The style and price of Berg & Berg

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Wednesday, November 25th 2020
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I’ve always liked the way Andreas Larsson at Berg & Berg designs - and styles - the clothes for the brand. 

In particular, I think his approach to casual chic (I’m sticking with that term) is impressive: he consistently demonstrates effective ways to look well-dressed without a suit. 

Separately, I find Berg & Berg’s approach to pricing interesting. They consistently produce a slightly lower quality level - in the name of value for money - than most brands we cover. But they’ve also been on a journey with that approach too. 

So while I was in Stockholm last month, I spent a couple of hours shooting and chatting with Andreas about those themes.

“For me, I think it should be easy to dress, both in terms of how the clothes feel and the combinations that go together,” says Andreas (above).

“So I don’t like all the fussiness around the ‘menswear triangle’ of shirt, tie and handkerchief - trying to put together bright, loud or adventurous combinations. It should be easier than that.

“Plus, I think your clothes should be things you can wear, if not on a daily basis, then at least weekly. Not a big collection of accessories that you only wear on occasion. That feels more relevant in 2020. Everything should be safe and easy, but not boring.” 

I suggest - tentatively - that this is also rather Swedish. “No that’s probably right,” he says. “We like being under the radar, culturally. 

“But also, it’s about the environment. There’s no point being super colourful when it’s going to be dark in an hour.”

In order to illustrate these points, I asked Andreas to wear something to our shoot that he thought encapsulated this view. And to bring things he would suggest for me.

His choice was a black knitted polo with a white T-shirt, and white cords. Black belt and black loafers; white socks and a white T-shirt. With a mac. 

“White trousers might seem a little showy, but to me these cords with a black knit feel super safe. It’s white and black - it’s simple, you’ve seen it before. 

“Of course, it’s not that practical when it’s snowy and slushy, or indeed with a kid in kindergarten. But you can’t be too precious about these things, it’s not healthy. They’re just clothes.”

For my part, I’d add that white and black are easier to wear in these particular materials. Knitwear and corduroy look a lot less stark than, for example, fine cotton and worsted wool.

We also talked about Andreas’s views on corduroy. Berg & Berg use a lot of it, and I know for many readers it's associated with an older generation, with rural pursuits, and perhaps not that cool as a result. 

“I think that all depends on your context,” says Andreas. “For me corduroy has always  seemed more skate, and punk. But perhaps it’s the culture I grew up in.

“I love corduroy because it’s soft and comfortable, and it ages well. It’s a real pain to shoot, but I think it’s one of the few materials that gets better with every wash - more like denim than most other trouser materials. 

“I know some people still see it as a velvet - which it is of course - but in our colours I don’t think it feels like that.” 

I suggest that a finer wale than the wide one Berg & Berg typically uses, would feel less velvety. “Yes, that’s true, and we have used finer cords in the past. But I think they’re better for five-pocket trousers, or narrower trousers,” says Andreas.

Black can be equally divisive. “I was against black for so long,” he says, “like a lot of people getting into menswear. I thought no one looked good in it, that it just looked cheap. 

“But actually it has a lot of charm, and it has that same advantage of being simple and subtle. It’s great with brown in particular - on the site we’ve been doing the chocolate brown trousers with black knits, and that’s a nice combo. Like some kind of teacher that’s branched out into fashion. 

(I agree of course - as noted in a few recent articles. In fact, I’d probably wear Andreas’s combination, pictured, more readily than I would the cream and tan he picked for me.) 

“Even navy and black works well, I think, even though it’s not supposed to be allowed,” he continues. “Brown and black, apparently, is banned too. I’m still waiting to be arrested for that - and for wearing brown shoes after six!

How about black on different complexions? “That was one of the reasons I never used to wear it,” he says. “But actually I think it looks better on my pale complexion that most colours. And I’ve yet to see somebody that doesn’t better in black than in orange, for example.” 

You heard it here first. Black is the new orange.

Turning to price, it was interesting to hear Andreas relate some of the story of Berg & Berg. “I think at the start we were very much a price competitor - selling ties, scarves, handkerchiefs, and doing so at lower prices,” he says. 

“But after a while you realise that can’t be your only USP, or at least you don’t want it to be. We’ve grown into a brand, and with that comes more design, more sampling, more service. And we get pressure now because our prices have gone up.”

