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?
Steven D. Elliott
He Spoke Style
Photo Credit: Caroline Spivack/Patch