Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Brooks Brothers Blues

 

The men’s clothing company, established in 1818, filed for bankruptcy today. I have two short anecdotes about that company that create for me the nostalgic sweet pain that comes from life as you age.

When I was a teenager my Dad had a prescription to Esquire magazine that I perused each month. I found a few articles that held my interest because they were avant- guard but mostly I looked at the ads. It was the Vanity Fair for metrosexual males long before that concept took birth. When I was about fourteen I was captivated by a Brooks Brothers ad featuring a bright blue blazer; not a navy blue blazer, but bright blue. I had to have it. I cut out the ad and begged my mother to buy me a blazer that color. Amazingly enough, she found an inexpensive sport coat the same color from a K-mart or similar store and replaced the white plastic buttons that came on the coat with brass buttons and I was as happy as I had ever been. Unfortunately, this happened in the midst of my adolescent growth spurt or I would still have it today.

A few years ago I was invited to a high society wedding on Nantucket Island. As I settled into my plane seat for the trip, I reviewed my suitcase packing and realized I had packed everything except for a necktie. My connection from Charleston to Boston went through Detroit I think. I hiked throughout the massive system of terminals and found only one store that sold ties. Brooks Brothers. It was a small store and had 4 or 5 styles of ties which were all the same color, navy blue, and gold diagonal stripes which only differed in the thickness of the stripes. They all looked way too mundane for my tastes but I had no choice. So I bought the one that looked best to me and paid $85 for the insipid tie! I have never spent that much on a tie. Wouldn’t you know it, but I got more compliments on that tie that weekend than I have ever received.

I doubt if I will ever buy an $85 tie again, but I wish Brooks Brothers the best. They served this country well.

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  1. Hoyacon Member

    Traditional (Trad) clothing is no longer a thing. Wearing suits and ties is no longer a thing. Having a guy who knows your size when you walk in the store is no longer a thing. Death knell.

    • #1
    • July 8, 2020, at 4:14 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Traditional (Trad) clothing is no longer a thing. Wearing suits and ties is no longer a thing. Having a guy who knows your size when you walk in the store is no longer a thing. Death knell.

    Do you remember way back in time when if you bought a suit someone would take a measuring tape and measure every aspect of your physique? I still remember the first time I bought a suit as a young man and a buxom young lady in the store made a point of touching me in ways that I thought were illegal. Mrs. Pessimist said to me as we left the store, “You enjoyed that didn’t you.”

    • #2
    • July 8, 2020, at 4:26 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Hoyacon Member

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Traditional (Trad) clothing is no longer a thing. Wearing suits and ties is no longer a thing. Having a guy who knows your size when you walk in the store is no longer a thing. Death knell.

    Do you remember way back in time when if you bought a suit someone would take a measuring tape and measure every aspect of your physique? I still remember the first time I bought a suit as a young man and a buxom young lady in the store made a point of touching me in ways that I thought were illegal. Mrs. Pessimist said to me as we left the store, “You enjoyed that didn’t you.”

    I noticed that you mentioned Charleston. The Ben Silver store there is kind of a mini-Brooks Brothers. Not that it really matters, but I’m wondering how long they’ll last.

    • #3
    • July 8, 2020, at 4:40 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Traditional (Trad) clothing is no longer a thing. Wearing suits and ties is no longer a thing. Having a guy who knows your size when you walk in the store is no longer a thing. Death knell.

    Do you remember way back in time when if you bought a suit someone would take a measuring tape and measure every aspect of your physique? I still remember the first time I bought a suit as a young man and a buxom young lady in the store made a point of touching me in ways that I thought were illegal. Mrs. Pessimist said to me as we left the store, “You enjoyed that didn’t you.”

    I noticed that you mentioned Charleston. The Ben Silver store there is kind of a mini-Brooks Brothers. Not that it really matters, but I’m wondering how long they’ll last.