I actually didn’t realise their prices had gone up, not being a regular customer. But Andreas agrees that it often happens over the first few years of a brand - because they want to be able to offer different things, and because they come to realise the full costs of running a sustainable company. This is of course something we’ve covered recently

“We took the decision to increase our quality in some ways as well, or at least change direction on it,” he adds. “For example we switched from using VBC flannel to an English one, because we wanted something that was hardier, that didn’t wear through so quickly.”

This, I think, demonstrates what drives a lot of the Berg & Berg products. The overriding aim is value, rather than quality. 

Now it’s very easy to get overexcited when you think something is driven by value. Who doesn’t want better value, after all? 

But it’s not as simple as that.

First, it’s accurate to say that most brands we cover on Permanent Style aim for pretty much the best quality. We might cover a range of knitwear between Luca Faloni, Colhay’s and Loro Piana, for example, but they’re all still near the top of the tree.

Berg & Berg is not aiming there. Its focus is a little way down the logarithmic price/quality curve. More merino, less finishing, certainly no handwork and so on. 

In one way, that means they’re delivering better value. But at the same time, the nature of that curve means that if you go further down, you get even better value. Until you’re just buying coated stuff from Uniqlo

It’s better to think of brands like B&B as aiming for a different level. One which might suit you, if your disposable income is lower. But which might not, if you want to buy something of a higher quality.

“We’re not aiming to produce the best possible product,” says Andreas. “Rather, we’re aiming for what we think is a sweet spot between quality and price. Somewhere in the middle of the road. Which I think is very Swedish too.”

I’ve personally tried a Berg & Berg shirt, collared knit, cord trousers and the pieces shown on me in the images here. Some of which I’ve covered in passing before

Of those, I happily wear the shirt based on its quality and the collared knit, but less so the cord trousers or the roll neck. On the trousers, that’s a combination of the material and a fit that doesn’t quite work for me; on the roll neck, I’d just be happy to pay more for cashmere. Interested to hear everyone else's experiences as well.

As with other discussions we’ve had about value recently, I think the important thing here is to realise that no one is ripping you off, and that you’re not magically getting the same quality for a lower price. None of these are designer brands: there are no big marketing budgets or Bond Street stores. 

And please, don’t obsess over value at the expense of style, or fit. Both are more important. You're buying clothes to look good, so be prepared to pay for it. 

The clothes Andreas and I are wearing are:

Photography: Milad Abedi

bergbergstore.com

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A

Sorry, for the long comment. I suppose in some ways you can say the same about not obsessing about style or fit over value – seems to be a nice happy ground there. As you mentioned here, and have in the past, it can depend on your means. Berg and Berg and similar brands around this price point really offer a good value product for those that can more easily afford in this tier.

With that said, as someone slowly making that transition, thanks in no small part to how you have framed the “value” proposition of items (in terms of quality, fit, and longevity), I am finding that one gets what one pays for. I have seen that without question in the G&Gs I bought as well as my bespoke shirt (Burgos shirts, which I began buying on the trip where I got engaged, thus buying from them holds certain sentimental value…though one day perhaps Will Whiting *your articles introduced me to Burgos, so thanks) and MTM shirts.

However, for those of moderate income, I think brands like Pini Parma and Berg and Berg (and Suit Supply to a lesser degree) serve a huge purpose in providing value without breaking the bank for those of moderate income.

I’d also argue that a place like Berg and Berg is also good for purchasing items for experimentation, either in style or new fits.

In any case, very nice mini-conversation that furthers the discussion of value and its differentiation from quality (also appreciate the subtle lesson that not all things that are, or call themselves, “quality” are a rip-off….it’s taken time for me to unlearn this idea as an American who grew up with frugal fashion conscious immigrant parents).

Z S

If I have to pick all my outfits from a RTW brand it will probably be Berg&Berg. Although in a similar price range with Drakes, by having a much smaller collection it is much easier to decide what to buy from B&B, and consequently make fewer mistakes.

A

Seems very intentional on Berg & Berg’s part, in the best way. Curated and consistent, with a refresh when necessary.

Darryl

Am in total agreement with this sentiment. I have bought quite a few items from them over the years and have never been dissapointed. Their customer service is also excellent.

Richard

This will sound nit-picky (sorry), but it may be useful not to overload the term ‘value’ to also mean ‘value-for-money’. Many people do this but I suspect it contributes to the kind of ‘race to the bottom’ effect that’s described in the article.
Money is what we pay, value is what we get in return, value-for-money is the relation between the two. Keeping ‘value’ separate from ‘value-for-money’ reminds us that ‘value’ and ‘money’ can change independently, in the same or opposite directions. Comparing items by value and comparing them by value-for-money doesn’t always have to produce the same result.

