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Brooks Brothers Made-to-Measure

Online made-to-measure programs scare me but this Spring I decided to give Brooks Brothers a shot, knowing that its extra slim fit shirt model is perfect on me and that I wouldn’t have to choose anything for measurements besides my neck and sleeve size. A little over a month later, I had the shirt in my hands and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out – everything was correct and most importantly, it fit the same as the regular extra slim shirts.

I’m already planning another much larger order, but I will go to my local store for the next batch to see if more fabrics are available to choose from (the main drawback to the online program is a lack of interesting fabrics). A side note: while using the online program between different computers, I noticed that I was sometimes missing options, especially for the extra slim fit type. If this happens to you clear out your browser cache and reload the page – an old version of the swf flash file is probably being stored on your computer.

Some of the options: an English spread collar.


Two button mitered cuffs, a useless but fun detail.


Every shirt comes packages in a nice box, another useless but fun detail.


Old Is New Again

Apparently TIME magazine has a public archive of old articles on their website and it was fun searching through them for familiar topics:

The Call of the Wilderness

Manhattanites in plaid flannel shirts and crepe-soled leather boots are hiking down Fifth Avenue. Students in goose-down vests and baggy sweatpants are trekking through Harvard Square. Dudes in lumber jackets are hanging out in Beverly Hills. Few of these folks have a clue how to swing a fly rod or an ax. But they do know that outdoor gear designed for the backwoods has come in from the cold for wear everywhere.

That was written in 1976, but reads like it could have been from yesterday.

Here Comes the Preppie Look, written in 1980. The quote from the Cable Car Clothiers manager is great.

Out with the baggy jeans, the chinoiserie, the gypsy queen regalia. In with the snappy blue blazers and tweed hacking jackets, button-down Oxford-cloth shirts and Shetland sweaters, khaki slacks and tartan skirts. This summer and fall, the fashion-conscious woman will be wearing exactly what the fashion-unconscious woman has been wearing for decades. It is currently labeled the Preppie Look, though the style has also been known as Ivy League, Town and Country, Brooks Brothers or—in England —County. Mother would approve…

…The vogue is not tied to any individual designer. Indeed, in some ways it represents a rebellion against duds that bear big-name labels. Says Armond Suacci, manager of Cable Car Clothiers in San Francisco: “Preppie people do not need designers because they already have taste in clothing.”

A Ralph Lauren piece from 1986 – Selling a Dream of Elegance and the Good Life. He was on the cover of that issue.

Fashion Designer Ralph Lauren grew up a long way from all the things he really admired: hand-tailored clothes, manor houses, sports cars, fine horses and manicured lawns. But call it a yearning process: as an outsider to that world, Bronx-born Lauren dreamed up his own brand of gentility and style. Now he has managed to create an image and a company that have nearly cornered the market for supplying today’s would-be Gatsbys. Shunning hipness and flamboyance, Lauren cultivates the up-and-coming customer’s appreciation for things and dreams that last.

A profile on L.L. Bean (the man himself) in 1962 – What No One Else Has As Good As

Wives v. Boots. Founder and autocratic boss of this Down-East Abercrombie & Fitch is L. L. (for Leon Leonwood) Bean, 90, a crusty Yankee who is more woodsman than businessman. Bean still works vigorously each day in a glassed-in office amidst the production line, is proud of the fact that he has bagged 35 deer in his lifetime. (“That’s a lot of deer, son. You can get only one a year, you know.”) He personally edits each entry in the Bean mail-order catalogue, and his spare, disarming style has been used in advertising textbooks as exemplary of what direct-mail selling should be. Sample: “Most hunters and fishermen smoke. For a long time we searched for an outstanding pipe. This pipe is the result.”

Some other interesting pieces:
The Brick-Red Look
Back to Braces
The Regimental Tie

A Brooks Brothers Herringbone Sportcoat

Brooks Brothers has been selling more and more jackets in their popular Fitzgerald cut and this season included one in a tweedy herringbone wool. Unlike the newer unstructured jackets, these have some very light shoulder padding – probably needed for the weight of wool, lest you end up with some very odd looking shoulders. Fully lined and slim fitting, these are are a considerable step up from J.Crew’s sportcoats.

