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Brooks Brothers: What to Buy & What to Avoid – Brand Value Review

Brooks Brothers: What to Buy & What to Avoid – Brand Value Review


Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette!
In today’s video, we’ll discuss what to buy and what to avoid from one of
America’s most storied menswear institutions, Brooks Brothers. Brooks
Brothers is now more than 200 years old and it has played a defining role in
shaping the course of American style and menswear. In many ways, they serve to
democratize style, making clothing more accessible, affordable, and wearable for
the masses. They’re known for their quality conservative looks and for
manufacturing in the United States for most of their history. They’ve outfitted
40 of the 45 American presidents and pretty much every star during the Golden
Age of Hollywood wore Brooks Brothers clothing.
Despite this illustrious history, though, they have had to change with the times
both for the better and for the worse. As clothing has gotten more and more casual
day to day for most people, the classic staples that Brooks Brothers is known
for have gotten less and less popular over time. Also, the quality of much of
their product has declined slightly over the years as some production has moved
overseas. This, of course, isn’t an uncommon story in men’s ready-to-wear
fashion but first, let’s examine the long and illustrious history of the Brooks
Brothers brand then look at their current lineups to determine what you
should and shouldn’t buy today. Brooks Brothers is probably the oldest and most
famous American clothing company that’s still in existence. It was founded in
1818 by Henry Brooks and his sons inherited the company hence the name
Brooks Brothers. In 1849, they were the first company to introduce ready-to-wear
clothing and the next year in 1850, their famous Golden Fleece logo was adopted.
One of Brooks Brothers’ most famous customers around this time in the mid
19th century was Abraham Lincoln. In fact, he was assassinated wearing a Brooks
Brothers suit and while Lincoln himself was a loyal Brooks brother
customer, the Union Army which he presided over did not fair so well when
it came to their Brooks Brothers clothing. The company secured the
contracts to outfit the Union Army by somewhat questionable means. Also, when
quality wool became scarce, they pressed together decaying rags and other scraps
of fabric into something resembling more quality garments and then outfitted them
into the Union Army. Unfortunately, these uniforms didn’t stay together very well
and they literally fell apart the first time they were used in battle when it
rained. The Union Army eventually spent forty five thousand dollars equivalent
to about eleven million in today’s money to replace these poor uniforms. Brooks
Brothers didn’t lower their prices for these shoddy materials and in fact, the
word “shoddy” was coined at this time to describe the poor and somewhat fake
product that the Union Army had been given. Here’s an interesting fact, from
1865 to 2003, Brooks Brothers did not produce a ready-to-wear black suit. There
are multiple theories as to why this is. The first of these is that they didn’t
produce a black suit out of respect for Abraham Lincoln who, as we said, was
killed while wearing a black Brooks Brothers suit. Granted, however, his was
bespoke because of his tall and thin frame. The more likely explanation though
is that Brooks Brothers, through this time, typically catered to a more
well-heeled clientele and black suits were not often worn by these upper
classes, usually only by servants and the deceased. Whatever the case may be, they
have indeed offered a ready to wear black suiting option since 2003, however,
we don’t necessarily think one should wear a black suit all the time and for
more on that subject, you can find our video, here. In 1870, the company was the
first to introduce seersucker suits but they wouldn’t really see popularity for
another 30 years or so. Also, around the turn of the 20th century, they introduced
what would become one of their more popular and successful models, the sack
suit. This style would become synonymous with Brooks Brothers, as well
as American suiting, more generally. The more generous cut of these sack suits
allowed them to fit a wider array of body types off the rack and thus they
were very financially successful for the company. By the way, you can learn more
about American suiting and how it differs from British and Italian styles
in this video, here. Also, around the turn of the 20th century, John E Brooks
invented the OCBD or Oxford cloth button-down shirt. He had observed shirts
with button-down collars during a polo game and the OCBD would go on to
become particularly popular among athletes like tennis players in the
1920s and 30s. In addition to its casual styling, this was largely because of the
breathable weave of the fabric used to make the shirts. Later on, mid-century
style icons like JFK and Gianni Agnelli would go on to make the OCBD an iconic
menswear staple. In 1902, they introduced the Madras fabric to the United States.
