otherwise softly tailored.

    It was in ’84 that I crossed 44th Street and became almost exclusively a J. Press customer (although I’ve lived in LA now for 24 years and order by phone or online). There were two reasons: the traditional sack cut and quality. In fact, yesterday I wore a new J. Press suit which I purchased about three weeks ago. It’s a beautiful garment with a wonderful drape.

    My own comments about the “suicide of J. Press” are meant as hyperbole and, frankly, to poke fun at myself for being an old curmudgeon—an “in-your-face curmudgeon” who doesn’t want anything to change. I know there is truth to the several comments pointing out that J. Press is still with us and that York Street is an entirely separate line with its own store. Indeed, Press still offers beautiful 3-button, un-darted sack suits and sport coats of exceptional quality.

    But, still, J. Press—qua “J. Press” (York Street aside)—has begun to “soften,” or perhaps the better word is “harden.” We see “slim fit” suits and shirts, and the new spring collection offers 3-button suits now with darts. Okay, no big deal, right? But the template is Brooks Brothers. It didn’t “fall” from “Ivy Grace” in a day. The traditional suits, jackets and understated elegance were phased out over quite a long time. Is that’s what’s happening to J. Press? I certainly hope not. But I think we’ll have to wait and see. Frankly, gentlemen, the unvarnished truth is that most men do not dress as we do and are completely unaware of the “genre” we so love.

    Finally, I don’t wear exclusively classic American clothing. I have a selection of Savile Row suits by L.G. Wilkinson which I love and wear with (gasp!) spread collars and French cuffs. For some truly beautiful soft tailoring with a continental influence, take a look at the suites and coats worn by Bob Cummings and Ray Milland in Dial “M” for Murder. They, by the way, remind me a bit of what F.R. Trippler used to offer; not really “Ivy” but soft and elegant. Trippler also had the best ties in the most elegant muted colors.

  57. A.E.W. Mason | March 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm |

    Sorry; I meant “Tripler.”

  58. “Isn’t this precisely what Ralph Lauren did?”

    It’s what Ralph Lauren originally said he was going to do in the very late 60s and he did.

  59. A.E.W. Mason | March 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

    MAC,

    I agree. He did do it. He really is a marketing genius in my view. And he offers quality as well. The power of his ads to evoke is unparalleled.

  60. All of the above criticisms are well-taken. The fits are a disaster; non-iron is a sign of the decline of Western Civilization; the service is, at least according to my sources, nothing like what it used to be. (Incidentally, see J. Press DC for an example of what it used to be.) On the other hand:

    I was at the dealership having my car repaired (I know, I know) and the “service advisor,” wearing what appeared to be a very slim-fit BB polo shirt, noticed my tie, and ended up asking me what a “rolled collar” was.

    Could all of this be a kind of Ivy/Trad fifth column? An ingenious method of recruiting others to the ranks of what a cherished mentor of mine once called the “brotherhood of the Golden Fleece?” Today non-iron, tomorrow 3B sack?

    Keep the faith.

  61. @Benchley

    If wearing rumpled, unironed OCBD shirts is a sign of being civilized, I must plead guilty to being a barbarian who prefers the crisp look of a non-iron shirt.

  62. Unclaimed trad username: Puckered_Placket

  63. Certain affiliations remain intact, and will survive the test of time.

    I mentioned the bold striped repp stripe tie. I think this creature, along with Shetland crewnecks and seersucker, is pure Brooks. Not city or country wear in England. Most of the English regiments, clubs, and schools feature a navy background. Brooks introduced bold designs with ground stripes ranging from forest green to fire engine red. Pure Brooks.

    You don’t see much of them in old (American) photos circa the 50s, 40s, and 30s. There’s overlap with Ivy, but too many Ivy purists prefer solid (black or navy, usually) ties to place it in the hardcore Weejuns-and-crewcut category.

    It has persevered as other Brooks innovations have not. They enjoyed a remarkable renaissance in the 1980s–especially, I recall, among Congressmen and Senators.

    Few–very few–in the media, public service, or business (I’m aware of) wear colorful repp stripes. George Will is an exception. But nowadays it seems even he prefers patterns and solids.

