Editor’s Note: Jack Lee is a frequent contributor on the Facebook Group.
I recently wrote an article reviewing the new Brooks Brothers oxford shirts, giving them an overall good rating because I liked the colors and thought the price was a good value.
I’ve changed my mind. After a routine wash, I took my pink stripe shirt out of the dryer and saw that the collar had frayed and the seam had split. I don’t baby my shirts nor do I abuse them. This shirt had been washed fewer than ten times, always on cold, then dried for as short a time as possible. This is the way I’ve treated every shirt I’ve owned, including $20 shirts from Target.
I spent $90 on this shirt. These oxfords were promised to be a return to old school Brooks, with a hefty roll and substantial weight. Something you could rely on for years. So why are they falling apart faster than the Target oxford I bought in high school? It’s possible that this one shirt was a fluke and I was the unlucky person to buy it. But when I posted about my woes in the Ivy Style Facebook group, several other people mentioned that their new Brooks shirts weren’t holding up to scrutiny either. Bastian is still relatively new and these shirts were one of the first products he was directly responsible for. The optimist in me says that these are the growing pains from trying something new, that the designers and manufacturers will learn from the issues, and that the next batch of shirts will be an improvement. In a year or two they might have worked out all the kinks and created the perfect shirt, but they still have a way to go.
The pessimist in me says that this is the best we’re going to get. Cheap imitations of classic products that look good, but ultimately have no substance. And I mean that literally. If your clothes fall apart after two months then they weren’t worth buying in the first place. It seems like Brooks is trying to appeal to their hardcore fanbase by “recreating” classic products and also attract newer customers who might be interested in the lower price point. This isn’t an impossible route to take, but they still have some work to do. Brooks is still top notch when it comes to customer service. I emailed them right away and in less than 24 hours they responded and offered to replace the shirt. I guess I’ll be hang drying the new one, but I shouldn’t have to do that to get years of use out of a shirt.
- Jack Lee
Sad but no surprise.
The old full traditional cuts were the high watermark!
Just my two cents, but frayed collars look better than brand new collars. An oxford shirt is *supposed* to look rumpled and broken-in, with frayed cuffs and collar.
My tailor told me that for a small fee he could repair a torn collar.
Too bad. It would be nice to have decent RTW OCBDs.
Frankly, with the price-quality-fit one can get from online MtM, I don’t bother with RTW but it would be useful as a fall-back
Forget the shirt — LOVE the glasses he’s wearing in the first pic. So cool!
Several years ago, I inherited a BB U-stripe OCBD that I wear a lot ( my Saturday shirt). After a few years, it frayed badly where it attaches to the body of the shirt. I took it to the lady at the laundry at the mini-mall and asked her to detach, repair, and flip the collar. It looks good as new and for a couple bucks, I’ll get another 100,000 miles out of it.
Sell that shirt to Jack Carlson and he’ll slap a rowing blazers label on it and double the price!
I have a few of the “new” oxfords. Despite being shorter than I would like, they have all made it past three cleanings, though I dry clean and don’t launder them myself. I still prefer Kamakura MTO, but not a bad option.
A few years ago, I started stocking up on Brooks’ OCBDs at hefty sale prices. The company was already in trouble, but now I am set for life.
Occasionally, I get an email from them with a link to the ‘Original’ Oxford Classic which takes me to an Alpha sized product with two buttons on the cuffs. That is NOT the original dress shirt. It’s a sports shirt that never saw a U.S. sewing machine and I won’t buy it.
If I somehow ever need new ones, I will go straight to J. Press or Mercer. And I have been a Brooks customer since the mid-60s.
Don’t put your shirts in the dryer…. Hang them after the wash.
I only hang dry my Oxford shirts and haven’t had any problems so far with my new Brooks Oxfords after between 5 and 10 washings of each. II also bought three of ’em and agree with Rake that they’re just a tad shorter than they ought to be. No quality control issues yet on my end and I enjoy wearing them, but it’s good to know I shouldn’t expect the honeymoon to last as long as it has for my older Brooks shirts.
Hi! I think the shorter thing is the result of market research depicting how often they are worn untucked. #guiltyofitmyself – JB
Thank you for the followup, Mr. Lee. Sorry that the shirts did not work out, but it is a real service to let the rest of us learn from your experience.
