The Joseph A Bank WOCDB Review, or, If You’re Gonna Do It Do It Right, or, Affordable Cardboard

You may notice that for this WOCBD review I am not posting pictures of myself.  There are two reasons.  First, I hate pictures of myself.  But more importantly, any random shot you have seen of me in the last few years, including my profile shot on the site, has me in a JAB WOCBD.  And it isn’t because I like them.

It is because they photograph really well.  And that is because they are cardboard.  Affordable cardboard, which makes them an entry level proposition.

I think about the environment.  I would have profiled 4Ocean here, except that their PR department is … haughty?   Once or twice a week I throw something out, and I wonder how long it will be in that form on the earth.  Motor oil.  Styrofoam.  Etc.  This stuff ain’t compost.  And neither is the JAB WOCBD.  1,000 years from now, hopefully somewhere floating in space, will be the oil from my Volvo, the Styrofoam that is illegal to use in New York yet almost every egg is in it, and my old JAB WOCBD’s.    And they will be discovered by aliens, and the aliens will laugh at the oil because, really, humans had to know when you burn stuff it gets in the air.  They will laugh at the Styrofoam because the name is funny and trying to pick up crumbs of broken Styrofoam is like trying to pick up mercury.  But they will, with their big heads and small green bodies, try on my JAB WOCBD and say, nonverbally because telepathy, they will say nonverbally,  “I wouldn’t wanna wear this after my third promotion, but to start out a career,  you could do worse.”

I am being rough on the Banks effort, but that is because they are putting it way out there.  This is the pop up that appears when you log in on the site, and that, front and center, that somebody went to the trouble to design and write a little html around, dear reader, is an OCBD.

Don’t click on this here, it goes nowhere. But somebody went to the effort to lead with an OCBD.

 

Right off the bat, you get the idea that the Banks folks are, how do you say it in English, learning?, about the whole ocbd thing.  Stripes on stripes is not for your first year, all blue is definitely a rookie mistake.  But to their credit, they are going hard in the paint.  Here, look at this earnest young man.

This young man, who has a degree of comfort with pink that I will never attain (his shirt and pocket square are the same color as his tulips) is also on the home page. I have no idea what those shoes are, and this is coming from a guy who wears clogs. But they do communicate that the offerings of JAB need to be part of a conversation, a dialogue. Where we teach them.

 

So okay, you want a seat at the table of WOCBD’s.  Here is what JAB gets right.  The collar, frames the tie well.  It rolls near perfect.  Now, it never changes roll because it doesn’t move, and these are wash and wear, but if you are going to freeze into a position, this is the right one.   I ain’t low profile on the subject, and no one out of the thousands of people who have seen me in JAB WOCBD’s has called me out on it.  So credit where credit is due, this is a good shirt to be photographed in.

Which is why, because glass half full people, the JAB WOCBD is probably the best entry level WOCBD on the market.  It won’t wrinkle (the same way concrete doesn’t wrinkle) so if you want to look put together, it will not disappoint.  The collar, button placement, all serviceable.

This is the Traveler, non iron. I assume they call it the Traveler because you can wear it four straight days and if you are careful with the guacamole no one will be able to tell you didn’t get it straight from the dry cleaners. Say what you want, that’s a good roll.

 

The shirt retails for around $50.  Do not pay that.  Wait.  When it goes on sale, you can get one for $20.  Which means, if you are just starting out and living perhaps at home and prefer to hit your parents up for bigger things, like a “supplemental allowance based on future profits” –  if you can scrape $100 together, you can have a week’s cycle.

The traditional fit has room.

A word on these shirts to the positive.  Not everyone who reads this site has $179 or even $139 to drop on a shirt.  For more people than we care to admit, that is grocery money.  And I do a lot of talking about the classics are for everyone, but that can’t mean only if you have a couple hundred laying around.  This is a perfectly acceptable shirt, and it will last.  It is value.  I am gonna go back to the stiff-shirts-are-for-stiffs jokes in a second, but really, if you want to make a wardrobe and you are not yet made of money (you will be, don’t worry), buy some shirts here.  

Here is the shirt with a tie that costs more than triple the shirt:

Yes, we have already reviewed the fit.  I like shirts big and loose. But if you are just starting out, look how good!

Closing arguments.  If you are hardcore Ivy and over 30, this ain’t your shirt.  If you are building, and the money goes for groceries and rent, this shirt can be your jam.  It won’t move with you.  Literally, you will move, it will stay still.  BUT.  Damn if I didn’t get 30 emails asking what shirt this was.

That said, JAB, if you want into the real OCBD market, and it appears you do, here:

  1. For the love of all that needs ironing, I get you want this to be easy peasy but it has at least got to blow a little in the wind.  Think bread, not crackers.
  2. Traditional fit does not mean a literal square.
  3. Why go to the trouble of making an all cotton shirt if… you can’t feel the cotton?  Lighten up on the chemicals.  The shirt, and the wearer, need to breathe.