Felix

If only the price-quality curve was exponential… (maybe what you have in mind is logarithmic?)

Carl

I like Berg & Berg, I usually use them for “staples” like OTC socks where you want to have consistency but not too high a price. They are also good for gloves, scarves, belts and things like that. I buy my tailoring and outerwear from more expensive brands (Saman Amel, Private White) but think that Berg & Berg has a great niche.

Alex

Interesting brand; I can definitely identify with anyone looking for the sweet spot between quality and price, as Andreas says.

Regarding your statement about no one ripping you off though; while I’m sure that applies to the brands you cover on PS and most of those patronised by PS readers, when I’m randomly browsing Mr. Porter and seeing RTW items from various designers for bespoke prices, I wonder if that needs qualifying?

Lucas

Interesting article and very honest, something I wish more brands would discuss openly.

On a tangent to this, after a couple of years owning luca faloni products from when they were reviewed on PS, do you still recommend their products are quality for the price you are paying

LB

Matt

I’ve bought a number of pieces from B&B over the last 2 or 3 years. For me, they’ve managed to hit the sweet spot between price and quality – particularly as Drake’s seems to have drifted off into an increasingly fashion-forward / gimmicky direction characterised by incessant price hikes.

John

Regarding Drake’s, i agree that the price increase is not really justified. For example, this year they increased the price of their standard shirts from 150 GBP to 175 GBP. In relation to what else is out there, it seems hard to justify this (PS shirts are only slightly more expensive and vastly superior quality, for example!).

In terms of being fashion-forward, i agree to an extent, but each season they do also put out a solid line-up of more subtle/sartorial pieces. I think they have a very well-defined style/aesthetic and i find it quite exciting looking through their new season collections, even if 90% of it i would never wear.

David

I was so impressed with their tie selection last year I bought three of their ties, garza grossa in navy, garza fina in brown and a knit tie in burgandy. The brown grenadine (fina) was an amazing find for me. It adds subtle warmth and colour to charcoal and tones down a sleek navy worsted to make it less flashy and ultra suitable for a classic yet contemporary look. All 3 get great mileage. This year it seems like they are leading with a smaller accessories range, perhaps expanding more into clothing like the fresco and flannel tailoring items? Whilst great for some men, like many of your readers I use a bespoke tailor so no purchases this year.

Ben

The cut on their Dante suit looks pretty good. Nothing else really appeals.

In general, I’m not a fan of the whole segment of menswear that goes after a… modest (?) aesthetic. Here, Andreas frames it in terms of easy, not fussy. I’ve seen it elsewhere marketed as lived-in, disheveled, and, yes, casual chic. Its hallmarks are slightly looser fit, often unbuttoned, slightly rumpled, soft and dull fabrics and, sometimes, quirky silhouettes like a high-waisted trouser or tiny/large collars, etc. It always seems to me that people choosing this aesthetic, and there are a lot of them, are choosing to deliberately look less than their best, as if the latter is too ostentatious, fastidious. But that choice is no less self-conscious and self-promotional than someone who chooses sharp lines and a strong, classic silhouette.

Anonymous

Although I’ve been one prone to think outside of the box, your observations are well thought out and made me think.

Anonymous

Would you prefer dark brown or black matte buttons on your dark green/mid-grey flannel trousers Simon? And why? Thanks in advance

Anonymous

How does one become a designer in this area? I have a similar aesthetic for casual chic and would be interested to learn more about this profession — and how do designers differ from buyers?

Jules

Nice write-up, but I’d much prefer seeing the pants without hands in pockets.

Jules

Thanks for the response, Simon. I appreciate your measured and detailed analysis of the topics you cover. Always a great read, hands in pockets or no.

Stephen

Hi Simon,
Thanks for bringing this brand to our attention again. I looked at their website for the first time today. I like the small(ish), well thought through collection. As other comments have noted a smaller collection provides a measure of focus. I think the comparative price point fills a niche for good looking quality clothing and RTW tailoring. Thanks again.

EL

“You’re buying clothes to look good, so be prepared to pay for it.”

Actually, I think this captures the value-appeal of a range of brands including Berg & Berg, Frank Clegg, Lof & Tung, the Anthology, and so much more RTW stuff (I realize the brands I just mentioned span a broad range of quality). Many of the nicer brands you cover (with the exception of bespoke) does not look much nicer than this stuff.

