Brands that mean mediocrity

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by PocketCircle, Jun 28, 2009.

  1. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    You are not bigtime until you have a bespoke cotton suit.

    I agree completely...but I just can't bring myself to do that.

    I do have an MTM seersucker in the works that should be ready in a month or so...I have high hopes for it. It's kind of an experiment.

    - B
     


  2. Film Noir Buff

    Film Noir Buff Senior member

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    Well, I'm trying to work from memories from boyhood through college. Those are naturally prone to idealization given my advanced age now.[​IMG] I think that I understand your point, which is that the attributes Brooks had at the end of its glory days for the physical make of their garments would fall short of what buyers associate with the top of the tailored clothing pyramid today. I can only agree with the part of this viewpoint that reminds us of the unavoidable archaism of something historical compared to the contemporary. On the other hand, I am not willing to go along with your conclusion completely for two reasons. First, the quality of typical make was very high even by many of the standards that one might propose as generally accepted today (quality of fabrics and the degree of hand operations in the contruction of the garment, for example) and even Sulka would have been hard pressed to shame their accessories. Yes, the umbrella at Brooks was Brigg. Second...and I admit this might be a bit subjective...I still assert that where the old Brooks was very firm was in not doing anything that would be viewed as failing to represent the best. It is that standard that once existed but has been lost. This is what makes Brooks mediocre today. The loss of what it was. It might bob a bit higher in a sea of wider mediocrity of clothes from other stores...that only makes me more sad. My old Brooks seersucker suits gave up the ghost finally about four years ago. I've demurred replacing them all this time, but thought to end this drought by stopping by Brooks earlier this summer to look at their current stuff. Shocking. Going up to the old suit floor at the Boston BB felt like going into a mall store. What charm the building itself maintains was completely negated by stacks of cheap, generic clothing and by a staff that struck me as equally generic. Do I dislike this change? Yes, I do...although as part of the 80s exodus from Brooks taste (in my case, to Louis and the largely new Italian makers it championed), I suppose I wasn't much help. - B
    This is well put. It goes to show you that when you mess with a classic there's no setting the ship right again.
     


  3. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    For amusement value: a 1915 Brooks ad in the Yale Daily News. Average annual income for a working American (excluding farmers) was $687. Note that the only branches then were NY, Boston and Newport.

    [​IMG]


    - B
     


  4. Dewey

    Dewey Senior member

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    I find these memories of BB fascinating and I appreciate them. Sounds like I am wrong about the degree to which they delivered luxurious feelings to people in the good old days.

    Was it Marks and Spencer that so hurt the brand? They owned BB from about 1988 to 2001. Or is it the current ownership?

    And what would BB have to charge, today, for a Brigg umbrella? $400? There's no way they'd find many American buyers at that price point. Still -- would they be wise to offer such a thing, for the catalog and perhaps one or two of the more cosmopolitan stores?

    edit: ... note no suits, chinos, or professional workwear in that advertisement. It is Christmas stocking material, but yes those are luxury items. Vox are you old enough to remember 1915?
     


  5. clubbyjones

    clubbyjones Senior member

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    I do not know half as much as style as you all do. I really just come to the forums to get ideas, then go buy clothes that are "quality" according to me. I'm in my early 20s and have been learning about style for about a year now. Most of this has been my experience with what my parents owned or have owned in the past 10-20 years.

    What I think is quality:
    Most BR (is it beatable at the price? I still have a shirt from 15 years ago!)
    Canali, Kiton, John Lobb, etc. The real expensive stuff that is not hugely marketed.
    Older Brooks Brothers
    RLPL and RLBL
    Ferragamo Shoes (the upper line)
    Alden

    What I think is decent:
    Giorgio Armani, Prada, Ferragamo (studio), Gucci
    Brooks Brothers newer stuff
    Polo Ralph Lauren
    Allen Edmonds

    What I think is "mediocre" (read: okay quality, not okay price)
    KENNETH COLE
    J. Crew (a few washes and the clothes are donefor)
    Club Monaco
    Hugo Boss
    Bally

    Again, this is just based on things I HAVE PERSONALLY OWNED. Probably have a lot to learn.
     


  6. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt The Liberator Dubiously Honored

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    You are not bigtime until you have a bespoke cotton suit.
    I have two. What am I?
     


  7. Film Noir Buff

    Film Noir Buff Senior member

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    I have two. What am I?
    You're a bespoke M'Lord, maybe even pretend French nobility? I have one too, lasts a lot longer than linen. I dont understand if people are willing to throw money away on fresco, remnants from Tip Top or the archival cloth English merchants couldn't unload 50 yars ago, what's wrong with a tailor made cotton suit?
     


  8. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    Was it Marks and Spencer that so hurt the brand?

    Some say that, but I don't believe it.

