Photo by Salt Water New England

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Brooks Brothers

  

A reader question for the community:

When was Brooks Brothers at its prime?

 

19 comments:

  1. You could say the mid-sixties was when J Press, Arthur Rosenberg, Fenn Feinstein, Barries, Gamer, Gentree, Whites, Ensons, Joe LoPresti, et al were the juice. The concept of conspicuous consumption among the masses took hold, before everything changed. Jazzmen, leading men, middle America men, nearly all well-suited man, echoed York Street. Brooks Brothers were also likely in the groove.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, being from New Haven, I can agree and am old enough to remember those days and stores.

      Delete
    2. May I add Jack Harper (State College, PA) to your list?

      Delete
    3. That would be a different list. New Haven was the epicenter of the Ivy (later “prep”) look.
      Jack Harper, Andover Shop et al took their cue from York Street, not Madison Avenue.

      Delete
  2. Tim says probably the 1950s and 60s.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In the 70s and 80s their OCBDs still had unlined collars. Probably before that too, although that was before my time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Whenever BB began to open stores in malls and began to open outlet stores.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant "Prior to whenever BB began to open stores in malls and began to open outlet stores." I need a better editor.

      Delete
  5. In my experience the end of the prime of Brooks Brothers was when they underwent an ownership change, exited some of their old stores, and moved into malls in the mid-1980s. That was when their merchandise began to change extensively and quickly. Prior to that, even though it was always evolving, albeit subtly, it was grounded in the 3/2 sack, unfused OCBDS, and, with a few UK exceptions, MIUSA. In the mid-1980s those anchoring wares and modes were abandoned, although for a decade or more they tried to market themselves as if they had not changed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 1950's through the 1960's! Thanks so very much!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Brooks Bros. store I shopped in at The Short Hills Mall in NJ, considered to be one of the highest end malls in the USA and where I bought my clothes for the better part of the last 36 years closed with the pandemic and has not yet re-opened.

    One good thing about their bankruptcy is that the arrogant and condescending CLAUDIO DEL VECCHIO, who is seeking to sell the company to the Simon Property Group will no longer be in in control of this once storied brand. I had a run-in with him at the Short Hills store and it turned into a nasty scene, but I just had to tell him how, as a 3rd generation customer, with a grandfather and father who purchased their officer's uniforms there (as did I when commissioned) that he had single-handedly set the company up for its eventual demise.

    The sooner CDV is out the picture at BB, the sooner a restructuring and restoration of the company to something resembling its former self can take place.

    ReplyDelete
  8. BB made a classic blunder by expanding too far and too fast. Jos. Bank made the same mistake. Their quality deteriorated, and they became just another mass merchandiser of men's clothes, like Men's Warehouse. BB should have their footprint small and exclusive. I would imagine there is a HBS case study this type of merchandising mistake in their annals. Customers will find a way to get to products that are exclusive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree they made the mistake of too rapid expansion, making a financial reckoning inevitable, but I believe that the way they abandoned their traditional base was in effect a relinquishment of their brand and ultimately more damaging. Jos. Bank did the same thing. Imagine if Tiffany shifted entirely to costume jewelry or if Rolex went digital. What Brooks and Bank did was, to some, almost that extreme.

      Delete
    2. I agree, in part. More critical was their intention to expand their market, both in more stores but also their inventory. They lost sight of what made them special. Their outlet stores accelerated the decline. If you look at their online inventory you will see that a great bulk of it is items that could not be imagined as being in a BB store in NYC or Boston in 1972. Why pay those prices when you can find similar items at Kohls?

      Delete
    3. 1972 was nearly fifty years ago. And fifty years before that was 1922. What was Brooks Brothers selling then? Suits coats would have been a little longer with a slimmer fit, pants legs fairly narrow. Suits for winter would have been quite heavy. Shirts with stiff collars, all of which was considered softer and more casual. "Dressing up" meant tails. Dinner jackets were just coming into style.

      Delete
  9. For, this question is personal. The moment was one of two events. The first was when I was on a glee club trip from Lawrenceville to Dobbs and we were given about an hour loose in NYC before going up to Dobbs. I went to the store and charged about $50 on ties on my father's account (our names were the same except for Jr. and III). When the bill arrived later that month, I heard the shock and awe all the way from Beacon Hill. I was banned and grounded and hounded by my Victorian parents who loathed charge cards and only maintained one at Brooks in order to purchase gifts at Christmas. I continued to hear about that transgression through graduation from law school a decade later. The other event, much around the same time, occurred when my first love and I were 'caught' making out in the men's changing room on the fourth floor. I was fifteen and madly in love with a young lady who, one can only say, was magnificent. Alas, the sales clerk was unamused, perhaps in large part because I had taken no fewer than four blazers into the room to buy time for our tete-a-tete. We weren't so much escorted as we were shamed out of the store. It actually was harsh and I felt as though a relative was correcting me. I never went back. The young lady in question met a DuPont the following weekend at a Tea Dance at Tower Hill School in Wilmington. I could not compete. Première de nombreuses tragédies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love everything about this post.

      Delete
  10. I cannot speak for the 60s and 70s but I did work for BB part-time during my university years in the mid-80s (as well as working for Laura Ashley). I thought that the quality was superior then and I carried on wearing BB all throughout my Wall Street law firm days in the 90s before moving to Europe. I rue the day that the Italians took over the company, slimmed the sizes down and, well...made the clothes so pedestrian and jejune.

    ReplyDelete