    Stores that have strong local loyalty will survive for awhile if they own their retail space but overall their prospects seem dismal.

    • #4
    • July 8, 2020, at 4:47 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Hoyacon Member

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Traditional (Trad) clothing is no longer a thing. Wearing suits and ties is no longer a thing. Having a guy who knows your size when you walk in the store is no longer a thing. Death knell.

    Do you remember way back in time when if you bought a suit someone would take a measuring tape and measure every aspect of your physique? I still remember the first time I bought a suit as a young man and a buxom young lady in the store made a point of touching me in ways that I thought were illegal. Mrs. Pessimist said to me as we left the store, “You enjoyed that didn’t you.”

    I noticed that you mentioned Charleston. The Ben Silver store there is kind of a mini-Brooks Brothers. Not that it really matters, but I’m wondering how long they’ll last.

    Stores that have strong local loyalty will survive for awhile if they own their retail space but overall their prospects seem dismal.

    There’s another company–J. Press–that is now doubly under siege because time is passing it by, and it’s associated with Yale. Dick Cavett was a big J. Press guy.

    • #5
    • July 8, 2020, at 4:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. JoelB Member

    One Sunday I looked around the church and noticed that I was one of only two men wearing a jacket. A couple years later I looked around again and noticed that I was one of two or three that was wearing his shirt tail tucked in. 

    • #6
    • July 8, 2020, at 5:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Traditional (Trad) clothing is no longer a thing. Wearing suits and ties is no longer a thing. Having a guy who knows your size when you walk in the store is no longer a thing. Death knell.

    Do you remember way back in time when if you bought a suit someone would take a measuring tape and measure every aspect of your physique? I still remember the first time I bought a suit as a young man and a buxom young lady in the store made a point of touching me in ways that I thought were illegal. Mrs. Pessimist said to me as we left the store, “You enjoyed that didn’t you.”

    I noticed that you mentioned Charleston. The Ben Silver store there is kind of a mini-Brooks Brothers. Not that it really matters, but I’m wondering how long they’ll last.

    Stores that have strong local loyalty will survive for awhile if they own their retail space but overall their prospects seem dismal.

    There’s another company–J. Press–that is now doubly under siege because time is passing it by, and it’s associated with Yale. Dick Cavett was a big J. Press guy.

    Well of course, all men’s clothing stores are doomed by their white privilege. Original stores in cities with a strong tourist presence like Charleston will outlast many of the chains but as you first posited, traditional men’s clothing is a dying market.

    • #7
    • July 8, 2020, at 5:09 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. EODmom Coolidge

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Traditional (Trad) clothing is no longer a thing. Wearing suits and ties is no longer a thing. Having a guy who knows your size when you walk in the store is no longer a thing. Death knell.

    Do you remember way back in time when if you bought a suit someone would take a measuring tape and measure every aspect of your physique? I still remember the first time I bought a suit as a young man and a buxom young lady in the store made a point of touching me in ways that I thought were illegal. Mrs. Pessimist said to me as we left the store, “You enjoyed that didn’t you.”

    I noticed that you mentioned Charleston. The Ben Silver store there is kind of a mini-Brooks Brothers. Not that it really matters, but I’m wondering how long they’ll last.

    We love Ben Silver. We have both bought glasses there – lenses later replaced with our prescriptions – Panama hats, a gorgeous red robe (men’s size Xs) for me, slippers for Dad and our Marine, shawls also for me, gloves. It seems there’s always something. But Charleston is a dressing up sorta of place. For dinner, for church and so on. I like it. And no one rushes you when you’re considering. And they ship with care. 

