“You know I’ve never been in Brooks Brothers. I always see it there but I’ve never had quite enough curiosity to venture in.”

So said a colleague of mine as we were walking down Regent Street earlier this week. We ended up walking in, browsing through the rather sparse sale and walking out again, a little bit disappointed at the selection and the small discounts.

It reminds me of the sale that Marks & Spencer made of Brooks Brothers, for $225 million back in 2001, at a significant loss to its original purchase price of $750 million. Apparently the chain made a loss in the first half of that year to September of $3.7 million.

It’s a sad history for the icon of American apparel from then to its relative obscurity in the UK now. But then, most of the references that people make to Brooks Brothers are to do with its iconic status, rather than anything particularly inspiring or interesting they have seen there.

The brand certainly represents good value, at least in the UK, as you can buy better quality goods for far below the prices of trendy high-street chains like Reiss or French Connection. And it isn’t as embarrassing as M&S itself.

Their socks, in my personal opinion, are particularly great value. In the sale they are £6 each yet definitively luxurious in the cotton and handiwork employed.

Yet in the UK I think my colleague’s reaction to Brooks Brothers is prescient. He was vaguely interested in a large, American brand that he had heard of somewhere, somehow. But never enough to bother to go in. No advertising, campaign or recommendation had given him that last push he needed to walk through the doors.

The employment of Thom Browne as the designer of a new line in Black Fleece was brave, and ambitious, but it doesn’t seem to have done it many favours, at least outside the US.

The contrast with Abercrombie & Fitch is stark – although I can and will say many awful things about the quality of A&F merchandise, you can’t fault their marketing. The first store opened in the UK, on Savile Row, to much fanfare and had queues around the block during most of these sales. You get very irritated at tourists on Bond Street asking you where Abercrombie is; but there is sneaking respect for such a runaway business success.

So I hope very much that the new owners of Brooks Brothers revitalise it here and bring us bigger and better things in American prep. But I can’t say I’m surprised at its fall from grace.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
7 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
madetm

In the states, Brookes Brothers is very pricey but I have to say the quality of their shirts are fantastic.

It’s sad that BB is losing popularity over the pond. Then again, I would definitely go to Saville Row before BB if I had the coins for airfare, tailoring, and hotel stay.

-Dennis Cahlo

http://madetm.wordpress.com/

Arctic Penguin

Blame it on the customers. If BB has stylish clothing, they aren’t known for having stylish customers. Perhaps this is due to the relative inaccessibility of their more modern lines, but when I think of Brooks Brothers, I think of cliche East-Coast Ivy “icons” lounging in the Hamptons looking dated, and, as described in one of your earlier blogs, in costume (as opposed to individually ‘owned’ style).. Certainly this happens with any variety of labels, or indeed, products, but when it comes to clothing one intimately associates the experience of persons fitting a certain image with the sartorial components of that image. Perhaps I would have a better impression of Brooks Brothers had I not attended prep school. But isn’t that it, though? I would love to see these Black Fleece lines, but where are they? Nowhere to be experienced firsthand, it seems.

pat

Importing low quality goods and selling them as high quality can last only so long, and most long time Brooks Brothers customers are well aware of the new obsolescence they’ve allow into their clothing.

Clothes that fall apart after a few washings have never done too well in America, regardless of the brand names.

Anonymous

a pair of socks for £6? in sale.. wow, quite expensive..

Steven

Nice article. I wasn’t aware of the links between Brooks Brothers and Marks and Spencer. I’m surprised that Brooks Brothers hasn’t tried to make more of an impression in the UK. A useful first step would be to open an online store in the UK. At the moment Mr Porter are the only retailer I know that sells Brooks Brothers in the UK. Do you know of others?

Anonymous

I’m lazy, so love a good non-iron shirt. I just picked up 2 beautiful non-irons from Brooks Brothers in Boston. Not cheap at $99 each but way better than any non-iron I’ve seen for sale at home in the UK. Also, they have non-irons in casual button-down styles as well as formal shirts. A good casual non-iron is almost impossible to find in Britain. I’m just sad I’m not wealthy enough to get more of their stuff. The quality of fabric and construction is superior to the competition in my view.