Brooks Brothers Fitzgerald Tweed Sport Coat
Brooks Brothers Fitzgerald Tweed Sport Coat

Split-Toe Shoes

The split-toe shoes – a great alternative to plain toe bluchers or wingtips and also good shoes to pair with a fall wardrobe. Brooks Brothers currently has some marked down under their Peal & Co line.

Brooks Brothers Peal and Co Split Toe Shoes
A scan from Last, volume 13. The Edward Green Dover model is perfection.

Last Split Toe Shoes - Edward Green Dover

Back to the Basics

Embarrassingly, my formal shoe selection has been lacking for some time, so I took advantage of Brooks Brothers’ latest Friends and Family promotion to pick up a new pair that would be more appropriate to be worn with suits. I went intending to find plain Peal and Co. captoes, but came back with some featuring medallions instead. Close enough I think.

Some of the recent models that they’ve been selling under their Peal and Co. brand have slightly chiseled toe shapes, not too unlike Alden’s Plaza last. It is a good middle ground between a classic round toe and the longer pointed shapes like the Crockett & Jones 337 last.

Peal and Co. exists only by name today – facing hard times in the mid 1960’s, the then owners of the company closed the factory and sold the brand to Brooks Brothers, who have held onto it ever since. The shoes are still made in England, but are contracted out to various firms around Northampton.

Brooks Brothers Peal and Co History
Related Post: Generations of Style, Revisited

Black Tie, Accessories

Last week, Simon Crompton had a piece in the more superior British GQ on the importance of following the rules of black tie accessories, particularly in what goes around your waist:

One of the problems is that it can be hard to find a good waist covering. Most places will sell cummerbunds (I recommend Drake’s – make sure you pick the material, grosgrain or satin, that matches your lapels) but it is hard to find waistcoats. A bespoke tailor is, of course, the best option as a waistcoat is one of the hardest things to fit: my personal choices would be Henry Poole or Anderson & Sheppard. Retail, the best resources are probably Ralph Lauren Purple Label or Tom Ford. Both produce separate waistcoats with fantastic detailing and both will do made to measure if you like the style but want a better fit.

It is unfortunate that is difficult to find the proper low cut waistcoat, and I agree that finding a custom tailor to make one for you is your best bet. At retail, Brooks Brothers offers some options as well.

As for cummerbunds, Drake’s does sell a pretty nice one, but the maker is unimportant as long as you find one in a proper fabric that matches the lapels and bow tie. Make sure when wearing it that the pleats also face upwards.

Ascot Caps

The fur felt ascot cap is one of the oldest of hat designs that is still worn by men today and for colder months, they pair well with fabrics like corduroy or tweed when you want to add some variety of textures or colors to an outfit. Brands to look for: Wigens, Scala, and Christy’s of London, or if you’d like the most traditional unlined version, Brooks Brothers.

A fur felt cap of mine sold by Christy’s. It has kept its shape fairly well over the past couple of years and unlike the traditional caps, this one is lined in silk. “Hand made” (in China).


A Corduroy Suit

Brooks Brothers is selling them in their Fitzgerald cut this season, and I might finally try it out. There would be no turning back.


Anchor Socks

The only critters I wear are on my socks. I couldn’t find an online retailer for these Punto socks that I picked up locally, but Brooks Brothers currently has some with similar anchor motifs on sale (including a pair with lobsters, and for fall, ducks and fly ties).


Tweeds To Look Forward To

Earlier this year, Christian over on Ivy Style showed previews of what to expect from Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers for this fall and I’ve had some of those tweed jackets on my mind ever since. The natural shoulders on a few of them is what appeals to me the most I think – never minding the technical merits of shoulder construction, jackets without heavy padding are more comfortable to me and only because they don’t feel like I’m actually wearing something formal that needs to be fussed over.

Ideally I think I only need two types for now: one in a grey herringbone tweed and another in navy (perhaps that J.Crew jacket being sold later this year will do alright). When I’m older, I can then look for something in brown and another in green. Seeing how long these sorts of jackets last, I could probably do pretty well with just a few.

On a side note, I do worry about how difficult it will be to purchase some of this. Often it seems the more interesting items like these never make it into the normal retail distribution chains, save for a few flagship stores (and hardly ever available online). Here’s to hoping that they don’t mess it up.

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