  64. Liked the KJP collab, my wife just got all the BB#1 stripes available in her size last night. The BB#1 polos were spot on as well, I guess that’s a start.

    Wished they offered must-iron OCBD shirts in more solid and striped colors. At this point, I only pull out the stone, peach, and yellow u-striped shirts for special occasions with a nice olive tweed sportscoat from O’Connell’s.

  65. Georgia Coal | March 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm |

    All this passion says it all….everyone wants Brooks to be Brooks. Hell if they would just unline the collar and cuffs of the OCBD’s it would settle everybody down. I am hoping they are listening. And with blogs like this maybe they will. We are the ones that care. Not that dude on the new catalog…..

  66. Unrumpled Trad | March 21, 2013 at 9:11 pm |

    Georgia Coal,

    Fortunately, BB is listening to those of us who are grateful for an innovation which allows us to wear OCBDs and not look as if we’ve just rolled out of bed.

  67. The obvious should be noted: Ben Silver, with a stock of thousands upon thousands of British repp weave striped neckwear, stole Brooks’ thunder. Big time.

  68. I went suit shopping at Brooks Brothers this fall when there wasn’t a sale on. One look at the price tags put me on the next train to Harvard Square. I sincerely doubt there’s a $100+ quality difference between a basic suit from Brooks and a basic suit from the Andover Shop or J. Press: If some of my recent sport coat and accessory purchases are any guide, I’d be willing to bet I’d get better quality from Andover or Press. I still go to Brooks for OCBDs, which are probably the best value in the universe, but they’ll have to bring back the quality guarantee for me to consider shopping there for other stuff.

  69. Joe Miller | March 25, 2013 at 9:08 am |

    The extreme tilt toward wrinkle-free everything is disappointing. The products, especially the shirts, tend to be feel cheap, and wrinkle-free products have a discernable appearance that less than desirable. BB used to be synonymous with classic style and high quality, but no longer. Featuring a “designer” like Thom Jones is just one example. What the hell?

    I now rely on retailers such as Mercer, O’Connell’s, Hanson’s and Bills Khakis, as well as Andover and even Jos A Bank for great value on traditional suits.

    By the way, J. Press is ruining their brand as well.

  70. BB should go back to real gentlemens clothing. They opted to follow the fads with skinny suits, slacks that are too pegged at the bottoms and got away from the great all Egyptian cotton shirts. The suits I use to buy at Brooks were Sack style (well tailored) with plenty of room in the trousers for a nice clean silhouette. That is no longer available – much to chagrin of the traditional well dressed man. As far as the other Ivy charletans they too miss the mark. Putting huge logos and the like on their clothing is, in my view tacky. Someone once said that if your clothing calls attention to yourself then you are not well dressed. or something like that.
    I won;t go any further although I could. Anyone on this site knows the score.

  71. WER,

    To paraphrase Will from A Suitable Wardrobe, a well-dressed man looks good when you see him, but fifteen minutes after you part, you can’t remember what he was wearing.

    I believe that this is the traditional English approach.

  72. One of my pet peeves with Brooks is that they charge high prices for goods that are made in China and other low wage places. Nice that some of their clothing is made in the US but very little. Also I don’t think the store atmosphere is what it once was. I sometimes feel like the sales people could be working at Banana Republic. (Compare with J Press where the service is great and so is the quality for the most part.) I was really disappointed with Brooks’ recent spring catalog which seems to indicate they are once again moving away from the traditional clothing that was once their strenght.

  73. Straight Arrow | March 26, 2013 at 8:27 pm |

    As long as I can get blue or white OCBDs, grey flannels, navy blazers, muted tweeds, and conservative navy ties, I’ll turn a blind eye to the other stuff that BB and JP produce in order to stay in business. I chose to dress this way because I was brought up to believe that that was the only proper way for a gentleman to dress. I have a minimalist wardrobe and spend a very modest amount on it, and yet, people think that I’m filthy rich because of my understated appearance.

  74. @Peter

    Here in Hong Kong, we can buy Brooks Brothers knockoffs with MADE IN USA labels sewn in.

