What Brooks Brothers Bankruptcy Means for Men’s Clothing

Is Brooks Brothers Finished?

If you’ve been living under a post-pandemic rock, word has it that the famous American clothing company, Brooks Brothers, has filed for bankruptcy. The oldest clothing brand in the U.S. has been selling suits since 1818 and while it doesn’t come as a big shock, it was only a matter of time before they succumbed to a reduced demand, much like the fate of other retailers, J.Crew and Neiman Marcus.

Over the years, Brian has written a lot about Brooks Brothers clothing on the website and for good reason. It was, at that time, the embodiment of the All-American gentleman. A brand built on heritage, so much of what made Brooks Brothers great was their approach to tradition and a focus on making quality jackets, shirts and ties. Brian, to this day, remembers fondly the long-defunct Black Fleece line designed in collaboration with Thom Browne.

What Brooks Brothers failed to recognize in previous years was the difficulty of expanding their heritage to appeal to a wider demographic. Brooks Brothers Red Fleece was an attempt to fuse both the traditional ivy style with a younger, more fashion-forward customer, but it seemingly never got traction. Furthermore, when their legacy customers complained of Brooks Brothers failing quality, rising prices and the continued phasing out of beloved classics, they never listened.

So what does this mean for Brooks Brothers?

Understand the Changing Market. The buying boom in men’s clothing over the last decade has noticeably slowed down. Brooks Brothers tried following the novelty wear experiment, but to no avail. Fighting a losing battle against younger competitors who were more modern in design and lower in price.

Discovering a New Shopping Experience. In-store experiences have taken a backseat to the convenience and speed of online/mobile shopping. Stores like Brooks Brothers haven’t modernized their stores to attract young, new customers. While they relish a traditional look, they seem to have lost their way in providing well-rounded, in-person service that invites customers to come back.

American Factories Will Suffer. Brooks Brothers was one of the last companies still producing a small percentage of their products in the U.S. Without them, that means another small U.S. factory and its highly talented tradespeople will no longer have jobs. Furthermore, the once proud Brooks Brothers moniker “Made in America” will no longer be a point of emphasis for a brand that’s outfitted the sitting U.S. President for decades.

Casual Revolution. The men’s suiting industry has been in a slump thanks to America’s increasing casual revolution. The workplace that once deemed every man was required to wear a suit has transformed into a surplus of button-down shirts and fleece vests. The unofficial sign signaling the death of the formal dress code.

When an icon, like Brooks Brothers, is on the verge of extinction, it’s never a great sign of what’s to come. While there will always be a niche for traditional suiting, competing against a market full of affordable and casual options, the days of traditional attire, five days a week are seemingly all but history.

What do you think about the Brooks Brothers news?

Stylishly Yours,

Steven D. Elliott
He Spoke Style

Photo Credit: Caroline Spivack/Patch


Chime In

  • Han Bae

    It’s sad to see this iconic company be in so much trouble. I do hope at that they are able to recover. There’s something about BB’s clothes that makes them look a little more elevated and I was hoping to pick up some of their goods after COVID settled. But it looks like I might have to act faster.

    • Steven Elliott

      Indeed! Here’s hoping they turn things around.


  • grey0135

    This article’s criticism of Brooks Brothers is on point, but it is misleading to say that Brooks Brothers is “on the verge of extinction.” This is definitely not the case. Not all bankruptcies are the same. Brooks Brothers is undergoing a Chapter 11 restructuring, which is very different from a Chapter 7 liquidation. Chapter 11 will allow Brooks Brothers to reorganize and get out of certain contracts. It will have to shut down some of its retail stores. But it is not about to disappear.

    • Steven Elliott

      I understand that it was Chapter 11. I’ll try to remain optimistic for the sake of the mens clothing industry. Theres something I still love about heritage brands from my youth. I think that the piece highlighted a few of the issues facing them even after it being a Chapter 11 filing. My opinion is that there is a short list of clothing retailers who have filed for bankruptcy and bounced back. Could they do it? Maybe. We’re clearly seeing a change in shopping habits and a move away from dress clothing. In my opinion, pending the sale of the company, I think you’ll see Brooks Brothers linked with chains like Macys and Nordstroms to capitalize on large wholesale. The Brooks Brother name just doesn’t resonate with millennials. Appreciate the banter.


  • RJ Giddings

    There is some very new – and more contemporary stylish – competition in the local mall for suiting…SuitSupply and Indochino. If Brooks Brothers doesn’t think they are losing revenue to these new companies then , yep, they will fade away into the history books.

    I think the Chapter 11 is just a huge signal of being just too late to recover. I understand it’s a restructuring – ok, fine they shed some pile of debt now but what steps are they taking to reposition themselves?
    Does Books Brothers have a 5 year vision? Or a 10 year vision ?

    • Steven Elliott

      Indeed Rj.

      We’re seeing a lot of men’s clothing companies having to file for bankruptcy and it probably warrants a bigger discussion on of what these companies are doing to stay relevant in this rapidly shifting market.