    • #8
    • July 8, 2020, at 5:36 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist

    “We love Ben Silver. We have both bought glasses there – lenses later replaced with our prescriptions – Panama hats, a gorgeous red robe (men’s size Xs) for me, slippers for Dad and our Marine, shawls also for me, gloves. It seems there’s always something. But Charleston is a dressing up sorta of place. For dinner, for church and so on. I like it. And no one rushes you when you’re considering. And they ship with care. “
    Charleston is a dressing up sorta place. There are more seersucker suits worn there than the rest of the world combined. I think it’s position as one of the most desirable tourist destinations in the world is due to it’s adherence to classic American and Southern values as well as outstanding cuisine. Eventually BLM and Antifa will try try to take it down but they will fail miserably.

     

    • #9
    • July 8, 2020, at 6:26 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. MarciN Member

    I’m really sorry to hear that. I’m sitting here in a Brooks Brothers blouse I bought fifteen years ago, and it is as good as new. What a terrible loss. 

    When I worked in Boston, I used to love to go into their store on Newbury Street. 

    My husband’s grandmother was an immigrant who came from Italy. She lived in the old Scully Square, which was torn down to make way for the ugliest architectural monstrosity in the modern world, the Boston Government Center. But before she moved out of the city, she used to embroider the button holes for Brooks Brothers. Only the best embroiderers were hired for this painstaking work. 

    It makes me sad to think that Brooks Brothers will not be around any more. I just saw that Brooks Brothers had a store on Newbury Street. I wonder if rioters attacked their store.

     

    • #10
    • July 8, 2020, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Flicker Coolidge

    I once bought a beautifully-cut blue suit jacket with thin silver stripes at an early high-end close-out store (C-Mart for those who may have driven an hour out from Alexandria to shop there, and who may recall it): Lord & Taylor, Sachs Fifth Avenue, etc. And I wore it with jeans on a trip to Europe. I got a train from Paris to Amsterdam and sat in a first class coach with an older, very dignified Parisian couple, the husband of which worked at the Hague. Another passenger came in and sat with us and soon the conductor came and asked to see her ticket, and then asked her to leave. I asked the couple what had just happened, and they said she didn’t have a first class ticket. I said that I hadn’t purchased a first class ticket and they looked at it and said that, yes, I had. But I said that I didn’t ask for a first class ticket, and the wife elegantly slipped her hand into my hanging suit coat, opened it enough to show the label, and raised a single eyebrow. The label was Yves Saint Laurent. That, too, I out grew. Ah, the memories of quality.

    • #11
    • July 8, 2020, at 6:50 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  12. PHCheese Member

    $85.00 I’ve spent less on a used car.

    • #12
    • July 8, 2020, at 7:01 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist

    “That, too, I out grew. Ah, the memories of quality.“

    The sweet pain of nostalgia.

    • #13
    • July 8, 2020, at 7:08 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Brooks Brothers, Chipp and J. Press were all located in a one block area near Grand Central Station, and the Harvard and Yale clubs in Manhattan. All a bit different (Brooks Brothers jackets extremely roomy, J. Press slimmer three-button jackets, Chipp bespoke tailor to JFK), but all were absolutely well made classic clothing. 

    Both J. Press and BB were sold to overseas interests/holding companies (Japan and Italy respectively). Brooks Brothers tried to go hip and moderately trendy years ago. That’s what started it downhill. The slobbing of America sent it the rest of the way. Either be what you have been for 200+ years or give it up. When Brooks decided they needed to express solidarity with BLM, I sensed they were headed for oblivion. I hope they can find their way but I’m not sure.

    Brooks Brothers ties are classic. Watch any episode of Law and Order and someone is wearing one. Our son’s first tie was from Brooks Brothers. Here is Eddie Murphy in Trading Places wearing a classic Brooks Brothers Rep tie:

    • #14
    • July 8, 2020, at 8:26 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Flicker Coolidge

    Eddie Murphy looks good.

    This whole post also goes hand in hand with the BLM, anti-fa and entitled white hipster protests and rejection of culture. They have nothing to fill their soul (colloquially put) and so they wear — not just faded, not just pre-torn pants, but — pre-soiled pants. Such hip pretension and false modesty shows a soullessness and and vapidity that screams for a cause, no matter how dumb, no matter how hurtful, no matter how destructive.