One of the value of these brands is that you can basically look just as good in their stuff as in more expensive stuff. Part of this is that these brands pay a lot of attention to design, but another is that the things they skip out on don’t make a huge difference to appearance.

For instance, you say that Berg & Berg doesn’t have much handwork in their garments and doesn’t use the most luxurious materials, but these aren’t things that affect the overall appearance of a garment unless you are inspecting it closely. For example, just looking at the pictures in this post, I would believe it if you told me the sweater the sweater was from Connolly’s and the corduroys were from a place twice as expensive as B&B. The sweater may not feel as luxurious, but it looks just as good. You could make a similar point for a maker like Frank Clegg. They don’t use saddle stitching, but you wouldn’t notice that from afar.

The brands I mentioned aren’t luxury brands, but they do use very good quality materials, solid construction and good design. They may not be using luxury materials, but they still often use top end materials–e.g. fabric from Fox Brothers. This is what separates brands like these from brands like Uniqlo.

Of course, there is a difference in appearance when it comes to bespoke tailoring and shoes, and that comes from a better fit or tighter last, but for more casual ensemble, stuff from Berg & Berg looks quite nice. Indeed, I think the outfit you are wearing in this post looks much nicer than many more expensive outfits you have assembled.

Ed

Is it lower on the quality scale or lower on the luxury scale? I guess I think of quality as certain basic requirements being met and then when you add in fine materials and hand work then these are luxuries rather than qualities. I may be overthinking…

Stephan

I have not tried Berg & Berg’s corduroy (the rise seems a bit high for my taste), but I recently got some dark brown corduroy trousers from Rota via No Man Walks Alone, and really love them. However, that might be related to my own context — one of my uncles wears corduroy very well, combined with a nice shirt and sweater, and I have that positive image in my mind when I wear them.

H

What would you say that you get in say a Stoffa, Anglo-Italian or A&S trouser that you don’t get in a Berg & Berg trouser? And is it purely on the basis of style and fabric that you don’t like the cords, or on those differences in quality?

Emerging Genius

The styles shown here are a bit bland and relatively forgettable. Somehow the whites in these photos don’t seem to go with the season. White socks / loafers in what is obviously cooler weather are a bit of a faux pas as well Nothing really resonates. Sorry.

Anonymous

Perhaps Emerging Genius extended the edict “don’t wear white after Labor Day” to socks as well.

Anonymous

I wasn’t sure if “None of these are designer brands” referred to Berg Berg, the brands you mentioned earlier or something wider? As with the follow on comment on Bond Street stores Loro Piana (and a few other brands you’ve covered over time) would by most be considered designer and have such stores (not implying they rip you off).

André

I have bought a few pieces from Berg and Berg that were of very poor quality. A regular lambswool crew neck that stretched significantly after wearing it 5-10 times and also developed a lot of pilling and a hole in this time, a merino polo that had holes in it after wearing it 1-2 times and a t-shirt that looked like it been washed 100 times after the first wash. To be fair I also bought a pique shirt that has been holding upp well after 10-15 uses. I basically never had any quality problems with brands like John Smedley, Sunspel and Anderson and Sheppard

Josh

I’m so glad you produced this reflection on Berg & Berg, Simon, as it caps off a year which for me has been – sartorially speaking – defined by them and Permanent Style. I’ve been tiptoeing around the tenets of PS for a couple years now, but it was Berg & Berg (who I actually only discovered after they were due to appear at your March pop-up) who provided the entry point to a revamped and newly sartorial wardrobe. They are, in my opinion, the perfect gateway brand for this.

Their price point and regular instagram output make them accessible for younger customers (twenty-something, London-average income). Though exclusively RTW, being designed with alterations and fit concerns in mind, they are appealing to those who have never had a custom piece of clothing before, whilst encouraging forays into adjustments. And their small but well rounded collection has that elusive and irresistible combination of classic pieces with a modern edge.

A particular draw for me has been their consistent selection of four distinct trouser cuts, offering the familiar sizing flexibility of, say, high-end high street denim brands – anyone with a passing interest in clothes will have appreciated such sizing novelty at the outset of their clothing journey – whilst looking significantly better after tweaks at the waist and a finished hem. I would also proudly defend their quality: having bought several shirts, multiple pairs of trousers and shorts, several knits and accessories in the last few months, the quality genuinely does represent value for money, greatly exceeding that of designer brands at the same price-point. The shirts have high, rolling collars with good structure and great fabrics; the trousers are neatly finished (bar the occasional excess thread) and invisibly alterable; the knits are some of the softest I’ve ever had. They also seem to respond quickly and readily to feedback; I notice this season’s cords are pure cotton, for example, after many were unenthusiastic about the inclusion of elastane last winter.