  75. When I was an undergraduate in 1962 I saw a BB Sea Island tattersall shirt with tiny blue recrtangular pattern in their Boston store. It was $11.50 and I didn’t buy it because it was too expensive for a penniless student. I’ve regretted that omission for over half a century, since I never found that exact pattern again. I remember the great days of BB, when little old men in 3 piece suits who’d worked there for 40 years waited on you and the shirts were in glass cases, carefully displayed. Fast forward 50 years to non-iron shirts and you can see why some of us relics lament past glories at BB. Still, after the debacle of the Marks&Spencer era, when BB nearly went under, we can be grateful for small blessings like the survival of pink OCBDS. At 71 it’s nice to know that there are men around who don’t view style as something to be ensconced in a time machine.

  76. Some things are still just fine at Brooks: Alden shell shoes, especially their proprietary versions (tassel loafers, unlined penny loafers, plain toes on M last), the Golden Fleece best-in-the-world Sea Island cotton underwear made in Germany, the new made-in-the-US Country Club sport shirts, the custom shirt program so you can get no lining in the cuffs and collars, Golden Fleece made-in-England sized socks, and alas I am stumped for more.

    In the old days, I could walk in the store and be willing to buy just about anything. Now you have to sort through lots of junk. It is not what it was, but it is something.

  77. Dutch Uncle | March 27, 2013 at 10:39 pm |

    @Gary Gober

    I’m only 69, but if I remember correctly $11.50 was indeed unaffordable for a student in the 60s. I believe that an Arrow or Van Heusen shirt ran about $3.50, and a Gant or Hathaway shirt about a dollar more. Or am I imagining things?

  78. Brooks brothers is moving in the right direction, however, they need to look into their archives for help. What I used to enjoyed about brooks brothers clothing was the uniqueness. I recall starting my career in 1987 and buying Brooks Brothers gray cotton slacks made in the USA that were distinct, and looked great with a blue blazer and a pair of cordovan loafers. Those same slacks could be worn casually. $90 a pair was expensive for me, however, I valued the unique color I cannot find today. I wish they would bring them back. I would pay $200 a pair if I could find them. I am currently looking for similar material to have slacks made Today, I only find olive and tan colors that fail to dazzle me as the classic gray did. How about the classic BB cotton shirts made in the 80s. That shirt stood out and had quality written all over it. I still buy their shirts made in the USA. I would prefer that the material be made in the USA. Brooks brothers should offer more unique colors and materials that separate them from others. Brooks brothers is trying and I appreciate their USA made shirts but, please give me a reason to spend more time in your store.

  79. An overwhelming majority voted that quality has declined. As a BB customer since the 80s, and having had access to the knowledge of my father and grandfather, also BB customers for many years prior, I disagree.

    This does not mean that I think the quality is excellent. It’s just that excellent quality was never part of the BB calculus. BB has always been of average quality (value-wise). I think many old time customers are romanticizing the good old days, and many younger, or new customers have bought into the myth.

    I’ll pay more at BB than Macy’s and I will get better quality. But I can find better quality clothing for higher prices, too.

    BB, believe it or not, is high end clothing to most consumers. Tell Joe on the Q train that he should start spending $100 for a sweater rather than $25. Mind will be blown. He will expect the $100 sweater to be indestructible. To the enthusiast, or true high end customer, $100 sweaters are nothing and they won’t expect much out of them.

    Thus, the average customer will expect a lot more out of BB than they should.

  80. For me BB is not the same place it was in the past. Their PR department would say that they have evolved and are more attuned to the current market. I would say that their products have been altered to position them closer to the mainstream of men’s clothing. By trying to appeal to the masses, they have become more generic. There is a place for a men’s clothier who does not try to appeal to Brooklyn hipsters or wanabe hipsters.