You’re welcome – JB

 

 

24 Comments on "The Joseph A Bank WOCDB Review, or, If You’re Gonna Do It Do It Right, or, Affordable Cardboard"

  1. The cut of the shirt you’re wearing and the roll of the collar both look so good, that I’m going to order one, even if it’s cardboard. Cardboard sounds better to me than the cotton & plastic blend OCBDs I wore in the 1960s.

  2. I’ve been wearing these for years. They are durable, everyday shirts, wear well and don’t have to be sent out to launder, savings $11.25 a week! That’s thrifty!

  3. I appreciate this review. Most of my shirts are Mercer, but fifteen years ago? They were Perry Ellis. Not everyone can afford the best. It’s a nice service to let people know what’s out there & inexpensive.

  4. I would like to add that for those that thrift shop, and if you aren’t, why not (?! talk about a great way to help out the planet) JAB ocbd’s can be found quite easily at most thrift stores, even where I live up here in hippie land, for a couple of dollars. Nwt, or new looking.

    JB- you may not have a penchant for pink, but you do have the right coloring, and my guess is it would look great on you.

  5. If you can put up with non-iron, the Banks Traveler is pretty good. It has a decent length collar and some roll, which most of the non-irons dont. Also, I believe they offer (or used to offer) a tapered or athletic cut that takes some of the bulk out.

  6. I, too, am not made of money. This was especially true in the 80’s when I was working hard and steady in various jobs. I wore department store shirts, on sale of course, and Sears separates mostly. But quality was much higher then. Dept. store OCBDs were easy to find, took an ironing and wore like iron. I outgrew them before they wore out.

    Times have changed. I had one dept. store name brand shirt in 1980, a straight collar, all cotton fabric. I don’t know how to describe the fabric, other than to say it was perfectly understated and beautiful. I cannot even find the fabric on the web. It had a subtle “fancy” design woven in vertical stripes, with alternating burgundy and navy pinstripes, and easy to wear with a blazer and burgundy or navy tie. I only wish I could find that fabric today.

    We ought to be able to find that for you! Do you remember what store? – JB

  7. To clarify, a white shirt, with “a subtle “fancy” design…alternating burgundy and navy” etc. A “dress shirt”.

  8. J.B. Those department stores have gone out of business as well. I might be mistaken, but I seem to recall it had the designers logo subtly woven into the fabric on the pocket. Can cotton fabric be embossed? pretty sure it was woven in. I did a search on 70s 80s designers etc. nothing rings a bell.

    Can you draw it? Even kinda? – JB

  9. FWIW, Nautica used to subtly embroider its minimalist, low key logo [an abstract sailboat] on the pockets of their shirts. The “fancy” woven ground could have been a vertical herringbone weave between the pinstripes.

  10. PS, this is the Nautica sailboat logo, imagine it on the pocket without the word “Nautica.” https://www.uidownload.com/free-vectors/nautica-357018

  11. Until rather recently, I’d have been looking for just such an affordable Oxford shirt. I just cannot do (for reasons of comfort and the environment) the non-iron fabric treatment. But in just about every other respect, the Jos A. Bank example more than makes the grade. And it looks great on ya.

    @Hardbopper: Like Nautica, as mentioned by Flo, Gant has also been known to weave a small logo on their shirt pockets from time to time, though I suppose that would be too obvious a maker to not recall from back then.

  12. JB, Flo, Nevada,

    I believe the fabric is known as Jacquard. Is there such a thing as Cotton/Poly jacquard? My first guess is Christian Dior CD, but who knows.

    Speaking of cotton/poly, while 100% cotton is the purists first choice, cotton/poly has it’s place, too.

    Anyway, a JAB OCBD is probably a good entry level buy.

  13. Just for fun, check this out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniels_%26_Fisher_Tower
    Daniels and Fisher, the May Co, The Denver Dry Goods Co., as well as Neusteters, all gone.
    http://theneusteters.com/timeline .

    The Denver Dry Goods Co. also had a tearoom like Daniels and Fisher.

    (From The Denver Dry, I got a Navy melton blazer for autumn into winter at school. That’s another fabric not easy to find in light enough weight for an indoor/outdoor blazer.) It had all the Ivy boxes checked. welted breast pocket, swelled edges, hook vent, flap pockets, etc.

    May Co. merged? with Daniels and Fisher, to become May D&F, and added an outdoor ice skating during the Christmas season.

    The campus “Ivy” store was Grassfield’s Gano-Downs, by far the highest quality chinos I’ve ever worn. Gone.

    My apologies for dominating the thread and changing the subject. Thank you for your patience.

  14. Non-iron is an absolute dealbreaker but if it weren’t, I suppose I’d just go for Brooks Brothers since they claim to have “invented” the formula. But in any event, I appreciate that people are able to get an oxford shirt for $50 or less. Even if it lacks most of the wild charm of the button down collars we know and love.

  15. JAB is perfect economy brand for an early career wardrobe. When I started in corporate America many years ago, I lived in JAB and JC Penny Stafford Line clothes.

