The New York Times On Brooks’ Bicentennial

On Saturday the New York Times ran a major feature on Brooks Brothers, pegged on the brand’s 200th anniversary. It includes an interview with CEO Claudio Del Vecchio.

Here’s a sample quote:

“Brooks Brothers is a special place,” Mr. Del Vecchio said during an interview in his upper-floor office at the 346 Madison Avenue store, where an antique grandfather clock owned by the store’s founder, Henry Sands Brooks, stands across from his mahogany desk. “This is a great institution with a heritage.”
Elegantly attired in a Brooks Brothers navy tweed sport coat, a white button-down shirt, a burgundy knit tie, slim gray slacks and brown oxfords, the chief executive spoke about what he saw as his mission.
“I am here to reinforce a culture,” he said. “I have to make sure that we are building a company that will last after me. I don’t want to be here another 20 years. Forget about another 200 years. It’s really about trying to build a culture that will last longer than the business. That will make it very hard for the next guy to screw it up.”

Check out the full story here. — CC

24 Comments on "The New York Times On Brooks’ Bicentennial"

  1. EvanEverhart | April 23, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Reply

    In light of the avove; he needs to lose the double vented darted euro wear and return to tradition which lasted, and is still yearned for, and futher still, viable after two hundred years. Bring Back The Number One Sack!

  2. Officer Trad | April 23, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Reply

    Hear, hear, Evan!

  3. Saw the article in the dead tree version. Really happy to see the continuing emphasis on restoring quality. It’s pretty clear, though, that, if as reported, their revenues are trending up with the styles they are featuring, they’re not going to go back to the Brooks a number of us would be happier with. If they thought there were sufficient demand, they would, but the truth is, it’s not there. They are meeting the market they see (and they’re not idiots, they can research the numbers) and much of the market wants things I wouldn’t buy, but some of it is, and I’ll keep buying that as long as they have it.

    Several years ago they had two great 3-piece flannel suits and I bought them. The market must not have been there, since there weren’t any the next fall/winter season. The fact that I’ve been buying at Brooks for more than 50 years says where the market was, not where it is.

  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af_XeDG80Jw&t=2362s

    Brooks OCBD vs. Brooks OCBD.

    Check out Bush’s surcingle belt.

    Also: note how the WASP congeniality dissipates as Bush takes on the panel (the last half of the show). Even WASPs bite.

  5. Way too late, Mr. Del Vecchio has ruined the brand.
    My wish is for his immediate retirement, to someone who actually knows what BB’s stood for.
    BB’s RIP!
    Jim M.

  6. Vern Trotter | April 23, 2018 at 9:14 pm | Reply

    I guess he just doesn’t get it. I thought there was hope when he took over. The article says that the company is just barely profitable. So many stores; imagine the total rent paid!

    I really cannot go into the 346 store without getting ill. So many memories of what was once Brooks Brothers.

  7. They’re not going to be the “old” Brooks Bros. until they go back to a single well-situated store in the huge NYC business/professional market. Maybe a couple of outliers in major cities. As long as they’re trying to cover every “upscale destination-retail venue” they’ll be what they’ve become: a fancy mall store.

  8. EvanEverhart | April 24, 2018 at 1:20 am | Reply

    I agree, NCJack. Really there ought to just be maybe stores in NY, someplace central in TX, Chicago, Los Angeles, and someplace choice in the South East which I am sadly bot as familiar with as I’d like to be. That and perhaps London and of course whatever they’ve already got in Japan as those are obviously anchor ships for profitability. They should also stop the non stop sales. It reduces the cache of the brand, and the styles sold in their entry level sub-brands shouldn’t be that divergent from adult clothing, of course, neither should the actual adult clothing. It doesn’t feel right to see a man in Brooks Brothers, and to think that he might just be wearing his little sister’s suit on a lark. I appreciate that Mr. Del Vechio’s brought our beloved Brooks back from the brink, but now he needs to restore the cache and integrity of the brand. Brooks is an icon. It does not not need to chase after the foppish fads of lesser brands and trendy followers. Brooks established taste; now they just need to remember it. Luckilly the formula’s ridiculously simple and as we’re on here talking about this, we already know it, as should they. They do keep an extensive archive…..

  9. Ezra Cornell | April 24, 2018 at 1:46 am | Reply

    It’s wonderful that Brooks can mine so much free advice here! I’m sure the Board is eager to hear how closing 90% of their shops and slashing their profits in a period when they are one of the few profitable menswear companies will actually “save” the company. I’m sure they’re excited to follow the wildly successful business model of all the other booming Trad menswear shops that dot the American sartorial landscape. Yes, it’s all so “ridiculously simple”! Full steam ahead!

  10. EvanEverhart | April 24, 2018 at 2:06 am | Reply

    @ezracornell:
    How wonderfully drole yr sarcasm is. I hope it makes for good company. I’ve no desire to engage further with you; ‘just wanted to make a retort to yr lack-luster quip.
    For the record, the sarcasm wasn’t called for nor was the condescension. It should be possible to dissent upon a position and maintain civility.