    I have been a customer of Brooks since the late 70’s, and my family for years before that. In fact my first experience in shopping at Brooks was when my grandmother sent me to 346 Madison, with instructions to see Mr– who had served my grandfather in the past. I can assure one and all that the quality of what is offered now is significantly below the level of what was offered back in the day. I have passed along shirts, trousers, ties and blazers to my teenage son that were all purchased between 20 and 30 years ago. The garments still look great. I have more recent products from Brooks that are unwearable after just a few years of use. I detest non iron shirts. They look cheap and feel horrible against the skin. They retain heat in the summer, making for an uncomfortable fit. And a trained eye can tell the difference between a non iron and need to be ironed BB BD from across the room. I have also noticed that the “Traditional” cut is now about 1/2 size trimmer than it was just a few years ago. As for their suits, besides the impossibility of purchasing a true sack cut, it is now impossible to purchase a true sack Navy Blazer. I had my local store order one for me. Several were actually sent to the store, presumably for inventory stock. I was presented with what I was told the “Classic Sack Blazer”. What I encountered was a noticeably recut garment. Much shorter through the body and much trimmer through the shoulders. When the salesman tried to tell me that nothing had changed, I showed him the blazer I wore into the store, which was a 10yr old BrooksEase. It was plainly obvious that changes had been made.

    I would be perfectly happy if Brooks would offer more need to be ironed shirts, in the cuts and fabrics used in the past. I would love if Brooks would re-introduce the BrooksEase Sack suit line just as they were 10years ago. To me the BrooksEase sack was a well made suit, that was comfortable to wear and hit the value point of diminishing returns.

    Taking a step back, the trend in menswear in general is trimmer cuts. Noting the state of the economy over the past few years, it is easy to understand that cutting garments in a trimmer silhouette will save fabric and thus manufacturing cost compared to a more generously cut garment. Trimmer cuts allow manufactures to maintain profit margins. The irony is that this has occured at a time when the waistline of American men has continued to expand, indicating a need for larger and more generously cut clothing.

  81. SouthEastP-ton | January 2, 2014 at 1:06 am |

    After reading through these often ridiculous comments…. I’m reminded of everything that’s wrong with this country.
    No loyalty.
    -English isn’t even the national language… there is none… and people wonder how Spanish can thrive so easily here- Let’s face it, if we as a country can’t be loyal (even loosely) in business and pleasure to our country… how on earth can we expect ourselves to have brand loyalty to arguably the only true ‘American’ clothier left? I’m not one to follow blindly either -I’m of a generation that can find the truth of a matter rather easily-, simply put, BB still holds what’s important in a brand for me; originality, quality, and lineage. I dare you to show me a brand that’s as prolific, steadfast, and American with comparable prices.
    It’s rather obvious that many of you are of the sellout generation…. aging, still overweight, weary of the newly learned “hipster”, and blatantly unaware that you are in fact responsible for any decline BB may have had in previous decades. RL is a perfect example…. which many of you so outwardly support. I respect Mr. R. Lifshitz greatly for the aura he created… and the man can design… but there is no soul and very little originality. Hence, his highly developed marketing. He has to constantly convince you that his clothing ever had an identity of its own.
    I’ll remind you that genuine class is effortless.

    Perhaps, had you gentlemen dared to stick with BB -maybe even informed them of your feelings about their merchandise gone awry… they do seem to care about customer opinion… they ask me for feedback/opinions constantly- and not hopped on other cheaper bandwagons with Asia as the true motherland… BB may have never ‘declined’. You see, while other entities never produced clothing in the US, continually try to mask their cheap nature, and severely mark up any US-made clothing… Brooks Brothers has remained rather transparent. I feel that BB’s production overseas was the result of their weakened state and changed environment… they give me no reason to doubt that their intent is to stay truly American… and to not only maintain, but actually increase US production of clothing. You can even see it in their collaborations with American companies, e.g., Red Wing Shoes.

    As far as fit goes… the Brooks Brothers line remains mostly unchanged… and is indeed large by today’s *shrinking* standards (contrary to what you may think or read… younger generations are leaner and more physically aware than yours). Blue Label is introduced in order to keep the BB line relevant to today’s sizing. Red Label (Flatiron Shops) is for the current *younger* collegiate type and attempts -successfully imo- to attract and sustain a younger/entry-level crowd. God-forbid they do the unthinkable and update some classic styles… maybe even flop.
    >>Black Fleece (the preferred whipping-boy) is -contrary to what you older men may desire- NOT intended for you! You may be able to get away sporting some of it… but it was never intended to be the Black/Purple label! Ralph L (you sugar-daddy) did that for you… go back to his Chateau on Madison! Black Fleece is the bahh bahh black sheep of the flock and does not mean to serve an aging generation that has obviously forsaken them. It is edgy, meticulous, and not for the overweight. If you have any qualms with Thom Browne, he… and anyone even remotely relevant in design cares not.

