Brooks Brothers to close 51 stores amid Chapter 11 filings, will you miss it?

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Famed retailer Brooks Brothers, which had it’s grand opening back in 1818 and has dressed 40 out of 45 presidents, is set to shutter 51 stores in North America amid Chapter 11 filings.  It finds itself unfortunately among several retailers affected by fast-casual fashion and the Coronavirus pandemic.

In hopes of receiving additional financing and a new buyer, Brooks Brothers filed chapter 11 restructuring proceedings in the U.S.  Bankruptcy Court for the  District of Delaware. The New York Times reported”

The bankruptcy represents the latest big retail casualty during the pandemic, which has caused widespread store closures and sales declines, and pushed major names like J.C. Penney Neiman Marcus and J.Crew into Chapter 11 proceedings since May. All of the chains, including Brooks Brothers, plan to keep operating, though likely in a pared-back fashion.

Brooks Brothers, with its tony men’s wear, has been hit especially hard by the pandemic in an era of remote work and job interviews through Zoom, and the postponement of celebrations like weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations and more.

The company, which is the oldest apparel brand in continuous operation in the United States, said on Wednesday that it had decided to close 51 U.S. stores of its roughly 250 locations in North America. Earlier this year, Brooks Brothers said it would close its three U.S. factories, which are in Queens, Haverhill, Mass., and Garland, N.C., spurring concern around the health and the future of the brand.

[From The NY Times]

This chapter in fashion history saddens. I am a huge Brooks Brothers fan as I have leaned toward, preppy, Hamptons, and Martha’s Vineyards style fashion since I was a kid.   You’d think I was born into a blue blood family despite being from Texas where Tommy Bahama is king.

When I worked as a makeup artist at Saks for the Mac Cosmetics counter in the Houston Galleria, I used to love to go into the store on my lunch breaks. I would walk around touching the fabrics and seeing how they style the mannequins in the window. I’d pick out outfits for Diddy’s All White Party in the Hamptons, as if I’d ever be invited. Celebitchy and I were giddily talking about how we love that all their pieces were like “uniform” fashion. You just couldn’t go wrong in their clothing.  I will miss the Gatsby and Swing-era fashion that Brooks Brothers offered. Brooks Brothers filing Chapter 11 is another indication that fashion is trending more toward casual, “just rolled out of bed and threw this on” style.  I guess as they say, “in fashion, one day you are in and the next you are out.”

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42 Responses to “Brooks Brothers to close 51 stores amid Chapter 11 filings, will you miss it?”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    I love Brooks Brothers but even the outlet near me is too rich for my blood, considering my workplace is business casual leaning towards casual, even when we’re actually in the office.

    I do think the pandemic has changed how people look at their workplaces – my husband’s law firm was always very formal, full suits every day, but now they’re more like “meh” and my husband hasn’t worn a suit in 6 months (he only goes in twice a week) and he says he’s pretty sure they’re never going back to the old school formality, just because they’ve realized its not necessary. But it took the pandemic to force that change. If you figure that’s probably not an unusual occurrence, then it makes sense that places like BB are struggling or are going to have to rethink their business model .

  2. Mia says:

    Just made me think of my grandmother or mother taking my shopping when I was a child. I was a walking Brooks Brother billboard.

  3. whatever says:

    I wear tank tops and ripped jean shorts all day long. My style is as far from preppy as you can get. But Brooks Brothers pajamas are the BEST. They’re one of my favorite indulgences. They’re so timeless and comfortable and luxurious feeling.

  4. CROWHOOD says:

    I do not know how to buy a suit for my husband other than to wait for their annual sale and buy one in one color and one in the other. Like…my entire adult life that is how I have Accomplished that task.

    Also the only time i shopped there so perhaps the writing was on the wall lol

  5. Jillian says:

    Full on business dressing has gotten unpopular, and I work in finance. I think men can get away with a proper suit in the office more easily because men’s clothing is so uniform. I break out one of my good suits for a regular day at work and everyone thinks I’m sneaking out to a job interview on my lunch hour. I’m not a proponent of nothing but casual wear all the damn time but I’m clearly the minority. I do love some fancy athleisure though, makes me feel like a sports ninja

  6. Pixelated says:

    I can’t imagine how hard it is to stay afloat and relavent in today’s retail market. That being said….I agree with other commentators that trends are shying away from BB staples, aka suits and business attire. However…to me, BB hasn’t really tried to adapt at all. When brands insist on staying the same despite changing climates….it’s a recipe for disaster (see: J Crew). I would love to see them stay in business but they desperately need help.

  7. Chaine says:

    It’s not just suits, it’s anything formal really that seems pointless rn. I got a catalog in the mail full of images of ladies in party frocks and heels and it’s like, why? Who is going to wear these, there are no parties and I barely leave my house and no one sees me. All I want to buy are some comfy t-shirt dresses and some tanks and yoga pants.