    The Garfinckels sold off Brooks to Allied Stores 1980, and Brooks was with a holding company briefly until M&S got them in 1988. This period corresponds to many of the changes that we are discussing, but who knows what is cause and what is effect? I don't.

    For the longest time, Brooks provided the city clothes for the Eastern "establishment," which in various ways was a national establishment. Brooks, I think, was just one aspect of the old order that the changes gaining momentum in the 60s and 70s swept away (or swept into the corner.)

    Certainly, during the part of the 80s that was a boom period, Wall Street was not dressing in Brooks Brothers like it always had. So, something changed by then. The old BB look persisted longer here in Boston...but we're always a bit backward.

    - B
     


  9. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    I have two. What am I?

    You're the Mattypoo, that's who.

    I dont understand if people are willing to throw money away on fresco, remnants from Tip Top or the archival cloth English merchants couldn't unload 50 yars ago, what's wrong with a tailor made cotton suit?

    You should be more subtle with your trick questions.

    - B
     


  10. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    You should be more subtle with your trick questions.

    This is like asking foo to vary his wardrobe.
     


  11. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    This is like asking foo to vary his wardrobe.

    How are you recovering from being ignored?


    - B
     


  12. Toorman

    Toorman Senior member

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    With regard to BB I always thought it was a store were the cogs could go and purchase suit/shirts/ties, etc. so that they would fit in with the other cogs and not draw any undo attention to themselves. Safe, plain, affordable (no shortage of deep discounting there), etc. A step up from Men's Warehouse or JAB for the middle management type.

    With regard to Faconnable, the ties are made by Breuer to the same quality as Breuer branded ties. I also have a couple of their belts which are made by Gitman and they do have some great outerwear. Problem is the nice stuff goes fast and the junk remains so your impression of a store can vary widely.

    With regard to mediocrity, bottom line is everything we read about the future of luxury implies that the future is all about mediocrity. If the brands refuse to let the retailers markdown their products 70% and consumers/aspirationals are no longer willing to walk into Saks or Neiman and drop $3,000 on a suit the future means less Zegna and more Z Zegna. Less Corneliani and more Trend Corneliani. The other option is that the manufacturers/retailers substantially drop their margins and pass the savings along to the customer or to drastically cut back on the quality of the garments to lower the cost. Either way, I'm not convinced there is a critical mass of individuals to support all the OTR luxury brands. Something will have to give. Some brands may go away, some may and try and emulate Kiton and Brioni and go for super-exclusivity at fantastic price points others will push their diffusion lines to offer more affordable price points. The only diffusion line I'm aware of at Saks is Z Zegna. I'm wondering if that can continue.
     


  13. Manton

    Manton RINO Dubiously Honored

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    How are you recovering from being ignored?


    - B


    Thank you for quoting my post.
     


  14. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    Thank you for quoting my post.

    You're welcome.

    - B
     


  15. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Well, I'm trying to work from memories from boyhood through college.
    You have more to go on than I do. Brooks' glory days predate me entirely, so I'm forced to rely on what is essentially the archaelogical record. This is, of course, a woefully incomplete method of evaluating the matter, but the one upside is that I'm left with what was, rather than what I'd like to think it was.
    The difference, though, is that Brooks really could and did offer the best that was readily available. For most Americans, there was none better. But that was a different age, before the Internet, before international ordering became a mundane affair, before I could pick up the phone right this second and have a pair of handmade shoes shipped from Budapest. We here at SF can't even agree what is the "best," yet Brooks should find it, deliver it to us, and manage to turn a profit on it, in an age when Banana Republic is seen as upscale? The old model doesn't work. The world's too small now. Part of where Brooks went wrong, I think, was in letting other people change the definition of quality. Some here would tell you that handstitching makes a better RTW shirt; I'd say that it makes the collar more likely to fall off. Similarly, a nicely shaped waist is hailed as a sign of good quality. But does the shoe wear longer? Does it fit better? It seems to me like there's been an increasing focus on convincing the "luxury" consumer that minor improvements in aesthetics represent major increases in quality. I'm becoming increasingly unwilling to buy it, and am uncertain how Brooks should compete with that. Brooks simply isn't going to get by selling G&G and such, and that will, if I understand your argument, forever damn them for being less than they were. None of this excuses many of Brooks' problems. The clothes don't need to look dumpy, the cufflinks don't need to be cheap, the umbrellas don't need to be made of plastic. In this regard, I do agree that Brooks is failing to live up to its legacy. But I also imagine that many of Brooks' decisions have been dictated by the marketplace. I look at the other old brands spoken of in such reverent tones, and they're long gone or entirely bastardized. You mention Sulka; look at what's become of it. I'd rather have Brooks in a somewhat compromised form than not at all.
     


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