I send my shirts out to be laundered and have had some fraying and seam-raveling problems with Oxford cloth shirts from Brooks Brothers, including some of those bought in the del Vecchio era, but never anything as bad as what is shown above. The workmanship is just not what it once was.
$90 is no bargain for a shirt that lasts less than a year. A fair number of my oldest BB shirts (from the period of late Garfinkle’s and early Marks & Spenser ownership) are still going strong.
Allow me another plug for Ratio, which sells at around the same price, and permits a remarkable amount of customization of fit, the choice of lined or unlined collar, sleeve-placket button or not, and a pocket or not, according to customer preference. I have no connection with the company, but have been quite pleased with the shirts I have ordered from them.
Mr. Lee, I neglected to comment on your great classic style — both evident in your happier review from earlier and in this one. It’s a shame about the shirts: you look good in ’em. Hopefully Brooks will bring back the Supima for a future run of these.
Always hang-dry shirts. Dryers always shrink them.
Where I’m from, in the South, most adult males have their oxford cloth shirts professionally laundered, with very heavy starch. We prefer them neat & crisp.
Picked one up at 40% off recently. Tried something different – brown stripe. It goes great with both blue and green sweaters (which comprise most of my inventory) as well as a maroon quarter-zip I just picked up. Unlike blue and green, the brown uni stripe has a softening/blending effect rather than contrasting. Wearing it for the first time, so no comments on quality yet but I am excited about finding this color.
BB sure keeps it interesting – I am a Large in Regent, XL in Red Fleece, and now Medium in this latest version!
Whilst I consider light fraying on a shirt as usual wear and tear, the defects shown in the article seem more than a dysfunction, and as mentioned in the piece it appears as the garment falling apart.
In general I would also agree to fellow forists to avoid the laundry drier for shirts and to only hang them for air drying.
One a side note: the tie on the second picture is an Ivy epitome in my eyes, love it.
Re: hang dry – eh. Too much time to bother with. Laundering has no ill effect and one can always buy more/ replace them. Light starch for me, though.
I remember it was imperative you knew your business when shopping at Brooks because the sales people were intimidating. It became a game with me to know more and often correct them!
I was not fortunate to have a local Brooks so when I would shop in Chicago I would Stock up. Not unusual to purchase the red labels by the dozen.
I put these shirts thru to the test. Heavy starch (Ex Army Officer) folded weekly. They lasted and lasted in fact I found myself buying more on every trip knowing full well I could not wear them out.
The good old days!
Very poor result, but neither disappointing nor all that surprising, as I expect nothing from Brooks any longer. Great shirts were once made in Garland, North Carolina, for Brooks and for the former Michael-Spencer and for J Press, maybe others. Although, I find Press to be too narrow in the chest, like wearing a Brooks Madison fit, which now they call “relaxed.” What a joke they are, Brooks, not Press. Great shirts are also made (in Montana?) by Mercer and Sons, although, honestly, mine frayed at the cuffs after about 10 professional launderings, so a bit unconvinced of Mercer now also. But I used starch, as the other Southern fellow mentioned earlier, which does not help the cotton at all. Some have commented above that oxfords look better with fraying. But that is moot when a new shirt falls apart. Fraying looks better (for some) on old shirts, not brand new ones. Thanks to the author for the news and warning, but I did not need to see it. Lots of used and old-stock Brooks on ebay, and have benefitted from that several times. But beware of sleeve length, as they almost always have been shrunk in the dryer, and the sellers rarely even know how to measure sleeves, much less take time or know to alert the buyer. Caveat emptor.
A similar story with my BB oxford cloth pjs. The ones I bought
during the early M&S regime were made in USA and were still
going strong with little wear around the time that pjs bought
5+ years later which were made in China started falling apart.
This all took place e long before the recent BB travails. It illustrates
how long the decline lasted over decades.
A note on starch: In the 80s, when I was at W&L in Lexington, heavy starch was definitely the norm, and I found the same to be true in Washington, D.C. a few years later, at least on the Hill and in the law firms where I worked. I used to joke that you could play handball off the collars. They were similar in feel to a boiled detachable collar for a formal shirt, and I think they looked great with a suit and tie, although perhaps a bit too crisp with a sweater or tweeds.
However, I found that heavy starch made the collars tough on my neck, and unduly hot in the summer. Over the past few decades, I have had the laundry press my shirts while still damp, with no starch, which leaves them neat in appearance, but still soft. I now reserve starch for formal shirts only.
