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What are the greatest menswear brands of all time?

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

  1. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    Wait, really? I feel like the single brand shoe store would have been the next logical step after we move away from pre-industrial shoemaking. The multi-brand store concept seems like it requires a certain distribution network that would have been unlikely to exist 100 years ago. Did England not have single brand stores?
     
  2. mr monty

    mr monty Senior member

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    All time?? Maybe the last 10 or 20 years, but not all time. I bet less than 10% of SF has been wearing high quality clothing and shoes for more than 10 years?
     
  3. countdemoney

    countdemoney Senior member

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    Sulka was known for more than just ties. Their robes/dressing gowns were the standard for decades. Sulka also had a substantial existence - with almost 50 of those years - as taste leaders. Even decades old sulka pieces still look like and feel like a dream.

    I included vilebrequin on my list as they are one of the last practitioners of classic resort wear. While not in the company of some previously mentioned names for influence, there is something to be said for timeless style. Resort and beach wear are also part of men's fasion, as surely as shoes. I'm not sure if any company has a true influence in this space, but it's an overlooked area.

    I don't know if I've seen Pendelton mentioned, but they certainly deserve some consideration, certainly much more important and influential than Woolrich.
     
  4. mack11211

    mack11211 Senior member

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    The original multi-brand store predates brands, perhaps -- the department store, which was a mid 19th c development. The distribution/supply network was made possible by the rail system.

    The big distinction back then was whether you made what you sold, even if it all bore your label. Brooks Brothers were "makers and merchants" which distinguished them from those who were merchants only. But in the latter case, you would contract with whoever was useful to you at the time, just as Polo RL does today.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  5. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    Ah, right. Forgot about dept stores.
     
  6. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Thanks, count, for the explanation; I didn't know much about them!
     
  7. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    I wouldn't say that the argument I'm making is based in consumerism. My first (and largely misplaced) post in this thread was to argue that fashion (which I mostly don't wear) and sportswear brands are more interesting to discuss than traditional tailored-clothing brands (which I wear much of the time).

    To me, the most interesting criticism of any art or craft is always going to based in aesthetic judgments. If you want to use a sociological or economic-based criteria for "greatness," go right ahead.

    However, I think you're missing an opportunity, and bringing scientism into an area that doesn't reward it (unless you're an actual merchant). I'm not talking about what you or I would want to buy, just the brands that one believes to be the most beautiful or aesthetically compelling. I don't think it should be the only factor in defining greatness, just the largest.

    I'm also not going to claim that the typical forum member or myself is going to present the most interesting arguments in this thread, but I think a good writer (with, most importantly, the benefit of photos to illustrate the brands) can make an excellent argument.

    Now how much interesting aesthetic-based conversations is there on StyleForum? Perhaps not much, but there are certainly bright spots (Random Fashion Thoughts, the MC bespoke crowd).

    Of course I'm championing subjectivity, but I'm a big believer in advancing democratic conversation by people learning from other people's opinion. While we're equally entitled to our opinion, it's possible that some people can be persuaded to change what they think, wear or admire. My sense is that happens all the time in this forum. For instance, some people come in with a disdain for fashion and come to respect it by being exposed to it on this forum, even if they don't start buying the clothes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  8. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    By the way, I want to put in a plug for Pierre Cardin as being a Top 10 brand. While I guess it's unarguable that fashion designers would start to play a major role in menswear, he (and his brand) were there first, so many men dress in his shadow.
     
  9. NorCal

    NorCal Senior member

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    Fok has pretty much a great list and while Nike and Addidas are not "menswear" per se, I don't think their importance should be overlooked.

    I'd be also tempted to add Fred Perry for it's longevity as a youth/music/lifestyle brand.
     
  10. NorCal

    NorCal Senior member

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    So good.
     
  11. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    OK, I'll cede that it's useful in forming aesthetic judgments to know a bit about the marketing. For instance, one can examine how brands market themselves and ask oneself how that's affected one's own preferences. Certainly it's essential for people in the business to know about successful brands' business models. But I'm deeply skeptical of spending time or energy focusing on the marketing side of brands in compiling a list for a non-industry publication. Is marketing what's vital about clothing to the non-industry reader?
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  12. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I would disagree with this. There is only so much that you can say about craft. At the end of the day, it is a sensory experience, and unfortunately, until I finish inventing the "Everything but the used clothing smells" module for Styleforum, we can only have pretty pictures and fairly uniform descriptions. However, brands that have been shaped the way men dress today, those make a compelling story. It's an interesting subject to approach from both as a historical sociologist and a cultural historian.
     
  13. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    +1, this is my whole interest in the subject: what is the effect on how an individual man, waking up in the morning and opening his closet, thinks about his own dress options. As you mentioned before, a man's options are limited, and yet over the past thirty years the range of "limitations" has opened considerably, while still being constrained.