    • Becks1 says:

      I’m laughing at myself because when the shutdown first started (mid-March for my state) I did a lot of retail therapy and bought a lot of stuff from Loft and Jcrew factory etc – summer dresses and such – thinking that they were cheap and I would have new clothes for when we went back to work.

      Whoops.

      now I get links to their sales and I’m like…where’s Athleta?? that’s what I need right now.

  8. LolaB says:

    Just coming by to honk for the Houston Galleria.

  9. janey jane says:

    Nope, nope nope.

    The clothes went downhill over the past ten years in terms of quality, but the price didn’t. Same for JCrew. Both stores were my go to during my initial foray into professional dressing during the early 2000′s but the quality for both went down hill super fast around 2009-2010 and kept going. And the prices were nuts for what you would get. They would price dresses that would be more expensive than a high quality Tahari dress or suit. At that point, I moved on, like most customers.

    Oddly, I have a friend of McKinsey who worked on retail consulting and both J-crew and Brooks Brothers (and others like Macy’s) spent tons and getting advice on how to beat fast fashion and the consultants (MBA types who did NOT work in fashion basically said be a slightly nicer H&M). That was the wrong call and we are seeing the fall out.

    The big take away…when your company brings on Bain or McKinsey or whomever to fix a problem…get your resume ready. It’s a canary in the coal mine.

    • McMom says:

      I agree. I wore Brooks Brothers as a kid and appreciated the old school American fashion, but the quality for both BB and J Crew has gone way down in recent years.

      That being said, my white button down shirts are from Brooks Brothers and I swear by them. The tailored cut fits me perfectly and I can wear them with a pencil skirt or a pair of jeans.

      • janey jane says:

        I think there are certain pieces that might not have been horrible, but the expense is what I found shocking. I’ve seen those shirts and I have a few from about 15 years ago that have held up well. But the store as a whole didn’t have this sort of quality. And I don’t have time to buy an overpriced shirt from one store, sweaters from somewhere else, and dresses from yet another place. I expect quality across the board. It’s why I broke up with BR as well. When the quality tanked, I found myself being willing to pay those high prices…elsewhere.

    • liz says:

      So true. 20 years ago, my husband wore a Brooks Brothers tuxedo for our wedding. Their suits have been his go-to for years. He doesn’t wear suits regularly, but he’s a litigator and still needs to have them for court appearances or depositions. I have a 15 year old camel hair coat that I still wear and adore. Kiddo had a hand-me-down blue blazer that got so much use before it was outgrown (and handed down again, still looking gorgeous).

      Hubby went in for some new suits a few months ago (pre-pandemic). He’d lost some weight and his old ones no longer fit. I was not impressed with the fabric quality at all. It felt like the suit pants would start to pill and wear out within weeks. It’s not hard to tell and at those prices, that’s unacceptable.

  10. Roo says:

    @JaneyJane, I can see those consultants telling J Crew to keep the same prices and lower the quality. As if we shoppers aren’t smart and understand when quality and price don’t match up! That makes me so mad.

  11. Allergy says:

    I will miss them. I never really shopped there, but I liked seeing their windows, everything so preppy and Rhode Island old money.

  12. KinChicago says:

    I worked a season at Bloomingdales. A corporate buyer asked me “We aren’t selling suits. Well, you are young why don’t you buy suits?”
    Moi: “Maybe if they were fitted, if they were more versatile, if the pants weren’t bulky with pleats and the skirts don’t look elderly. They don’t fit, they look dated, these suits are boxy, frumpy, fattening, in ugly colors like Easter Eggs.”
    Buyer: “Well you don’t know what you are talking about. We get Church ladies who want shoulder pads and below the knee.”
    Moi “But you just said suits aren’t selling…”
    Buyer: “Well if you want a suit you should pay extra to have it professionally tailored.”

    Is it any surprise, any shock at all this store is no longer there?

    They would immediately dismiss any and all criticism and go back to a routine that wasn’t selling because People did not want it, it wasn’t worth buying.

  13. Winnie Cooper’s Mom says:

    No one working wants/needs formal work attire anymore. People want comfort, casual and affordability. Adjust your brand or get out of the game.

  14. Lila says:

    I don’t personally wear them, but hubby does. They fit him fantastically well. And as someone that works on-site, his attire isn’t likely to change. I hope the restructure works for them and they’re able to move forward successfully.

  15. Noodle says:

    The one dress I bought for an interview, was for my very first teaching job. I loved their classic styles, really beautiful fabrics, and how well made they were. You don’t find that outside of expensive brands now, and even then, sometimes it’s more style than substance. I don’t have use for a lot of their clothes anymore (I work from home and don’t have to dress professionally that often), but I will miss them as an option.

