Photo by Salt Water New England

Monday, January 3, 2022

Someone who knows your tastes and looks out for you?

 A reader question:

The internet and sites such as SWNE have introduced us to many superb sources, often highly specialized, such as JD, Mercer, Shoemart, and Leather Man.  Other than O'Connell's and Andover, I have a hard time envisioning a possible single source for myself. Once upon a time many of us used a single source like Brooks Brothers, J. Press, or a local shop like Eljo's or Andover.  The notion of a single source usually meant having a close relationship with a salesperson, someone who knew your tastes and looked out for you.  A pleasant set of email exchanges with Eliza B or Serena Mercer is nice, really nice, but I still miss the relationship, now nearly forty years ago, with my good friend at Brooks Brothers.  Have you or any of your readers stuck with a single or predominant source and kept that personal touch? 

 

27 comments:

  1. I'm really lucky to have an excellent relationship with my Brooks Brothers associate. He knows how disappointed I am with most of the brand in its current incarnation. That said, he helps me navigate around the nonsense and gets me to the small handful of items I there I can still use—particularly those pieces that are still classically cut, even if that just means the odd coat, boxers, unfitted shirts, and shoes. It'll never replace the 80s-era Brooks Brothers into which I could just walk and realize that most everything would work for me, but it's also better than having to deal with a salesman who is basically a fetus with a 19-inch waist and a "fashion forward" personal style who just wants to help me "update" my "classics."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems like we are a tad envious of the fashion forward fetus's figure

      Delete
    2. I'm a 60-year old man shopping at Brooks Brothers for the odd coat, boxers, unfitted shirts, and shoes. Tell me, do you know many people....?

      Delete
  2. I find all the staff at Ann Mashburn to have impeccable taste and are truly kind. When I lived in DC, I had a very close friendship with some of the women who worked at the Georgetown store. They have since moved on, but I truly valued that, and I still truly enjoy shopping there (albeit virtually, now!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Second Sid Mashburn shop in NY and J Press in NY and DC.

      Delete
  3. The reader brings to mind a time I remember well. And for me, too, it was Brooks Brothers. It wasn't just the personal service, it was the selection available across multiple departments so that 80% or more of your needs could be served by a single establishment. Ironically, I never knew much about clothing while I was a customer of Brooks because I simply trusted that the details were right. It wasn't until I moved on that I had to learn about all of the details that I had taken for granted as a customer at Brooks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I realize this is a site oriented to the northeastern part of the country, but anyone in the Pacific Northwest would do well to pay a visit to John Helmer's in Portland, now in its third generation as a family-owned haberdasher. John III and his outstanding staff seem to be of a different era of customer service and can most certainly fulfill the kind of go-to source relationship the reader above is missing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is lovely to have still a good family-owned haberdasher. They have completely disappeared here. There are several such stores I use online or by phone, including Hunter & Coggins, Eljo's, and, of course O'Connell's. They are wonderfully knowledgeable and helpful, but as a retired guy in his seventies I do not deal with them often enough to develop the sort of relationship I had when I was working at a job that both required and financed a large wardrobe. I was near enough to Brooks to drop in weekly on lunchtime walks. In the seventies I got one hundred percent of my clothing, including shoes, there. Today O'Connell's comes as close as anywhere, but I have to say I have really enjoyed shopping with Eliza B/Leather Man, Mercer, and the Andover Shop, too. Although it was entirely online, I enjoyed my experience with Bosie, too.

      Delete
  5. J. Press never failed me! Thanks so very much!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Years ago there was a very nice shop in Essex, CT that was very dependable called Camp's...I think the full name was R W Camp's. I miss that kind of shop

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're making me nostalgic. In Greenville, Delaware you had three such shops -- Brent & Co., Denham Ltd., and the Wilmington Country Store -- all within a quarter mile of each other. If you didn't like what you saw there, Mansure & Prettyman and Wright & Simon (and others I'm sure I've forgotten) were ten minutes away in downtown Wilmington. Sigh.

      Delete
  7. When I was young, there were several privately-owned "ladies shops" and "men's shops" in the town where I grew up. We knew all the sales people there well because they might have gone to our church, been in our bridge club or served on the school board. So service was always personal. They allowed us to bring home any number of garments without paying for them "on approval" and to return them if they didn't work. I can't imagine that happening today. Did anyone else have that experience?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There used to be small shops like that almost everywhere. They usually sold better clothes than department stores. At the same time, there were also more locally owned department stores. The ones in college towns were probably the best, as they catered to the younger and more fashionable crowd, which had been true since there were college towns, I expect. No doubt the increasingly casual dress doomed small clothing stores. Some small clothing stores were actually chains, but they did give very personal service.

      Delete
    2. It is interesting that BlueTrain cites (accurately, I believe) the increasingly casual dress as the primary driver of the demise of the stores we loved, but in Austin the sole remaining store at which I used to shop has transitioned to higher cost and higher fashion goods. If you can't buy a Gitman OCBD or its equivalent, a navy blazer in hopsack or flannel, a herringbone tweed, and Byford or Pantherella socks, chances are it's not the right store for a trad/ivy/prep.

      Delete
    3. Those small shops that I mentioned may or may not have sold better clothing than department stores, but chances are, the brands were probably different. Believe it or not, everyone had American-made clothing. I'm not sure how much on-line or catalog buying entered into the matter, but it's probably had some negative effect. And by the way, the local L.L. Bean store is closing here in Northern Virginia, although they say they are looking for another location.

      I definitely believe that casual dress (even "smart" casual dress) has contributed to the decline of small shops; maybe even to the decline of everything! Anyway, my father was a truck driver but he wore a suit all day on Sunday. My wife's grandfather, who was on the staff of a boy's boarding school, wore a suit every day, even after he retired. We have a straw boater hat that belonged to him. The label says "Levinson Clothing o. 426 King St. Alexandria, Va. That whole block has since been redeveloped.

      Delete
  8. Yes. As a teen, I charged gas at the local service station, clothes at the local dress shop, lipstick at the local pharmacy, all on the family account. After I was married, I could still charge at the family-owned Department store on my Mother's account. I was never asked for identification. And, of course, sales ladies would call when new stock was received. This sounds like a small town, but this was in Atlanta in the 60's.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You really don’t make friends with someone who waits on you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some of my very best friends have been people who waited on me or on whom I waited.

      Delete
    2. 'You really don't make friends with someone who waits on you' - And THIS is how I can tell when someone is NOT to the manner/manor born.

      Yes, Vecchio - I too have made good friends with people who have served me.

      Delete
    3. This is the kind of comment made by people who spend all their ample free time watching DOWNTON ABBEY.

      Delete
    4. “Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious even if it kills you.”

      ― Elsie de Wolfe

      Delete
  10. In New Haven I have shopped at J Press and Ensons for years and am well known to the “James“ at both places.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James and Jim are the best for anyone who can get to New Haven.

      Delete
  11. Cordings of course but a few of my favourite salesmen have left in recent years. Their replacements lack the same personal touch.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Unfortunately, this is a thing of the past where I live.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same in my area. The last really good men's store closed just before the pandemic hit due to the owner wanting to retire and no one to take it over. I don't know of but one women's store and it deals more in cruisewear/evening wear as opposed to work/casual clothing items.

      Delete