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The New Brooks Brothers

Phileas Fogg

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Brooks Brothers is about as far from Gap as you can imagine, even in whatever form it is today. It's truly one of the greatest American companies. Whether they can revive it in a way that would be satisfactory to fans, I don't know. But it's tied in my mind with Ralph Lauren in terms of legacy.
Ask someone who is not really that into men’s clothing or doesn’t really pay that much attention as we do and the word they associate with BB is stuffy. Ask them the same about Polo they’ll say stylish.

Of course, RL benefits from a still living founder and brand visionary as opposed to BB, but it sounds like BB needs to first start with it’s image and branding if it wants to stay relevant.
 

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
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Ask someone who is not really that into men’s clothing or doesn’t really pay that much attention as we do and the word they associate with BB is stuffy. Ask them the same about Polo they’ll say stylish.

Of course, RL benefits from a still living founder and brand visionary as opposed to BB, but it sounds like BB needs to first start with it’s image and branding if it wants to stay relevant.
I don't think they should chase image branding. That's what they've been trying to do for the last ten years and with little success -- the chasing of various trends, designers, and this vague appeal to be cool. I think they should greatly scale back and just become a luxury brand. Underpinning their problems is a mass network of stores, which narrows the choices for what they're able to do. If you cut out most of those stores and jack up prices, you can then become some kind of American version of luxury. Alternatively, you can keep those stores and move forward with more build-outs and mass marketization. But I don't think this is an image problem. You can't make Brooks Brothers into a cool brand in a way that would be meaningful today. Such strategies just end up looking corny (like their forays into designer clothing).
 

Viral

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If BB never had to restructure/file for protection then their image would never be called into question. But this is the internet - a place where people can act without consequence and accountability - and so everyone feels the need to explain what is really the "issue" with BB without any merit, knowledge, or facts.

I just wish they would excel at fewer things instead of being average at many - and keep it that way.
 

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
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If BB never had to restructure/file for protection then their image would never be called into question. But this is the internet - a place where people can act without consequence and accountability - and so everyone feels the need to explain what is really the "issue" with BB without any merit, knowledge, or facts.

I just wish they would excel at fewer things instead of being average at many - and keep it that way.
Not sure that's true. People have been critical of Brooks Brothers since it was owned by Marks & Spencer, and I think for good reasons. Marks & Spencer was largely responsible for much of the large build-outs. There were also some top-level executive decisions that suggest they didn't really know what to do with the company and didn't understand its traditions. It's easy to point to how they put the lining in the collar, but that was just indicative of broader issues. Profit margins increased; the value started to shrink. They started to build out more stores. They did institute a testing program for garments, which was valuable. But they also made Brooks Brothers into a more mass market brand.
 

Viral

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Not sure that's true. People have been critical of Brooks Brothers since it was owned by Marks & Spencer, and I think for good reasons. Marks & Spencer was largely responsible for much of the large build-outs. There were also some top-level executive decisions that suggest they didn't really know what to do with the company and didn't understand its traditions. It's easy to point to how they put the lining in the collar, but that was just indicative of broader issues. Profit margins increased; the value started to shrink. They started to build out more stores. They did institute a testing program for garments, which was valuable. But they also made Brooks Brothers into a more mass market brand.
if everything M&S implemented continued to succeed then there would be no issue......right? What exactly is the criticism of a company which is trying to grow/scale and make progress towards reaching new heights? I know there are many dumb Americans out there who want BB to have a workshop of elves making shirts on Madison Ave because that's more righteous - but still won't shop there.

And when people get mad because a person/company turns a profit then they they must post their paystubs to show that they work for free =)
 

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
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if everything M&S implemented continued to succeed then there would be no issue......right? What exactly is the criticism of a company which is trying to grow/scale and make progress towards reaching new heights? I know there are many dumb Americans out there who want BB to have a workshop of elves making shirts on Madison Ave because that's more righteous - but still won't shop there.

And when people get mad because a person/company turns a profit then they they must post their paystubs to show that they work for free =)
Well, clearly, the strategy didn't succeed because it ended in a large network of retail stores that ended up dragging the company down.

But aside from that, the network made Brooks no longer Brooks for fans. You can just take a look through their current inventory to see what I mean. Even if the strategy turned out to be a financial success, it would have been a loss for people who care about what Brooks used to stand for.
 

Viral

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Well, clearly, the strategy didn't succeed because it ended in a large network of retail stores that ended up dragging the company down.

But aside from that, the network made Brooks no longer Brooks for fans. You can just take a look through their current inventory to see what I mean. Even if the strategy turned out to be a financial success, it would have been a loss for people who care about what Brooks used to stand for.
I’d be curious to know where previously loyal BB fans now shop and why - although I’m careful what I wish for 😪
 

Phileas Fogg

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Sounds like both of you are talking about a rebranding of Brooks Brothers.
 

Ed13

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I was a Brooks Brothers customer up until approximately 5 years ago. For years it was a good resource for quality garments at their price points. When issues of quality from bubbling fused collars numerous times and horrible in house tailors for alterations kept coming up I gave up on them.