    Previous generations have done enough damage… taken no accountability… and complained enough. Excuse me while my generation picks up the pieces, re-evaluates, renews, and rebuilds. If you did more googling of ‘hipster’ you might learn that they have this knack for gentrifying. Gentrification is great for growing capital in those locales that manufactured goods… that is, until the industry was sold out and sent overseas, leaving them a slum/ghetto/ghost-town. (Hmm, sounds familiar) Ironically, the wealthy non-hipsters end of paying the big bucks for property in used-to-be hipster locales.

    I’ve rambled enough… so what’s my point? If you’ve given up on Brooks Brothers, chances are, Brooks Brothers gave up on you years ago.

  82. One thing that leads to the differing perceptions about the state of the Brooks Brothers line is at what point the buyer got there. Another, I suspect, is the age at which one came to what is considered traditional or classic clothing lines. I was born in the late 50’s, my father bought his clothing at Brooks and other traditional clothiers. It wasn’t a style to him, it was simply the way men of a certain social set dressed. I grew up wearing traditional clothing as a boy — weejuns,topsiders, khakis, flannels, oxford shirts, blazers, tweeds, dirty bucks etc. It wasn’t a style…it was what my parents bought for me to wear. Except for a brief flirtation with a hippy look in the late 60’s and early 70’s it is the way that I have always dressed. I suspect that this is and was true for many men of my vintage. My family bought clothing at Briggs Ltd. or Philip Wolfe in Providence–where we lived. We bought clothing at Brooks in Boston, Press or Andover Shop in Cambridge. I’ve moved around a bit and can attest that virtually every city of some size had a traditional mens clothing store where, for the most part, the same sort–if not always brand–of clothing was available.

    Brooks has changed and not for the better. During my fathers lifetime and most of mine Brooks style–as such– did not change except, perhaps, with slight variations in tie or lapel width. What made Brooks great was that it didn’t change. It didn’t chase fashion, it was its own style or non-style. The same can be said for any of the classic clothiers – Chipps, Tripler. The same blazer and cordovan loafer that Cary Grant rocked in the 40’s could be found at Brooks in the early 80’s. The classic Brooks camel hair double breasted overcoat dates back to the 20’s, I think. I can appreciate that young men enjoy the skinny trousers and the badly-cut short sport coat. Every one has a right to dress as they find comfortable and interesting. That said, there are plenty of clothiers who are mining the more fashionable look and a multiplicity of stores at which one can acquire it. What I am looking for in clothing is a quality garment, well made with attention to detail. When I want to look fashionable I wear Ermenegildo Zegna from Louis of Boston. I like the Hartmarx Gold line and some of the Hickey Freeman’s. Brooks was where I would go for staples, it was a quality product. Rather than maintaining their own high standards Brooks has chased all the companies that once aped them, the J Crews, the Banana Republics, the Ralph Lauren Made in China lines. Brooks is, sadly, lost and probably will remain so.

    And one last, perhaps snarky, observation–the classic Brooks cotton oxford shirt is meant to be laundered and pressed. If you can’t afford to have your shirt professionally pressed and don’t enjoy the rumpled but comfy unpressed shirt than the non-iron shirt is for you, but I wouldn’t confuse it with style.

  83. No comment on the recently-opened BB flagship in Rome? The clothes look disconcertingly comfortable there.

  84. “Previous generations have done enough damage… taken no accountability… and complained enough. Excuse me while my generation picks up the pieces, re-evaluates, renews, and rebuilds.”

    My goodness, SouthEastP, this is exactly what the Baby Boom generation used to say back in the hippy days, when I was a little kid. They even had a popular song by one of their favorite bands, The Who, called “Talkin’ ’bout My Generation,” or something like that, essentially calling attention to what hipsters (or in the vernacular of the era, how “groovy”) they all were.

    The notorious cynicism of Generation X is probably a direct result. Here’s an example: why should we believe the Millennials will be any better at picking up the pieces and rebuilding than were the Boomers?

    All I want from Brooks is for it to be Brooks Brothers, offering well made articles of clothing in a timeless, classic style.

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