If you’d like to learn more about this unique fabric style, we’ve got a video on
that subject here. Also, they introduced the repp tie to the United States
altering the direction of the regimental stripe so that it could be worn by
civilians instead of just military personnel, as had traditionally been done
in the United Kingdom. In 1908, they would import foulard ties or block silk printed
ties from the United Kingdom to the US. F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920 publication, “This
side of paradise”, made many references to Brooks Brothers and it would, in turn,
influence the style of many college men across the United States.
Later, Brooks Brothers would introduce clothing lines based around Fitzgerald’s
work, The Great Gatsby when it was adapted for film. In 1946, the
Brooks family sold the company to Julius Garfinckel & Company which would actually
make the overall style of most of the company’s garments even more traditional
than they had been before. In 1953, working with DuPont, Brooks Brothers
released Brooksweave, a fabric that blended cotton and
Dacron for a no wrinkle finish. We mentioned John F Kennedy before and he
also famously favored the number two style Brooks Brothers two-button suit
which showcased his youthful style. The company would change hands again several
times over the ensuing decades, it’s currently owned by the Brooks Brothers
group which is, in turn, privately owned by the Italian billionaire, Claudio
Del Vecchio, the son of the founder of Luxottica eyewear. Today, Brooks Brothers
does still maintain some manufacturing in the United States, however, it’s
important to note that not many fabrics are actually produced and woven here in
the US. So when things are manufactured in the United States, what they’re today
mostly referring to is assembly of these fabrics. Products currently made in the
US include their Golden Fleece line of suits, many of their 1818 line of suits,
but not all, ties which are cut and piled in Long Island, and many shirts but again,
not all, which are made primarily in North Carolina. We should also note that
Brooks Brothers clothes are an important staple of many historical film
production companies and TV presenters. In addition to The Great Gatsby which we
mentioned earlier, Brooks Brothers were also commonly seen on the television
show Mad Men and late-night host Stephen Colbert is outfitted exclusively in
Brooks Brothers suits. So as you can tell from this long and rich but not
completely faultless historical overview, Brooks Brothers has been a staple of the
American menswear scene for many many decades. They deserve respect for
influencing the style of menswear in every era since their founding, as well
as democratizing the suit. They’ve been able to strike a good balance between
innovating but also fiercely protecting the classic rules of men’s style. Like
Ralph Lauren on which we’ve already produced a video in this series, you can
find it here. Brooks Brothers is a full-service clothing house so they
offer a wide variety of products, let’s go over what they currently
offer to discuss what you should and shouldn’t incorporate into your wardrobe.
By the way, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that we mostly
advocate you stick to the classics. The first item we recommend you buy is
tuxedo shirts. Black Tie, of course, has a relatively strict dress code and when
you want to get all of the details right, a Brooks Brothers tuxedo shirt can get
you there. They offer both pleated front and bib front models and also offer a
detachable wing collar, if you’re truly into that crisp look. By the way, if you’d
like to know more about tuxedo shirts specifically or the other elements of
proper black tie, you can find them in our comprehensive black tie guide here.
Along those same lines, the second item we recommend you pick up if you’re so
inclined is a pair of traditional opera pumps. These are the most formal shoes
that a man can wear, suitable for both Black Tie and White Tie and Brooks
Brothers still offers them. The third item here is sweaters which are, of
course, a classic winter addition to any man’s wardrobe when worn in the correct
way. By this, we mean that there are many styles of sweater that Brooks Brothers
offers but there are a select few that we would actually recommend. You should
probably opt for classic styling and by this, we mean things like turtlenecks,
cardigans, v-necks, and shawl collars. Conversely, you probably don’t want to
get anything with zippers, crew necks, or hoods. Also, rather than synthetics, you
should go for natural materials like cotton, wool, merino, and cashmere. We’d
recommend that you opt for heavier weight sweaters as there are several
reasons to avoid thinner ones. Fine or fine gauge knit sweaters are thin and
kind of useless as they won’t keep you very warm and they also won’t be as
durable. Furthermore, any layers you wear underneath them will probably show
through. For all of these reasons, opting for thicker weights of knitwear will be
best. You’ll also want to go for classic patterns and colors like fair isle,
tennis sweaters, solids, or melange solids where the yarn is multiple colors
and rich colors like green, red, blue, and purple that will contrast nicely with a
variety of looks. Consider, for example, some of the following: a merino wool
fisherman sweater, a cotton shawl collar cable cardigan, lamb’s wool fair isle
sweaters, roll neck cardigans in merino wool, or cotton turtleneck sweaters.