Roger Sack – I have had the same experience with the oxford pajamas and boxer shorts. I still have a pair of PJs from the 90s in rotation that have held up remarkable well, while more recent purchase have worn out in a couple of years.
C.ville. In Virginia “casual Friday” means “medium starch.” 🙂
How long shall we bemoan BB? We’ve had a decade or more to adjust to their decline. They’re not coming back. At best they’re a fine study in irrelevancy. Let us speak the name no more.
Jack has a serious head of hair. Bastard ;0P
Charlottesville, I remember practically being able to stand my Duck Heads and oxfords in the corner after wearing them with the amount of starch we used here in Tidewater in the ’80’s. Maybe a Virginia thing.
The “old” BB O.C.B.D.s set the standard for O.C.B.D.s. Is it really that difficult for BB to resurrect the design and manufacturing and quality control standards that existed way back then? Charging $90 for a dress shirt that BB advertises as a “return to the old days,” only to have said dress shirt fray and begin its inevitable disintegration and after a minimal number of washings or professional launderings is obscene.
I have never been disappointed by The Original Polo Shirt in all cotton. Why? Because I have been patient and lucky enough to find over two dozen in my size (or very close) at thrift stores for $5 to $10. The less other men want a classic BB OCBD the luckier I get. Forget new Brooks.
That seems to be the BB No. 1 rep tie; no longer available in any colors at all, unfortunately.
@ Linkman and Stanislaus, the BB#1 stripe tie may not be on their site at the moment, but there are dozens (if not more) on eBay, usually for $10 to $40, depending on condition. I’ve acquired a few of them that way in different colors.
In D.C., in the 60s and 70s, if shirts coming back from the laundry didn’t closely resemble plywood there was something seriously wrong.
As to the decline in quality and longevity as production moved from the U.S. overseas this was quickly apparent.
If you don’t control production you can’t control quality.
3rd party manufacturers in foreign countries are hard to hold to contracts and recourse is very limited.
Many retailers learned the hard way that what rushed out the door
on Monday could be rushing back in on Wednesday as returns.
Linkman, Stanislaus, Nevada,
Wouldn’t the BB stripes run the right direction?
Linkman, Stanislaus, Nevada,
Ahh, assuming the pocket is on the left side as worn, the picture appears to be reversed. So a question. Are shirt pockets available on the right hand side for lefties?
A mirror selfie? I don’t do selfies.
Nevada, Linkman, many thanks for your great feedback.
Having checked the mentioned BB repp ries (need to be imported, tough to get in my region other than the occasional odd piece), Bop you are right, the stripes run the other way around. From my knowledge the right to left is an American adaption from original English and Scottish regimental ties which the Brits are not entirely happy to see around the neck of civilians. As far as no actual military patterns are copied, however, the views seem to be more relaxed. Most colour adaptions from military ties are then turned to left/right patterns, I have several ties like this, for example Polo Rolph Lauren’s take on the famous Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders stripes.
Haven’t tried the Ratio OCBD but if Charlottesville likes it, that’s good enough for me. I recently received my first Mercer & Sons OCBD and a pair of boxer shorts. Both are perfect. To judge by Jack’s experience, Brooks is using Bastian to try to dupe folks into believing that it’s returning to its roots.
G. Ellery Cobbold – I hope your faith in my judgment is not misplaced and that your experience with Ratio is as good as mine has been. If you buy one, let us know what you think. I note that the company’s website suggests measurements based on one’s height, weight and a few other factors (applying their proprietary “ratio” to the numbers). Their standard fit is a bit trim, in the current style, but not tight; perhaps something like the BB Regent fit. But it then lets you tweak the numbers to add or subtract length or width as one sees fit, which is what I have done to create a custom profile. I added an inch or so to the body to approximate the BB Madison fit. This gives the roominess I enjoy, but not the very full blousy look of the 80s era BB standard shirt. One can adjust measurements to the quarter inch, so it is easy to duplicate an existing shirt from one’s closet, perhaps allowing a bit for shrinkage.
JDV, Sacksuit and Will C. – It sounds like I am not alone in remembering the crunchy feel of heavily starched cotton in Virginia and Washington a few decades back. I recall the sound of the legs on my khakis being freed up from their perfectly flat cardboard-stiff state, stuck together like velcro when first back from the laundry. Perfect with a blazer, OCBD and BB#1 repp tie as shown above for casual Friday in DC, circa 1990 (Monday through Thursday requiring a suit).