  16. When I started working in an office in 1980, at age 28, I didn’t have the money I do now. JAB was a great place for a guy starting out in Washington, DC. It was cheaper than Brooks. Back then, most of their stuff was made in the US. I loved it, and so did my wife as they had a women’s department. They manufactured their own products in Maryland. I have no interest in any of it now, but looking back, I’m glad it was available. I moved on, and learned a few things along the way.

  17. “No-iron” shirts are made by applying formaldehyde, which, as many probably know, is used in embalming corpses. Enough said? Not quite. Formaldehyde is also known to cause cancer. Hopefully, not enough of it is used in shirts to kill you, but… time will show.
    It is painful to see what’s happened to so many American brands which used to be at least somewhat decent (and even relatively luxurious) only some 10-12 years ago. I remember shopping at Johnston and Murphy around 2012 at their impressive Madison Avenue location, which was enormously spacious with cathedral ceiling and a second floor gallery. I remember their made-in-USA line of shoes. I was a starving student back then and couldn’t afford them, but the salesman said to me — “Don’t worry, we’ll have them forever. One day you’ll buy them. These are never going away.” Well, needless to say that not only that line exists no more, but even their made-somewhere-in-Asia shoes, which were decent and an excellent entry level option, no longer exist. Looking at their current offerings is painful. So, I’m gonna hold on to that beautiful pair of tan loafers I bought from them ten years ago, until they fall apart. They are unlikely to make anything comparable anytime soon.
    Then there’s Cole Haan. Look up their offerings if you dare. No comments there. Used to be a classic American brand not too long ago.
    And finally, JAB. Around 2012 I bought a tuxedo from them, which I still wear. I payed around $300 for it. It is a perfect, classic tuxedo (single button, no vent, grosgrain peaked lapels). The fabric is luxurious. Nothing comparable exists on the American market anymore. So, the only options are British brands or custom tailoring. Needless to say it will cost the buyer a bit more than $300. And then a few years ago I bought a nice, wool overcoat from them in a beautiful light gray-brown color. Will wear it for many years to come. Paid around $80 for it. It was the end of season and the end of the last decent collection at JAB.
    Also, at that time, JAB used to sell Allen Edmonds shoes. Speaking of Allen Edmonds, they are not what they used to be, but they’re far from committing the kind of suicide others have committed. Despite their new management trying hard to do all kinds of stupid experiments, at least the company’s DNA hasn’t been completely destroyed.
    Why can’t American companies preserve their heritage and traditions is beyond me. The British seem to be much more successful in preserving traditions and staying in business.

    PS. The best entry-level OCDB is Spier and Mackay. Under $50 on sale. Soft, unfused collar (with proper roll) and soft cuffs, 100% cotton (must-iron), shell buttons, various fits. Can’t recommend them enough.

  18. @JB,
    Re: “… all blue is definitely a rookie mistake”.

    If only more people would follow your example, and your advice.

  19. IT,

    Yes, J&M was perhaps the best made, while not having the largest market share. https://vcleat.com/johnston-murphy-1992-catalog/

    Best to avoid them, now. They can’t get anything right, and that’s by choice.

  20. Hardbopper:

    Thank you for sharing these catalogs! Sad to see the degradation.

  21. Hardbopper:

    When I was a youngster, I’d get dressed up (including tie) for my mother to take me downtown for doctor appointments (we also had to dress to fly on a plane) and after we would have lunch at the Denver Dry Goods tea room. When my father took me downtown we’d have hotdogs at Pete’s Coney Island on 15th. Later, I had a fantastic grey herringbone 3/2 sack suit from Grassfields (Downs’ ex-wife lived across the street from us). The Regiment was another great college shop (the Boulder shop still exists although I’ve not been to it). Times have changed.

  22. In the past I was a regular JAB customer and their shirts are good if you are on a budget. JAB are mostly poplin weave rather than oxford, and the Traveler line is well fitting and long lasting – non iron finish is good if you travel and can’t count on the hotel having an iron.

  23. I admit to having a few JAB BD shirts hanging in my closet. I agree that they look fine; from the drape of the fabric and cut, to the roll of the collar. I also agree the fabric feels like cardboard or canvas. If there is a word to summarize their shirts it would be economical. But there are ways to achieve the same level of economy, while achieving a much better end result. The key is a willingness to spend time. Ebay, Poshmark, consignment stores and thrift stores are excellent sources for better quality shirts at a JAB price point. About half of the original, full fit, must be ironed BB OCBD shirts hanging in my closet were sourced from Ebay. This includes more than a few made in the USA shirts from the recent line….and I did not pay $140…. As for JAB, they have made non traveller fabric shirts. I have 3 JAB must be ironed, pinpoint BD in my rotation. Nice fabric, excellent drape, and 100% cotton comfort. I found them on Ebay. One’s time will be rewarded if one is willing to make the investment.

  24. Recommend the belt of any trouser be worn parallel to the ground. Parking a belt under a belly is very un-trad.

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