Chinos are our fourth item here. We did a little survey on our YouTube community
page asking you, the viewers, what you’d like to see us mention from Brooks
Brothers and chinos came up repeatedly. Now, we can’t speak to this from personal
experience but there are a number of factors that point toward Brooks
Brothers chinos being a great pair of pants. The first would be their
relatively wide range of colors which includes all of the usual and neutral
shades plus a variety of bolder options, as well. They’ve also got six different
fit types which is impressive and they offer both pleated and flat-fronted
models, as well as ones with or without cuffs,
depending on your preference. Rather than being offered in the standard and
somewhat vague small medium large scheme, they are offered by waist size and
inseam size so you can get a better fit. They’re made from stretch cotton twill
which is typically a blend of 98% cotton and 2% spandex. The spandex isn’t exactly
classic, of course, but it’s certainly better than something like a polyester
or rayon blend would be. Finally here, they’re treated to be wrinkle resistant.
Not everyone necessarily considers this to be a bonus as wrinkle free or wrinkle
resistant fabrics are typically treated with a formaldehyde solution which may
give some men pause. However, if you do appreciate the convenience factor of
wrinkle free and wrinkle resistant clothing, the option is there in their
chinos. In fact, Brooks Brothers claims that its advantage chinos are one of its
best sellers. Next up are overcoats as Brooks Brothers is one of the few off
the rack companies that still offers a variety of overcoats in natural materials and classic silhouettes.
They are often pricey as you’ll typically spend anywhere from five
hundred to two thousand dollars but the look is quintessentially classic so if
you treat the garment well, you should get many years of use out of it
therefore, bringing that important cost per wear metric down considerably. Stick
with more traditional overcoats though and don’t go for the more modern options
like leather jackets, bomber jackets, waxed cotton, down-filled jackets, and so
on as other brands do these styles better. In fact, we’ve profiled a number
of these kinds of jackets and you can find various models in our is it worth
it playlist here. We’d recommend a classic silhouette in a natural fiber
based coat like wool, merino wool, cashmere, camel hair, or a blend of these
fibers. Also, skip the nylon and skip the color black, as everybody has a black
overcoat, it’s a lifeless color and it’s ultimately kind of boring.
In fact, we’ve done a video on why black is the most overrated color in menswear
and you can find it, here. Most of their overcoat options come in colors like
navy, camel, and charcoal so you should go for those instead. Some models are even
double-breasted and they can come in subtle and elegant patterns like
herringbone, Prince of Wales check, or windowpane. Take a particularly close
look at their 100% camel hair polo coats in either single or double breasted
configuration. Brooks Brothers pioneered this look and made it famous in the
1920s and 30s and camel hair is warm and durable so these coats are a
particularly smart option. Other models to consider would be top coats,
Chesterfields, and officer’s coats. For our number six item, we would, of course, be
remiss if we didn’t mention the OCBD which was, in fact, Brooks Brothers’
invention. They have fine fit options from slim to relaxed and they come in
classic styling patterns and colors. Also, the look of these shirts is meant to be
a bit more relaxed so it is okay if the fit isn’t 100% perfect to you. Now, for number seven, Brooks Brothers non-iron dress shirts
did also come up repeatedly in our comments but again, we don’t have any
personal experience with them. Still, they do have something of a cult following. As
we said before with the Chino pants, this non-iron claim is largely sourced from
the fact that these shirts are coded in a formaldehyde solution, this may not
necessarily be something you want up against your skin and it can also come
out in the wash over time meaning that non-iron quality might become less
effective. They’re often offered in bundles of four shirts for $199 so they
are fairly reasonably priced. Non-iron dress shirts certainly aren’t for
everyone but if it’s something you think you’d be interested in, they might be
worth a try. Our number eight item is shoes,
specifically, the models that run under the Peal & Company brand name and not
any others. Although Peal & Company actually doesn’t
exist anymore as a shoe maker in its own right, Brooks Brothers purchased the
brand in the 1960s and since then, they have continued to produce shoes under
that name to this day. The shoes are typically made in England, most commonly
by Crockett & Jones and they feature classic styling and a Goodyear welt.
