What are the greatest menswear brands of all time?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by YoungAmerican, Sep 18, 2012.

  1. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    That's one reason that these "greats" lists are so tough. "Great" doesn't necessarily mean "innovative;" "innovative" doesn't mean "influential," and "influential" doesn't necessarily mean unique or creative. Finally, none of that means that a designer was the first to do something, or even if he'she was first, that he/she did it the "best."

    For example, as I said, Helmut isn't particularly influential, but then again RL isn't particularly "unique." Helmut had uniqueness to spare, but really wasn't all that innovative.

    CK was innovative, influential, and the first to do many things (slim, minimal, sportswear fabrics), but he's hardly unique or the "best" at it, for I think Jil or early Prada did the "minimal" vibe pioneered by CK much better than he did.

    Valentino could get out his sewing needle and run laps around RL, and with a piece of paper in front of them create 150 stellar looks in the time it took Ralph to unscrew the top off of his fountain pen. BUT, RL is assuredly more deserving of a place at the "Greatest" list, while I said above I'd not even include valentino anywhere.

    Gaultier is almost assuredly more unique, innovative, and influential than Hedi Slimane, but Slimane is the reason why Gaultier's looks these days are "fresh" rather than goofy, 25 year old costume theatrics.

    So, it's a very difficult discussion to have, but one that is interesting both given our own preferences and the particular criteria we'd use to define "greatest."
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


  2. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    It's not just on the internet. Menswear has many more limitations than womenswear, so distinctions and nearly always in the details. Also, and this is not only true of American men, but it is pronounced among American men, is the allure of the value proposition of "quality", the easiest measure of which is the perceived cost of making the garment. This is how you come up with things like the K-50 suit, which purportedly takes Kiton's well paid artisans 50 hours to make (as opposed to the regular Kiton suits, which apparently only take 25 hours.) Clearly, if you have lots of internal details, that's extra value.
     


  3. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Prof. Fabulous Dubiously Honored

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    Interesting post. Historically, this was also true of Japanese men, but it's changing a lot. Young buyers these days aren't nearly as interested in these details as in history, where Japan is probably the most extreme example of quality related to perceived cost of making a garment.

    For example, I remember seeing a report that the kimono made for the last Sumo yokozuna, made of a very "basic" looking silk called Oshima Tsumugi (not at all highly embroidered or detailed) cost nearly $200k to make, because the silk requires so much to dye and work with that basically a single master artisan spent half a year or more on the thing. As well, on the internet (in Japanese) are websites linking to fabric makers with $50k+ rolls of uncut fabric. Whereas there are only a VERY few Kiton K-50s, made largely for the advertising value... Yuki Tsumugi, Oshima Tsumugi, and these other multi-thousand dollar per yard japanese fabrics are really surprisingly common.

    This was one reason why LV and many Euro brands did so well in Japan in the 1980's... it was perceived that they were the "best," with the best methods of production. That's largely changed, but luckily a few smart folk took advantage of this history to recycle the machines and such to make premium denim and such, but overall if you look historically at many traditional japanese wares, it's incredible the amount of time and effort it took to produce, and the almost unthinkable costs of the outcomes. America was/is similar in some respects, but whereas the current Japanese consumer is largely unconcerned/ignorant of these details, American consumers are becoming more interested in it again.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2012


  4. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I based my list around "successful" and "influential", the reason being that the other criteria - unique, innovative, etc... are only important if you are then also successful and/.or influential. There could be some guy out there (Eric Glennie?) crying out in the wilderness, but if no one knows or no one cares, he is, at least imo, irrelevant. That said, I think that you can be influential without being particularly successful. I see very few examples of successes that are not influential though, because with very few exceptions, designers and brands want to be successful, and so successful brands are emulated by a million pretenders.
     


  5. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    If you take both sportswear and fashion out of the discussion, you've limited yourself quite a bit. The golden age of tailored clothes and the golden age of ready-to-wear brands don't really overlap.

    This discussion is interesting largely to the degree to which it avoids non-fashion tailored clothes.
    I can see why someone would be interested in both excellent clothing and successful clothing business models, but they're really separate topics.

    That being said, here's a list of 39 that conforms to your restrictions:

    Brooks Brothers
    Polo
    Oxxford

    Brioni
    Kiton
    Borrelli
    Zegna
    Barbera

    Chester Barrie

    Alden
    Bass
    Florsheim
    Gucci (loafer)
    Edward Green
    John Lobb
    Weston

    Arrow
    Gant

    Talbott
    Drake's
    Cappelli

    Burberry
    Aquascutum
    Invertere
    Mackintosh

    Arnys
    Charvet
    Hermes

    Chipp
    Sulka
    Dunhill Tailors
    Paul Stuart
    Southwick
    J. Press
    Norman Hilton
    Hickey-Freeman
    H. Freeman

    Lock
    Borsalino

    These brands are all old and in some cases defunct, but they were all successful or innovative at one time. I'll admit it has gaps for countries that I don't know much about and that it's too American.

    But I think any list like this is going to be boring. The interesting stuff with tailored clothing is done by tailors and cordwainers. And by fashion designers, but you've excluded them.
     


