Brooks Brothers is an institution. The brand has been around since 1818 and was the first ready-to-wear brand in America. At just over two centuries old, it's been through more than the vast majority of brands and has been instrumental in building up American style. From the introduction of the sack suit, the codification of the button-down shirt and popularization of madras, Brooks Brothers is a stalwart in prep.
But the coronavirus pandemic has made the company's future uncertain. Casual-wear's rise and Brooks Brothers' failure to adapt led to years of declining sales and COVID-19 pushed it over the financial edge. In July, it was announced that Brooks Brothers had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. After some financing and courting, the brand was recently sold to Authentic Brand Group, the same company that swooped on the bankruptcy of famed department store Barney's. With ABG seeking to inject the brand with new blood, helmed by some yet-to-be-named 'big-name designer' with a focus on sportswear, Brooks Brothers is hoping to pull itself back up.
But if it doesn't, what's left? If the changing of the guard doesn't save Brooks Brothers, where can its customers turn to? While no one brand can really replace it, here are some options that can fill the gaps.
If there's one brand that most closely resembles a one-to-one alternative to Brooks Brothers, it's J.Press. Embedded within the ivy style, the brand offers button-up shirts, chinos, cozy sweaters, hopsack blazers and more.
Specifically, Polo Ralph Lauren. Everything that Brooks Brothers made, PRL also made with a pony logo on it. Ralph Lauren romanticized the look and sold it as a lifestyle, something with Brooks Brothers left for Japanese magazines to do, before recreating it themselves and selling it back to us.
Mercer & Sons
Missing the perfect collar roll on your button-down oxford shirt? Mercer & Sons has it and the full fit of Brooks Brothers' yesteryear. Its staunchly web 1.0 website may turn people off, but we like to see it as an old-school quirk and a sign that that they're more focused on the product than the POS.
One step in the modern era, one step in trad, Rowing Blazers offers a contemporary framing of prep. It could be where ABG is trying to take Brooks Brothers. Or, maybe it's how Brooks Brothers should have adapted. Either way, the brand offers ivy roots with a street edge. Find bold patchwork fun shirts, embroidered rugbies, collaborative tennis shoes and more.
Brooks Brothers' new designer hasn't been named, yet. But Todd Snyder's name has been floated. It's easy to see why. The designer's has held successful posts at Ralph Lauren and J.Crew before going on to form his own brand which has earned a dedicated following. He's helped redefine American casual with every brand he's been with and if you're looking for the contemporary Brooks Brothers with a well-honed sportswear offering, Todd Snyder is it. On top of his namesake brand, Todd Snyder also stocks well-known third-party brands, many of which — Alden and Red Wing, for example — have enjoyed shelf time at Brooks Brothers.
The Atlanta-based brand has refined the American casual look, fearlessly coupling washed out Levi's with soft-tailored suits. Toss on an open-collared oxford, some thoroughly loved loafers and you've got the full Mashburn. It's a well-executed aesthetic that resonates with more character than most other prep brands, including Brooks Brothers.
Original Madras Trading Company
In the late '50s, Brooks Brothers would turn a fashion faux pas into a commercial success with its line of Madras shirts. The fabric used natural vegetable dyes which were not so color fast and would bleed if not washed gently in cold water. Brooks Brothers would only hear about this characteristic from its customers who would complain about their bleeding shirts. Instead of recalling its shirts, Brooks Brothers leaned into them and marketed its bleeding fabrics as a sign of authenticity.
While the brand obviously wasn't the one to invent to invent the fabric, it did much to boost the popularity of the Indian-born fabric. Original Madras Trading Company is the real deal. Made entirely in Madras, the brand has decades of experience with the fabric and uses it to make classic button-ups as well as jackets and pants.