I like to have 2-3 go to places for clothes shopping, don't have time to run all over the place. Found a new store for CM needs that I have been shopping at since leaving Brooks Brothers. Their main lines are Kiton, Stile Latino and Pal Zileri for their entry line. They have great in house tailors that have not disappointed me yet. Customer service is top notch. Not cheap but the quality of garments and service is worth the price.

Hoping Brooks Brothers go back to a high quality and service model.
 

Sam H

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When I graduated college almost 10 years ago, I went to BB to buy a real “grown-up” wallet, brown leather bifold. It was $100 or so which felt like a lot of money at the time. But I remembered that’s where my dad went to get his wallet when I was a kid. First suit out of college was also BB. I’ve used their cologne since college. I bought shirts, socks, linen pocket squares, cords, a cardigan, and other stuff like that from them, as well.

In the end, what happened was I personally didn’t like the over the top “trad” look that was heavily pitched in the late 00s/early 10s. So I had bought a lot of stuff that I’d eventually flip or donate. The mid-gray melange merino cardigan with really high quality smoke MOP buttons is still a staple for me; I had it repaired multiple times (seam rip, not the knit itself). It’s maybe 8 years old now.

But what actually ended up happening is that a) my suit I bought for special occasions I got tired of when I learned more about clothes and b) the shirts I felt the same way; they were very business-y dress shirts and I had no real use for them in my day to day life.

I started getting all my shirts from CEGO where I mostly get casual shirts which I can play around with design-wise, along with some perfectly fitting business-y shirts for when it’s necessary, and I buy all my tailored clothes from Mr. Ned because once again it’s fun to create things and pick exactly what you want.

The factors here are basically, my interest in clothes (and the details I notice and care about) and expendable income went up, and I also live a life that has close to zero need for any sort of tailored clothing so conservative business dress basics is just not in the cards.

I use to go to BB by default because my dad shopped there and it reminds me of being a kid going to a menswear store and there was a benchmark of presumed quality, but he had a different need than I did, which was a basics CBD wardrobe for work. He would also own other stuff besides BB that he’d get elsewhere, like random sports coats; BB was more about basics for a category that now no longer is really “basics” for anyone. For many, either you never wear tailored clothes, period, or you never wear tailored clothes except for fun which means why not have more fun with it? I do miss going to BB though because I remember it was sort of a last bastion of helpful menswear SAs and just had an all-American Anglo-influenced feeling but a lot of it is maybe nostalgia for me. It’s sad if the Madison Avenue store is closed but I also haven’t been in years, which almost makes me feel more guilty somehow.
 

othertravel

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I don't think they should chase image branding. That's what they've been trying to do for the last ten years and with little success -- the chasing of various trends, designers, and this vague appeal to be cool. I think they should greatly scale back and just become a luxury brand. Underpinning their problems is a mass network of stores, which narrows the choices for what they're able to do. If you cut out most of those stores and jack up prices, you can then become some kind of American version of luxury. Alternatively, you can keep those stores and move forward with more build-outs and mass marketization. But I don't think this is an image problem. You can't make Brooks Brothers into a cool brand in a way that would be meaningful today. Such strategies just end up looking corny (like their forays into designer clothing).
I agree with Derek on this one. Emphasis on quality/luxury may help them revive the brand.

On a side note: My customer-service experience in the Madison shop was pretty bad. I mentioned that to a regional manager at a separate event, and he mentioned that it's because it's a unionized shop at Madison (i.e. no incentive to really try).
 

Nobilis Animus

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The thing is that the USA mostly has a lot of very good stores, but the clothing will be from Italy, France, etc. There used to be all sorts of in-house tailoring and high quality ready-to-wear made in the USA, but that's mostly gone and so has the production.

Like Sam H pointed out, Brooks Brothers was excellent for the basics. But much of its cachet was that it both stocked high quality clothing and that it was the preferred venue of Society for shopping. That started to ebb towards the 1960s as retailers copied the styles to make sales, and has been declining ever since. The 1980s brought back a type of traditional 'Ivy' style among yuppie types, but even that was becoming shared with the kind of outdoorsy, bright coloured, hiking/skiing/sporty kind of clothes that eventually morphed into modern athleisure. Witness the rise and fall in interest for brands like Patagonia, Salomon, etc., whose clothes used to be manufactured to a much better standard. The 1980/90s sportswear was a way of saying: "I have the time and interest to be outdoors," when most aspirational types were stuck in cubicle offices and only took trips on weekends. Now the people who jump on that sportswear bandwagon are about 20 years late.

The appeal of Brooks Brothers is about 70 years too late. Expansion and offering 'diffusion' lines like Red Fleece was an attempt to stay profitable, but it failed because they simply aren't 'it' anymore. If anyone wants that nostalgic style these days they are more likely to stop by Ralph Lauren or a thrift store first. Other retailers that stock European luxury goods have been doing well - sounds like a hint to me.
 

sargeinaz

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I’ve said this before, but in my opinion Drakes is basically if someone took brooks brothers and modernized it while leaning more towards Italian tailoring. I don’t see why someone can’t do the same thing for Brooks brothers just lean the tailoring more towards Ivy/sack style.
 

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