  6. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    TTM, actually I think we've been talking about fashion designers. At least the last half of this thread is about designers who have influenced the evolution of the suit, which I thought helped give concreteness to this list. I think somewhere earlier, Spoo criticized some earlier posts as being a list of "instakops," which I agreed with. That kind of definition of "greatness," IMO, would be both boring and really subjective. I liked the slightly more analytical turn.

    I like some of the brands you mentioned. Brooks, RL, Bass, Brioni, and Zegna were discussed earlier, and I'd agree they'd rank among the great. Some, such as Mackintosh and Burberry, have obvious contributions. But some on your list - such as Edward Green, John Lobb, Oxxford, Charvet, Borrelli, Kiton, Drake's, and especially Cappelli - seem to me to be notable only in so far as they make pretty nice things. Am I wrong?

    I'd like to include more tailors and cordwainers, actually, but I feel like they'd fall outside the definition of a "brand."
     


  7. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    I'm sorry that I misunderstood you. While I realized you were interested in the fashion designer discussion, I thought you weren't looking for designer brands for your list. I included a bunch of the recent Men's Clothing brands because they represent the highest-quality tailored clothing that manages to survive today, which I think is a decent standard for greatness, but I admit they are almost completely lacking in "innovation."

    My guess is that the vast majority of innovations in men's clothing before the 1960s were the result of an individual tailor working with an individual client. Nearly every canonical element of men's clothing is the result of many, many of these innovations that accreted over decades and are extremely difficult to trace, let alone ascribe to a brand. Therefore, I'm wary of attributing innovation to anyone but designers of the past half-century. This is even true of the few clearly identifiable brand signature items (the Weejun being the result of hundreds of generations of American Indian life, sifted through a few generations of Norwegian folk, then picked up by Bass; the Brooks buttondown copied from English polo players who had nothing to do with the brand).

    For what it's worth, the only one from my list I'd really urge on you would be Arrow, as the great popularizer of the attached collar.
     


  8. stevent

    stevent Senior member

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    Almost everything is cut just a bit shorter now, used to not be able to find suits that were really fitting me, now seems like most OTR is a much better fit given my shorter height. Also people like wooster promoting Thom Browne and then seeing grosgrain on H&M / Zara / fast fashion places as well as it appearing pretty much everywhere, I'd say Thom Browne has a case for making the list of 50.
     


  9. JensenH

    JensenH Senior member

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    To show his brilliance in re-branding himself and conveying his label as Waspy.



    Of course not, since everything is derivative to some extent. But to be considered as innovative, some newness has to be added to the existing paradigm. Armani's use of soft fabrics and low gorge in his suits, Versace's color contrast and printed silk shirts (god aweful, but innovative), Yamamoto's oversized look, Slimane's skinny suits, and Browne's short jackets all moved fashion forward -- for better or for worse.


    I am unfamiliar with RRL.


    Such as?



    That is actually my point. RL is the most successful brand in history. But a true designer he is not.



    See above.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2012


  10. NewYorkIslander

    NewYorkIslander Affiliate Vendor

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    American Brands:

    BrooksBrothers- surely the time in business alone should have them a top this list. They revolutionized RTW, and so many classics stem from their older collections. Plus, Lincoln (the President not the Park) wore their stuff.

    Alden- Classic American footwear for a very long time

    Allen Edmonds- Same thing

    LLBean- The "rustic and country bupkin" BrooksBrothers

    Filson- Check out their catalogue, they always have something thats over a hundred years old, practical and made strong. Plus, they are moving most of their production back to the USA

    Levis- Do I need to explain?

    Nike- Maybe not menswear, but certainly sportwear, changed how we look at the gym

    Polo Ralph Lauren- The American Icon, even if its mostly made in China

    European Brands:

    Armani- Revolutionized the suit in the 80's, must be on the list.

    Charvet- Shirts are considered a must have for any well to do well dressed man

    Deisel- While the SF bunch may look down on this brand, I believe it was their marketing scheme that revolutionized how jeans are sold, priced, and advertised. I still won't wear it though, but the masses eat it up.

    Crockett & Jones- While not as expensive and arguably, not as good as EG and JL, great shoes, fair prices on more feet than the latter

    the only newer brand I'd put on here is:

    Uniqlo- providing more fashionable option for the masses at fair prices...and popular with guys who wear 500 dollar sneakers and 400 dollar hooded sweatshirts...thats saying something.
     


  11. ter1413

    ter1413 Senior member

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    I would take Diesel out of that list^^^
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2012


  12. NewYorkIslander

    NewYorkIslander Affiliate Vendor

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    You don't think they brought the jean back from the stonewashed 80's stuff to what we see throughout major dept stores today (you know, that pre-washed, pre-distressed denim)? I don't wear them, but I think the brand created an identity for lots of other Euro denim companies to follow.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2012


  13. luftvier

    luftvier Senior member

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    It's been said before, but in the US, the most influential player is Brooks.
     


  14. ter1413

    ter1413 Senior member

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    I mean.....just based on the name of this thread..no.
    I would put Guess up there b4 Diesel....no?
     


  15. NewYorkIslander

    NewYorkIslander Affiliate Vendor

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    Good point, I guess (no pun intended) that they were the first., I guess D was the one that took it to the next step with people paying $200+ for jeans...I always saw guess as a bit cheaper, but I could be way off. We should ask The Situation...calling Mike, has anyone seen Mike?
     


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