  11. Richard Meyer | April 24, 2018 at 5:51 am | Reply

    As someone who started wearing BB in the early 1960’s from 346 Masison, I echo MCJack’s sentiments. There are some good items still, but it really isn’t BB anymore, and except for PJs, underwear and the new classic Oxford buttondowns (to iron, and made in the USA), I rarely shop there now. J Press and others are far more “Authentic”.

  12. Critics of Brooks would do well to remember that Brooks’ tailors make shirts (including the beloved flap pocket OCBD), sport jackets, blazers, and suits for J. Press. Without Brooks, J. Press would be a Japanese-owned, Canadian (and elsewhere) goods-driven enterprise.

  13. I’m with you, Mr. Meyer. I haven’t bought an off-the-rack sport coat or suit from Brooks in years. When they went to a two button, darted cut with narrower lapels, they lost me. Neckties, too. A few years ago, I went in for a fitting for an MTM sport coat and had to tell their ‘tailor’ what a three button sack was. He’d never heard of it.

    It’s even hard to find a proper Peal shoe today. They’re pushing their ‘1818’ made in Italy line. I’ll stick with Crockett & Jones and Edward Green. They probably make the Peal line anyway.

    Press, Andover and O’Connell’s are about the only game in town but that’s fine with me.

  14. Charlottesville | April 24, 2018 at 10:27 am | Reply

    In the article, we learn that during the M&S era, old customers “balked at the limited selection of classic blazers and suits in the stores.” It appears that not much has changed, and I must confess to agreeing with much of what has been said above. I don’t care for the direction that the store has chosen, and can find little to buy there these days. I wish that they would bring back the number one sack suit, but doubt that they will. If they are losing money on OCBDs at $140 a pop, it seems unlikely that they will be returning wholesale to the classic Ivy style that they pioneered. I agree they have too many brick and mortar stores and think that the airport franchise cheapens the brand, but if it is working for them, who am I complain? The current management has kept Brooks alive at a time when the market for tailored men’s clothing is suffering. It is a business, and apparently is thriving or at least plugging along in the black. Meanwhile, I am thankful that Southwick, which BB owns, turns out a very nice version of the 3/2 sack, which can be purchased at J. Press.

  15. Charlottesville | April 24, 2018 at 10:35 am | Reply

    The moment I hit send on my comment above, I checked my morning e-mail and learned that J. Press has a great sale on for anyone in the market for a 3/2 sack. If you are in NY, head over to 44th Street and give Daniel and his brethren some business.

  16. Aren’t Southwick and Garland still cranking out the classics year over year?

    Classic Brooks is still alive and well, it’s just private labelled.

  17. Vern Trotter | April 24, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Reply

    The huge Southwick factory in Haverhill MA is state of the art and I have never been able to find out what is made there that Brooks now sells if anything; I have not tried that hard though. The Southwick brand seems to operate on pretty much the same model as always. Still has a lot of the same university type stores selling their 3/2 suits and blazers. It just doesn’t seem to be properly merged and used with BB.

  18. What B said.

    If anything, those of us who continue to buy and wear tailored clothing with a TRADitional bent are very much indebted to Brooks–and, more particularly, the current exec’s decision to buy Southwick. The CM1J model (with custom specs) is the TNSILest jacket on the market. Just go buy one.

    TNSIL has returned to its pre-Heyday roots: mostly custom (MTM). It occupies a wee small corner of the tailored clothing market, and tailored clothing occupies an increasingly paltry bit of sartorial real estate. Connoisseurs of the style can safely claim to represent a niche so tiny that it’s borderline cultish.

  19. Still, with due respect to Garland, if you want a proper old-school (Troy-like) OCBD:

    https://www.highbarshirt.com

  20. I agree that Brooks should begin to pare down the number of brick-and-mortars especially in this day and age, some are just plain unnecessary. There’s a Brooks Brothers store in Southampton, which managed to be both fitting and unfitting.

  21. In the early 1980s BB had a fairly large, two-floor corner store in Downtown Seattle. At some point they lost their lease and bounced around some smaller, less accessible locations but by the early 2ooo’s were back in a multi-floor, corner location in a traditional building. The inventory was generally deep.

    I left Seattle in 2004 and only last month revisited the downtown Seattle store. There were three employees for two floor store divided into several rooms, one of whom volunteered that with just a two-week tenure he knew nothing about BB merchandise, and not a single other customer during perhaps an hour. The selection of sport coats, blazers and suits was very sparse; same for shoes, shirts, ties, etc.

    The senior employee encouraged me to use their store to place orders from the web site/catalog as their would be no shipping charges for orders placed through the store (even phoning them) and they would get commission credit.

    Overall it was depressing and with so little merchandise to see or try on really not as good as shopping online.

    BB closed their suburban BelleSquare store as some point since 2004 but added one of those limited “outlet” stores about 35 miles north Seattle.

  22. Anyone see the Garland factory store is closed for good? Bummer, I am headed that way in July and hoped to stop in. Brooks Bros released a statement implying that customers were served well enough at their factory stores…not sure a non-iron made in Malaysia alpha sized shirt for $50 is the same value as a MiUSA must-iron for $20, but what do I know?

  23. NaturalShoulder | April 28, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Reply

    S.E. – how does highbarshirt compare to Ratio or Mercer

  24. Thankfully we have a great steward in Del Vecchio. Very few businesses survive as long as Brooks Brothers has.

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