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Brooks brothers

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
There was a recent thread on askandy, and everybody there had nothing good to say about this company. They accused it of selling out, and trying to be just another GAP. Well, BB recently opened a store recently where I lived, and I finally checked it out. I don't understand what all the complaints were about. From the askandy comments, I was expecting a store that looked like the GAP. But, the furnshings were beautiful, with that dark stained wood look and all the men were wearing great suits. Everybody there was appropriately old, so they looked like they had been working there for years even though the store just opened. And, the clothes sold seemed fine. It looked like what a BB store should look like. The only thing I saw that might have pissed off their older customers were that the polos had the BB logo on them. But, maybe, they've always been like that. Am I missing enough? I just don't understand why so many people out there are so angry at this store.
post #2 of 14
I'm probably way too young to talk about this - and I'm certain it will bring responses -  but I think the consensus is that BB was at one time the end-all and be-all of American male sartorial splendor. Most of it was well made in America, and what was not was often British or otherwise European. Sometime after the mid-80s, BB began to outsource their manufacturing, and dropped their traditional suppliers (I believe it's been said that their shoes had been made by Northampton shoemakers), resulting in a falling-off of quality. Their suits are consistently fused and made in somewhat third-world countries. Also, the casualization trend hurt them, and they tried to play catch-up by emphasizing a business-casual look, which had never been their strong suit. Most of this was not accompanied by a drop in price. So recently people had been paying BB premiums for standard mall-fare clothing. The advent of their outlets - and the requisite outlet line, 346 - furthered their mall-ification. I agree that the retail stores aren't bad places, and their salesman have always been alright by me. The prices can be outrageous for what you're getting. I like some of their stuff, but one can pay a lot for mediocre quality, shapeless sack suits that are completeley fused. Am I wrong here? EDIT: I should add that I feel BB has been making a solid effort to regain their footing in the past few years. Their high-end stuff seems great - not that I own any - and their normal lines have been updated with the times. I really do like their ties, especially, and believe they present a good value and generally look good through the years, unlike, say, a pizza-grenade tie from the early 90s. I still wear the BB ties I wore in high school ('94-'98) but not most of my other ties from that era.
post #3 of 14
shoreman-- Excellent summary--except in Frisco all the knowledgeable, somewhat crotchety old salespeople are gone. Did you steal our sales staff? And the new store has none of the clubby cachet of the former location. Nor does it have anything in my size. Other than that. . . .
post #4 of 14
I love Brooks Brothers. They are, most of the time, a sure thing -- that is, you know what you're going to get. No, it's not at all the best, nor does it fit everyone (especially the skinnier of us) but it's certainly a long ways from "crap" too. It's not Attolini or Borrelli or Barbera or Turnbull & Asser. But they have classic, American clothes of good quality. They have a long tradition as well, which I like and admire. Cotton shirts, gray flannels, blue blazers, polo shirts, boxers shorts, madras Bermudas, classic loafers and wingtips, etc., etc. I've got lots of BB clothes in my drawers, and have for many years. It's solid dependable stuff. Frankly, if someone straight out of college or grad school, who is not quite up on the menswear scene, is looking for clothes for that first job at a company or law firm (as well as tennis/golf/sailing with the boss), I'd send him to Brooks Brothers. Also, if someone's more generally looking to emulate the upper classes, I'd steer him well clear of Italian clothes, at least for now, and send him straight to Brooks.