.They do have their limitations, of course. I have absorbed too much of PS (and am too long of limb) to consider their off-the-peg jackets and suits; I will instead be targeting Anglo Italian for M2M sports jackets as the next step in my wardrobe building. But as you previously suggested in your guide to budgets, they make for an excellent source of good, tailored and casual trousers, and their shirts, knits and accessories are all worthy of consideration too.

Zy

Simon, I am wondering where you would place Cavour in terms of the value and quality of their own brand products? I am aware it is rather different from Berg & Berg, given they carry other brands as well as producing their own product, with the additional complation, I might say, of Cavour being an advertiser on PS.

Nico

Interesting article on Berg & Berg, you mentioned in the article you are waiting to be arrested for wearing brown shoes after 6pm. Out of curiosity, if someone puts on a brown shoes in the day time and unable to return back home to change them into a black shoes for the evening will that be seen as a sartorial flaw?

Anonymous

Hi Simon, have you tried B&B’s outerwear? If so, I would be interested in having your opinion on the quality. Thank you.

Felix

Having just returned their Noa Polo coat: The quality and make is good, most importantly a nice cut and the only RTW coat I could find in the 10 °C.

Maybe Simon can comment on this: Is there a 1:1 correlation of fabric weight and warmth for outerwear? And is fabric weight that relevant for pricing (or production cost) when it’s just regular wool? I’m saying that as other mid-level makers (lets say Chrysalis or Gloverall) offer these really thick wool coats for an even significantly lower price.

Felix

Thanks for the reply, Simon. I just see that half of my comment was cut accidentally (I guess it’s because the comment software reads the “smaller/greater than” signs as HTML), making it sound very weird.

What I wanted to write is that this was the only decent RTW coat I could find in the sub 1500 EUR range that has a decent length. Looks really nice. My problem was that the coat fabric is 520g (which they are actually very upfront about, I just didn’t know what it means), so the coat is more for spring temperatures than for the winter. To me it looked a little flimsy, so I was wondering why they decided to use such a light fabric and if it could have been a cost issue. But reading your comment I understand that they probably could have made a thicker coat at the same cost (so it likely was a conscious style decision), yet also a thicker but equally elegant fabric would have been more expensive.

Zy

Simon, thanks to this article, and their on-going sale(!), I thought I might give B&B a first try. I would be curious, as I am sure others might be, to hear if you had a chance to take a look at the B&B flannel, and what you make of it. Given the price and weight (15oz) it appears a great alternative to the ubiquitous (lighter) VBC RTW flannels.

Zy

Thanks Simon, just briefly: I have heard a few people say they prefer English flannels over Italian ones but they were unable to say why. Do you find you have that preference, and if so, why?

Zy

Thanks Simon! I have today received my pair of charcoal B&B flannels, which are brilliant. They have a lot more body than VBC. They feel heavier, more substantial, and much warmer as a result. Great quality and fit, and a lovely marled colour.

PS. On the above point, B&B specifies their flannel is “woven in England”.

Anonymous

What are the shoes he’s wearing?

Anonymous

Perfect, thank you!

H

Do you think you could wear the white corduroy shown with navy knitwear and brown suede or grain shoes? I’ve been thinking of it as an experiment but wonder how it might fit into my wardrobe – since I don’t really wear so much black.

H

Not a typo just not very clear, apologies!

Was worried about the fact those white cords tend to be shown with black knitwear and black shoes (like Andreas is wearing here), whereas I don’t really wear black shoes casually and I don’t own any black knitwear. The majority of my knitwear is navy, followed by light grey and olive – and all my casual shoes are brown suede or country grain.

I’m considering whether the white cords could fit into my wardrobe as a slightly more experimental piece, but I’m concerned that I don’t own any of the black that they’re usually shown with.

So sorry for the confusion, don’t think I was that clear initially!

Dash Riprock

Just watched Fred Astaire dance routine in Funny Face (movie).grey suit, white raincoat, and Gucci loafers in 1957. I think it’s mostly been done.

Gab

Hi Simon, just curious, how would you compare B&B and Rubato in terms of quality, at least for the type of items you could try, trousers notably?