    Maybe the White BLM is semi-suicidal thinking. Generation Z may be no coincidence.

    • #15
    • July 8, 2020, at 8:45 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I still wear suits and ties for a range of types of meetings (as well as religious events), but I never overpay. It’s a Jewish thing.

     

    • #16
    • July 9, 2020, at 6:08 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  17. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The work from home trend will claim many more victims.

    • #17
    • July 9, 2020, at 7:30 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Stina Member

    Southern Pessimist: My connection from Charleston to Boston went through Detroit I think.

    Because that makes sense.

    • #18
    • July 9, 2020, at 8:21 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Guruforhire Member

    Brooks Brothers has been my goto for my clothes in the following categories:

    • Business shirts -> They are your best bet in corporate battle armor. The non-iron supima cotton dress and sport shirts where my goto
    • Sweaters -> I like their sweaters
    • Chinos -> Their pants are great, hold up more than you do, and are generally pretty kempt
    • Pajamas -> For awhile they had these cotton not really flannel pajamas with a long sleeve jersey top which I wear religiously around the house year round. THey are just so comfortable and breathable. Totally worth the money.

     

    I prefer ralph lauren for Polos

     

    I prefer Duchamp of london for ties

     

    and Hickey-Freeman or Canali for suits.

    • #19
    • July 9, 2020, at 9:08 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. James Lileks Contributor

    Great thread from a BB employee on the company’s missteps and marketing fubar, here.

    • #20
    • July 9, 2020, at 9:10 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  21. Guruforhire Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Great thread from a BB employee on the company’s missteps and marketing fubar, here.

    I think its directionally correct though probably goes a little too hard in the paint.

    Brooks Brothers is where you shop when you wear dress clothes every day. Its not about fashion or demographics, or whatever. Its about the man of any race,creed,orientation or politics or whatever that works the counter at the jeweler at the mall. Its about the local public defender, and the financial planner that helps you manage your retirement savings.

    Its like redwing boots for the indoors crowd.

    • #21
    • July 9, 2020, at 9:28 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  22. Hoyacon Member

    Sorry no:

    • #22
    • July 9, 2020, at 9:38 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Skyler Coolidge

    I have a really high quality leather jacket from Brooks Brothers (mom got it for me as a gift) that is pretty much perfect, at least when it was new. It was very soft, and had a very classic cut. Sadly, it is about 25 years old now. For a long time I wanted to get another one, but Brooks Brothers hasn’t made anything nice in a long time. Everything they’ve been selling has definitely been “metrosexual” or worse. I perused their offerings and couldn’t find a single thing let alone a classic leather jacket, that I would even consider owning if I were naked and owned nothing else.

    Brooks Brothers got what it deserved. It made really crappy clothes for people who don’t want to look even remotely masculine.

    • #23
    • July 9, 2020, at 9:59 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  24. Skyler Coolidge

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):
    Charleston is a dressing up sorta place. There are more seersucker suits worn there than the rest of the world combined.

    But is seer sucker really considered dressing up? :)

    • #24
    • July 9, 2020, at 10:04 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Housebroken Thatcher

    Southern Pessimist: Fortunately, this happened in the midst of my adolescent growth spurt or I would still have it today.

    There. That’s much better.

    • #25
    • July 9, 2020, at 10:04 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Hoyacon Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):
    Charleston is a dressing up sorta place. There are more seersucker suits worn there than the rest of the world combined.

    But is seer sucker really considered dressing up? :)

    Whenever I hear seersucker, I’m struck by the indelible image of John Candy in a seersucker suit in JFK.

