Willful Nostalgia

After yesterday’s post on George Will, a reader sent in this column on Brooks that the trad columnist wrote for the Washington Post back in 1997, when the appearance of buttondowns in odd colors were enough to spark fear of the end times.

Will opens his lament with:

Yes, yes, we have been told. Philosophers tell us that change is life’s only constant. Poets tell us that the center cannot hold, and all that is beautiful drifts away like the waters. Scientists say even the continents are adrift.

But Brooks Brothers, the clothier founded in Manhattan in 1818, was supposed to be the still point of the turning world. For generations it has defined conservatism in men’s dress — blue and gray natural shoulder suits, blue and white oxford cloth shirts with button-down collars, striped ties.

So why in recent years have the clothier’s display windows become a silent pandemonium of scandalizing colors? What are those lavender dress shirts — about the coral-colored ones, let us not even speak — doing in Brooks Brothers stores, even the flagship store, which opened in 1915 at the corner of 44th and Madison Avenue?

The Brooks Brothers Appeal” will interest all those with an interest in the brand’s history, as well as the equally long history of men complaining about Brooks Brothers. — CC

17 Comments on "Willful Nostalgia"

  1. Man in the White Pinpoint | May 11, 2021 at 2:12 am |

    Thanks, CC.
    My cup of tea!

  2. The Brooks link currently opens to a garish “Brooks Brothers x FILA” banner. Perfect. Had to doublecheck the URL to remember where the hell CC sent me.

  3. Spartacus | May 11, 2021 at 11:56 am |

    Brooks x FILA, garish indeed. Preceding this collaboration Brooks had a limited vintage stock selection available on their site. Sizes were limited unfortunately, but was hoping it’d be a turn for the better. The new site is almost unrecognizable to the Brooks dearest to us.

  4. I really like those $138 ties. Classic.

    Will

  5. Ah, the endless wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over Brooks Brothers. Quaedam numquam mutant.

    Possibly having a higher level openness (like in the venerable five-factor model) than other survivors of prep schools and similar institutions, I don’t actually dislike the newer OCBD colors. I even bought one in purple and one in green. And I found that wearing them causes a surprisingly low level of trauma.

    I just wish that I had also picked up one of the orange ones when they were available.

  6. John Carlos | May 11, 2021 at 2:22 pm |

    Thankfully I am well stocked with vintage BB from years ago. Before things went south.

  7. I had the same reaction, CA. I thought that I had landed at the United Colors of Benetton.

  8. Iwmarti,

    Aren’t you the fellow who once claimed to own something like thirty BB/Thom Browne suits? I’m not a stalker. Seemed odd and stuck in my mind.

    Cheers,

    Will

  9. sack,

    Yep. It’s 26 actually. I wear the conservative stuff to work, but drink in the stuff that would many here shake their heads in stunned disbelief.

  10. Scott Gibson III | May 11, 2021 at 4:16 pm |

    Stick with J. Press. More reliable.

  11. Berkeley Breathes | May 11, 2021 at 4:17 pm |

    The “fashion Bolshevik” to whom Will refers is later called a “New York fashion mogul” in a 1985 Chicago Tribune article which uses the same quote. The source seems to be this New York Times article from 1976. The “Bolshevik” was the manager of the Sulka store in New York.

    https://www.nytimes.com/1976/08/15/archives/the-suits-on-the-brooks-brothers-men-brooks-brothers.html

  12. I wonder when the new BB trad shirts that Bastian is designing will be coming out.

  13. “Evidently Brooks Brothers is solving a problem that politicians always face — how to appeal to a wider electorate without alienating their base.”
    This aged well.

  14. Roger Sack | May 11, 2021 at 7:32 pm |

    The BB shirt illustrating this thread does not look like the classical
    BB button down, the color notwithstanding. The collar points look too
    short and the roll would be aenemic. Another sign of the long BB decline.

  15. Tim-Buck-Two | May 11, 2021 at 7:53 pm |

    JG, love your avatar!
    UGA ‘81

  16. Anonymous | May 11, 2021 at 8:58 pm |

    Berkeley, thanks for the link to the 1976 NYT article. There are a lot of old pieces written about Brooks Brothers that I have come across from time to time. This is one of the best.

  17. @Tim-Buck-Two

    Thanks so much. I grew up in Augusta and went to UGA from 2000-’02. Transferred to a damn Yankee college. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret leaving Athens.

    Boy, you picked a great year to graduate. Here’s hoping Kirby gets his 1981, and then another, and then another…. If you have any Munson memories to share, drop me a line at jgstriker@gmail.com.

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