    So, who instigated those possibilities (followed by how those possibilities came about); who changed the "collective unconscious" of a man opening his closet doors in the morning and thinking about what he might put on and (1) not get fired from his job or (2) laughed at on the bus.

    What changed and how is very fascinating, along with what hasn't changed (and what might not). For example, even though a lightweight, unstructured sportswear-inspired fabric shirt jacket might be a possible option (though it wasn't at a point in the pre-Armani past), a purple linen sundress or halter top is not and probably won't be.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  14. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    I'm not so much championing craft, as championing the historical legacy of menswear that forms the basis of many (most?) brands that men actually wear.

    Actually, I'm not even doing that, I just want to see people articulate their ideas about what appeals to them about the brands they consider the greatest.

    I think the word "greatest" opens up a more interesting avenue for conversation for more people than historical sociology or cultural history, which I think mostly appeal to academics.
     
  15. LA Guy

    LA Guy Opposite Santa Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    I definitely agree that some names should be bumped for Florsheim and Pendleton as well. I think that there is an argument to include Woolrich over Pendleton if push came to shove, though. Woolrich is much older, and iconic piece like the buffalo checked woolen shirts and the Woolrich blankets were popularized by Woolrich long before Pendleton, which was a relative Johnny come lately, made their versions. And if true, the claim that Woolrich made the first trousers with zippers really puts Woolrich ahead of any competition, even outside the outdoor clothing niche (and should make them the enemy of all men, ever). Of course, I think that it would be nearly impossible to substantiate that particular claim.
     
  16. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Then how would that discussion differ from virtually every SF thread about a brand or maker? A poster outlining what appeals to them about the brands they consider "greatest" sounds to me simply like saying why they like a certain brand... which again seems to go against the OP's request and put it in the territory of almost every single SF thread.

    IMHO, there needs to be some critical distance between what we like and what we can agree, given a range of factors, makes something worthwhile. Otherwise it just falls into the usual "SF-approved" circle jerks. :lol:

    Anyway, we've had some good discussion and some good additions... anybody want to amass a more substantive list given the comments and revisions? Fok's list was excellent, with a few changes (scrap Valentino, add arrow and Nike, etc.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  17. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    Well, I brought up aesthetics because I thought it was missing in some of the points I saw people making in this thread. It's good to bring historical influence (or even "negative" influence: some of the more out-there brands that don't have descendants may have acted as a creative foil to other brands), but I'd want to synthesize it with personal judgment.

    I guess I'd make a stronger point if I listed brands that I think were influential, but not "great." I don't know, Ed Hardy, Nudie's of Hollywood (father of the leisure suit), whoever popularized tracksuits ...

    The point is, I'd like to see people work out, along with what brands have been influential, what they see as the good and bad consequences of those legacies. "Greatness" to me should have positive connotations, not just girth of influence.
     
  18. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    I probably didn't go into academia because I didn't like the spectatorial use to which much learning is put. I can understand using sociology to design (or curtail) policies to improve people's lives, or even to gain a richer understanding of fellow human beings to aid in making personal connections. But it seems like a lot of cultural-sociological knowledge is used by academics to bolster their own sense of being above the fray, which I find off-putting (and more than a little weird). Not that I'm thinking of you or anyone in particular.
     
  19. rach2jlc

    rach2jlc Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I see what you mean now. This is very interesting to me as well.

    HOWEVER, in and of themselves, I don't think we can argue whether the connotations/consequences are good or bad, or just are what they are. As I mentioned above, I think most of the "innovations" and choices we have these days are not consciously realized, which is for me what makes some of those mentioned "great." As well, I think it would be hard to argue positive connotations to a "lifestyle" brand over a specific garment maker... that people imagine a "dream" with RL, but instead a particular color of sportswear fabric (GREIGE!) with Armani... is one of these necessarily more positive than the other?

    Most 25 year olds opening their closets, and in the next room their 75 year old grandfathers opening their closets, won't really realize that their ideas what they can wear probably will have very little overlap and mostly were done without their knowledge, input, or influence. Nevertheless, they'll choose very differently. To me, the "greatness" lies in who and how those non-overlapping areas came about, regardless of whether the change was positive OR negative.

    edit; I must admit having a bit of confusion... there is a member "thinman" who is a professor/academic.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
  20. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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    Sorry, if I had known a similar name already existed, I would have chosen another one. thinman is a good member, and deserves no doppelgangers.

    I'd add that to me, any decent aesthically driven criticism is going to be centered on what a given innovator or conservator brand added to the conversation... what they teach/taught us about style, rather than what an academic or journalist can do to break down their influences. If they're a great brand, then they're going to be more than the sum of their influences, and I enjoy writing that can elucidate their unique genius.
     

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