    And there’s also:

    Well I’m sitting here thinking just how sharp I am
    Yeah I’m sitting here thinking just how sharp I am
    I’m a necessary talent behind every rock and roll band

    Yeah, I’m sharp, I’m really, really sharp
    I sure do earn my pay, sitting on the beach every day
    Yeah, I’m real real sharp, yes I am
    I got a Corvette and a seersucker suit, yes I have

    Here comes the bus, uh oh
    I though I had a dime, where’s my dime
    I know I have a dime somewhere
    I’m pretty sure

    • #26
    • July 9, 2020, at 10:09 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  27. LC Member
    LC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    All my button-down shirts are from BB. They make the best ones. 

    • #27
    • July 9, 2020, at 11:17 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    Brooks Brothers and Abercrombie and Fitch, once pretty close to being neighbors on Madison Avenue in New York City lost their mojo a long time ago. I grew up in Brooks tweed suits and pinpoint cotton shirts we called “Brookers” . I bought archery gear and my first rifle in Abercrombie and Fitch. They were the remains of a much more civilized society. When the then president of Abercrombie rappelled off of the roof of the building back in the 1980s (I think it was), it was the beginning of the company losing its dignity, a thing I most prized when I shopped there. The examples of Brooks Brothers’ latest fashions are also a sign of the same loss of dignity. Brooks suits were beautiful and classic. Minor changes were made their styling over the years, but they were always identifiable, and always appropriate to the occasion.

    A few years ago I suffered a terrible loss when moths got into my closets and damaged several Ralph Lauren wool slacks I had worn only rarely in recent years. For some reason they did not attack the jackets that they were worn with. When I attempted to replace the slacks with comparable ones I found that it was impossible to do so at any price. The styles and fabrics available were simply not the same. I knew then that Brooks Brothers was no longer what it has once been. I bought a half dozen of the old Brookers which are still wonderful and had a Hong Kong tailor make me up slacks to replace the ones damaged. They aren’t as nice as the originals, but they are much better than anything I could find in any of the better man’s stores.

    • #28
    • July 9, 2020, at 11:22 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  29. Hoyacon Member

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):

    Brooks Brothers and Abercrombie and Fitch, once pretty close to being neighbors on Madison Avenue in New York City lost their mojo a long time ago. I grew up in Brooks tweed suits and pinpoint cotton shirts we called “Brookers” . I bought archery gear and my first rifle in Abercrombie and Fitch. They were the remains of a much more civilized society. When the then president of Abercrombie rappelled off of the roof of the building back in the 1980s (I think it was), it was the beginning of the company losing its dignity, a thing I most prized when I shopped there. The examples of Brooks Brothers’ latest fashions are also a sign of the same loss of dignity. Brooks suits were beautiful and classic. Minor changes were made their styling over the years, but they were always identifiable, and always appropriate to the occasion.

    A few years ago I suffered a terrible loss when moths got into my closets and damaged several Ralph Lauren wool slacks I had worn only rarely in recent years. For some reason they did not attack the jacket that they were worn with. When I attempted to replace the slacks with comparable one I found that it was impossible to do so at any price. The styles and fabrics available were simply not the same. I knew then that Brooks Brothers was no longer what it has once been. I bought a half dozen of the old Brookers which are still wonderful and had a Hong Kong tailor make me up slacks to replace the ones damaged. They aren’t as nice as the originals, but they are much better than anything I could find in any of the better man’s stores.

    Interesting. I’ve never heard the term “Brooker.” It sounds like what we used to call “must iron” to distinguish them from the “no iron’ cotton variety that came later. The latter are nice and convenient, but the “must iron”ones were softer, especially after a few washings.

     

    • #29
    • July 9, 2020, at 11:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. Jeff Hawkins Coolidge

    Southern Pessimist:

    When I was a teenager my Dad had a prescription to Esquire magazine that I perused each month.

    How many doses a day? :)

    But yeah, lower middle class Jeff who lived nowhere near a big city moved to the city and could never afford Brooks Brothers until now.

    But I also hate wearing suits. I feel like a fraud

    • #30
    • July 9, 2020, at 11:42 AM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.