They’re typically priced at around 700 dollars so again, they’re not inexpensive
but they will sometimes be offered on sale. If you could get a pair at 50% off,
for example, this would be a good deal. One problem you may encounter though is
that they don’t seem to restock very often, sometimes just once a year, so they
do tend to run out of the most common men’s shoe sizes. Also, you may sometimes
find that they’re offering cordovan shoes which are made by Alden, this is
another trusted men’s shoe brand and if you do see them on offer, we’d recommend
you pick them up. Our number 9 item is pajamas which are offered in a wide
variety of styles including thin robes, checked cotton flannels, or shirt fabric
styles. Not every man wears traditionally styled pajamas, of course, but if you’re
in the market for that sort of thing, Brooks
Brothers does have some good options. Our tenth and final pick in the what to buy
category is vintage Brooks Brothers items. As with a great many clothing
brands, the overall quality of Brooks Brothers garments has declined slightly
over time but they did have higher quality standards in the past. If you
happen to run across Brooks Brothers products in good condition in vintage
shops, don’t hesitate to buy them. For example, the tie I’m wearing in today’s
video is a vintage Brooks Brothers model. So what to avoid from Brooks Brothers
then? Well typically, we’d say first off that you should avoid trendier items. For
example, a $75 wristband or a cable-knit hooded sweatshirt. Trendy pieces like
these really aren’t Brooks Brothers Forte and as such, we’d say that you should
steer clear of them. Also, we wouldn’t recommend their socks as they’re often
in a polyester nylon blend and they’re too short so they will often slide down.
Conversely, we’d recommend something like an over the calf sock in silk or cotton
and we offer several models like these in the Fort Belvedere shop you can find
them here. Other items we’d recommend that you avoid from Brooks Brothers
would include t-shirts, sneakers, bomber jackets, jeans, and backpacks. The Brooks
Brothers brand has stood the test of time to become a true American menswear
icon while not all of the items they offer these days are exactly things that
we would recommend. There are still several products we think are good buys.
Of course, if you’ve got any other suggestions on what to buy or what to
avoid from Brooks Brothers, share with us in the comments below. in today’s video
I’m going for something of a traditional American yet rustic aesthetic the
central piece of course is my vintage Brooks Brothers tie which is in a
houndstooth pattern of darker red and off-white my French cuff shirt is
similarly off-white in color and in the French cuffs I’m wearing gold plated
sterling silver monkey’s fist knot cufflinks
from Fort Belvedere I thought that the gold color as well as the rope of
styling of these cufflinks was reminiscent of the Golden Fleece logo
that Brooks Brothers is famous for also from Fort Belvedere today are my pocket
square which is in a dark red wool silk blend featuring a rabbit motif for the
pattern and my edelweiss boutonniere both of these share a similar color
palette to my tie so everything harmonizes well by the way you can find
the pocket square boutonniere and cufflinks in the Fort Belvedere shop as
well as a relatively similar tie other pieces in my outfit today include
my sport coat which is in a medium brown tone with a windowpane pattern in tan
and blue my light khaki colored trousers and tan socks featuring a faint diamond
pattern in brown and my tan cap toed derby shoes from Allen Edmonds both the
jacket and the trousers are a bit on the roomier side and this was intentional as
I wanted to go for that sack suit styling that Brooks Brothers made famous

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