post #5 of 14
I'm somewhat astonished to admit that I've been a Brooks customer for roughly forty years. I was also one of the bitter people, though I'm partly mollified now. In the 1960's, Brooks was the bastion of American style. The product was comparable to Polo and RL Purple Label, today's closest comparison, but the offerings much broader. Brooks generally defined the Ivy League, east coast establishement look. And then, under a succession of owners, they lost their way. As Lauren rose to fill the vacuum they left, Brooks dropped the Green shoes, patterned hose, and just about everything else that made them what they were. In favor of deep purple shirts with matching ties. Sold by people so poorly trained that one of them charged me for alterations for a made to measure fitting after asking me why off the rack wasn't good enough in the first place. There are signs of a recent resurrection, and fortunately they have remained a way to buy made to measure stuff from Martin Greenfield, who continued to remember what he was doing when the management at Brooks had forgotten. While I haven't purchased anything else from them in a long time, they actually had some well-made ties in the San Francisco store recently. Will
post #6 of 14
I think much of Brooks remains a good value on sale. I don't generally pay retail anyway, of course. Brooks ties can hold their own, and their made in USA clothing is often good. Again, I'd look to buy on sale, but you can do a lot worse than Brooks. I've heard very good things about their Golden Fleece high-end line, although all my stuff is regular line. (I'm especially pleased with the Brooks double breasted blazer I picked up at the thrift shop for $5&#33
post #7 of 14
In my admittedly limited exposure to Brooks Brothers, I have been very underwhelmed. Some of their merchandise is reasonably priced; other items strike me as very pricey for what you are getting. The Beverly Hills Brooks Brothers is right next to the elegant Ralph Lauren Polo store, and frankly a lot of their prices make the Polo store seem like an outlet in comparison. Since their trademark is the Golden Fleece, I get the sense the operative word is "fleece". Quality of the sales personnel varies a lot. Some seem okay. Others are hard-sell artists who would be more at home at Men's Wearhouse. At their new store in South Coast Plaza, I was told that their tailors should surely make a very ill-fitting jacket (the lapels were popping about an inch and a half off my chest) fit me well. Another solemnly and emphatically assured me their "Peale" label shoes were made at the Peale factory in England. Now, if I am on Rodeo Drive or at South Coast, unless I have a lot of time to kill, I don't even set foot in Brooks Brothers. Oh, one parting shot: I notice that many of their shirts are made with the heinous practice of "double-length" sleeves, e.g., 17.5 - 35/36. Even Costco doesn't do that with their $12.99 Kirkland button-down dress shirts (which strike me as damn fine values, BTW).
post #8 of 14
Well said J, as always. The San Francisco store at least admits that they no longer have a competent tailor locally. The "Peale factory." I wish they did have a time machine but then, the stock would be more interesting. Alan Flusser has a long and, for him, well written remembrance of Brooks Brothers past in his 1985 book whose name I can't recall... Will
post #9 of 14
Bygone Days: The BB store (like the original Abercrombie & Fitch) had great style and well made clothes at fair prices. Excellent dark wood interiors, with beautiful glass cabinets. Shoes were terrific and unique. The crotchety (dapper) salesmen knew the merchandise and often had a long retail career with the company. Somehow, after too many corporate turnovers BB resembles an upscale Limited/ Banana Republic. Modern and soulless. Young happy salespeople who have no understanding or appreciation of BB history. The Original Polo button down oxford shirts, underwear/ undershirts, Alden cordovans, a few ties, are some of the last good items IMHO. Good article in more detail: Brooks History
post #10 of 14
Quote:
The "Peale factory." I wish they did have a time machine but then, the stock would be more interesting. Alan Flusser has a long and, for him, well written remembrance of Brooks Brothers past in his 1985 book whose name I can't recall... Will