  16. FilmTurtle says:

    I know what this kind of news means for regular-paycheck people, and it’s tragic. Still, I understand how small businesses would be month-to-month. But giant companies with dozens of stores and tens or hundreds of millions in revenue somehow can’t even ride out six months of an economic downturn? (Like a certain airline that takes a $5B handout and still declares bankruptcy?)

  17. Yvette says:

    Believe it or not, there are still jobs in the country –for men and women–that require you to come to work in traditional professional retire. I understand that younger generations are ‘woke’ as hell and want to come to work wearing casual attire, but a majority of companies still require suits, pants and jackets, and dresses/skirts with hem lengths mid-thigh or lower and not up to one’s assets.

    For the working ‘professional’ poor, places like Brooks Brothers are their only recourse for professional attire. I think it’s a shame they are being forced to close stores and may go out of business all together.

    • Kate says:

      Eh, there is still J Crew, Banana Republic, COS (my personal fav for workwear and coats), Club Monaco, Zara, Ann Taylor, any department store. Plenty of places with similar price points and less stodgy clothing.

    • Ann says:

      Professional poor? I just went to their website, which is still operating, and almost every suit is over one thousand dollars. No one poor is stepping foot into Brooks Brothers. All of the retailers Kate listed have suits FAR below the price points of BB, so BB is not even close to being the “only recourse” for professional attire.

      • Kate says:

        a THOUSAND dollars?? Wow. My only experience shopping there was after getting my first law firm job and buying some wrinkle free shirts and a boring ass gray skirt suit at an outlet store and it definitely was not that expensive. For a THOUSAND dollars I’d go to Theory or Elie Tahari or like any high end outlet mall.

    • Lizzie says:

      Back when I needed to wear suits Casual Corner/Petite Sophisticate were the place to go. Great professional clothes and average prices, not cheap but not expensive. BB wasn’t in all the malls at that time.

  18. PPP says:

    Fun fact: Brooks Brothers were founded on the exploitation of slavery. They filled the niche market of making clothing for slaves and the wealth they made by supporting the institution of slavery was foundational to their success. Great example on how white success is based on the theft of wealth from the black community, so I am not crying:

    http://vestoj.com/how-brooks-brothers-once-clothed-slaves/

    • AMA1977 says:

      Wow, that’s good to know. My attorney husband wears a suit every day (when the courts aren’t closed for a global pandemic) and used to shop there, but in recent years made the switch to made-to-measure suits from niche retailers. He’s always gotten dress shirts elsewhere. I’ll let him know that we’re not shopping at BB anymore.

    • Melangie says:

      Brooks Bros clothes are manufactured in my home town Yesterday, they announced bankruptcy & 400 people lost their jobs. Zero received severance pay unlike 2 other BB factories that closed last month. All of those employees received severance packages. Rat bas#$rds

  19. Mina_Esq says:

    Nooooooo they have the best wash and hang wrinkle-free work shirts 😢😢😢 This is a loss.

  20. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Brooks Brothers is still open?

  21. Little Red says:

    The peeps at Salt Water New England blog will go bonkers.

    I do shop some at Brooks Brothers since my casual style is very preppy. I’m wearing a LLBean polo with patchwork madras shorts. I’ve got several items in my BB shopping cart right now. I guess I better buy them now while I’ve got a chance. Hopefully, they will get their act together.

  22. florencia says:

    Yikes, that suit is doing no favors for Zac in that header photo!

  23. KPS says:

    I had no idea Brooks Bros was still in business! 😳

  24. bettyrose says:

    I’m not sure I’d ever even heard of Brooks Bros growing up on the west coast, but a few years ago I had a coworker who’d grown up in a wealthy east coast community. Even though we were a very casual office, he only wore Brooks Bros and was a truly obnoxious, entitled human. I apologize to all of you here who wear this brand, but that’s my only association with it and I’m feeling a tiny bit of schadenfreude at this news.

    • VespaRed says:

      I agree! I associate the Brooks Brothers polo shirts with people who are shallow and arrogant. And Zac Enron looks like he is cosplaying PeeWee Herman.

  25. BendyWindy says:

    Brooks Brothers is aspirational for me. Love the styles, need to enter a new tax bracket to shop there. 😁

  26. Tanya says:

    Crap. Where else am I going to buy emergency ties in airports when my husband tells me he didn’t pack one and we are on our way to a wedding?

  27. PixiePaperdroll says:

    I didn’t even know they made clothes for women until about 5 minutes ago. My entire experience with BB in my small Midwestern town is that Murphy Brown made fun of Miles for shopping there.

  28. Becky says:

    It is sad to see this iconic American brand disappear. Abraham Lincoln was killed wearing a BB suit. JFK favored BB. Expensive? Yes. But it held a place in fashion for so long, like Levi jeans.