Brooks in the early/mid '60's sold easily recognizable class (status?) symbols (e.g. Alden cordovan and tassel shoes; camelhair polo coat; "Polo" buttondown shirt with recognizably long collar, no pocket (monogram where pocket should be was optional). Many of my college classmates as well as myself were steadfast Brooks customers but none of us talked of Brooks quality-few knew or cared much about tailoring or quality and that's probably true today too. Brooks catalogs had nice drawings, not photos, and often seemed to stress "history" (always proper, for a long time, maybe since 1818) and English and Scottish associations. I'd also ask forum members who know more about tailoring whether Brooks quality was so much better 30-40 years ago, even when it was made in the U.S. I remember the voluminous fit of the more "authentic" "Brooks Brothers Makers" clothes (as opposed to the slimmer "346" or "University" models). I know when I started buying Italian-made "traditional" clothing in the middle '70s (anybody remember Peter Barton?), it fit better with better fabric. Maybe Flusser sentimentalizes Brooks and the quality in the '60s because he was young then and status was more easily recognized and, hopefully, purchased.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Will, I believe the consensus on the askandy site was the problems were caused by M&S which bought it in the late 80s. So, I don't know if Polo filled that vacuum. Didn't Polo already establish itself by that point. Besides, I picture the customer for BB and Polo to be quite different. I guess I just came in with such low expectations from all the comments I had read. I imagined it was going to be something where all the staff were young, and the store tried unsuccesfully to be hip with a look reminiscent of IKEA. Sometimes, I really wonder how great it was. It is like those cartoons you watched when you were little, and when you watched as an adult, you realized how bad they really were. Its hard to tell what's nostalgia, and what's true bout BB. People say they were reasonable prices, but I think you have to compare their prices to what their competition's prices. It seems like clothing is one of those things that increased way more than inflation. Besides, the prices I saw weren't that unreasonable. Their button down oxfords and tie price isn't that much higher than other stores like Polo. I had never heard of BB untill I read about it in those dressing books, ie Flusser. I don't believe that I really see them adverstise anything. Was this true back in its heyday? How did everybody hear bout it? Or, was its reputation limited to those living in NYC or the eastern seaboard.
post #12 of 14
Quote:
I'd also ask forum members who know more about tailoring whether Brooks quality was so much better 30-40 years ago, even when it was made in the U.S. I remember the voluminous fit of the more "authentic" "Brooks Brothers Makers" clothes (as opposed to the slimmer "346" or "University" models). I know when I started buying Italian-made "traditional" clothing in the middle '70s (anybody remember Peter Barton?), it fit better with better fabric. Maybe Flusser sentimentalizes Brooks and the quality in the '60s because he was young then and status was more easily recognized and, hopefully, purchased.
Well, I've seen hundreds of vintage, and very vintage, Brooks Brothers suits. They were pretty well made, though not really better than the Martin Greenfield suits they sell today. And certainly not better than any top Italian make. A WHOLE LOT better than the fused jobs that make up most of Brooks Brother's current stock though... As for fit, they didn't call them sack suits for nothing.
post #13 of 14
A well-off uncle of mine used to be a big Brooks customer in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and would shop in their Madison Avenue store when in NYC on business. The suits he had weren't what I'd call stylish - charcoal grey or navy blue undarted sacks, plain front trousers - an undistinguished cut. What was great, though, were the accessories: all kinds of patterned and colored socks; cashmere sweaters in pink or purple; English woven silk four-in-hands or bow ties; striped English scarves. He still wore braces even in the 1960s, when most American men wore thin leather belts. I didn't see all this stuff until the early '90s, when he passed away, and it was still in pretty good shape; like many American men in the 1970s, he moved away from the Ivy style, and had those old clothes in storage. BB now seems to carry nothing remotely like those items in his wardrobe.
post #14 of 14
Esquire, Marks & Spencer bought Brooks from someone else in the 80's. The decline set in during the 70's. Neither the English nor the trad Americans coped successfully with the simultaneous invasions of Carnaby Street, the French designers, and the first generation of Italians. And that's when Lauren took off. He was the only designer of his generation able to look at the Saville Row heritage and update it. From the first time he branched out from the original line of Polo sports shirts, if you compared anything RTW from Polo with a similar item from Brooks, you paid a premium for the Polo. You also asked how people knew about Brooks. More than the ubiquitous and stylish ads in the New Yorker, Times, Chicago Tribune and other major dailies, your father probably shopped there already. :-) Will
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