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America Is No Country For Old Menswear Brands

im电竞官网-As Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy, the US loses yet another institution – and it's not just Covid-19 that's to blame

brooks brothers american menswear
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im电竞官网-It isn't looking great for Brooks Brothers. Just this week, the New York brand filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, potentially marking the beginning of the end of its 202 years on this unfair planet. Brooks Brothers has seen 41 presidencies. It has also dressed 37 of them.

And so tumbles another menswear giant, lacerated by the sharp end of an economy in free fall and a pandemic that's tearing through Trump's America. We could blame it all on the virus. Or the meagre stimulus cheques meted out by the White House. But, for some time, America has proven itself to be no country for old menswear brands. Coronavirus didn't kill Brooks Brothers. It just hastened its exit.

Take the retail landscape in New York. A 2019 report in im电竞官网-found that Manhattan suffers vacancy rates of up to 25 per cent – five times the national average. People are shopping less in bricks and mortar. And they're shopping less at heritage brands on which the concept American ready-to-wear was based. J. Crew. The Gap. And now Brooks Brothers. All three have been sinking for years, forced to implement cost-cutting measures and job-ending methods to survive. It is a shame. And, so succinctly put it "the impact of the pandemic has thrown a sharp light onto the over-assorted, over-stored retail landscape": the sun was burning, and coronavirus simply handed over a gigantic magnifying glass.

brooks brothers american menswear
A Brooks Brothers store in Chicago
Scott Olson

That's because the world is shopping differently. But certain parts of America are also dressing differently, which holds much consequence for the stiffer, crisper old school. Just last year, a memo went out to Goldman Sachs staff on Wall Street informing them that traditional business attire would no longer be compulsory on a daily basis. Brooks Brothers, with its long courtship of corporate America, lost a key constituency overnight. "I know there is a strong desire to connect this to some major change on Wall Street, but this is more of a societal change than a Wall Street change or a Goldman Sachs change,” said the investment bank's chief exec David Solomon of the companywide rejig. He wasn't wrong. Ties are no longer the unifying knot on Wall Street. Blazers have been replaced by fleecy comfy 'business bro' vests, much to the chagrin of liberal fleecy comfy vest producer Patagonia.

brooks brothers menswear america
J. Crew was an early casualty of the pandemic, filing for bankruptcy in May this year
Bryan Thomas

Granted, the casualisation of dress codes at large is global. Though on this side of the pond, the slide hasn't been so hasty. As the birthplace of some of the oldest investment banks in the world, London's grip on tradition is tighter, more faithful. Coutts is 328 years old. Barclays isn't far behind. Go to the City on any given pre-plague afternoon too, and there's an ever-moving mass of grey, navy and blue in full corporate regalia.

But then a plague did arrive, didn't it? While it wasn't the great social leveller many expected, it didn't universally flatten our wardrobe. We're all in sweatpants, nowim电竞官网-. Even the senior private equity partner at Coutts. Many British brands could well meet the same fate as their transatlantic successors.

Though for now, it is Brooks Brothers that is fallen: an elder in a country care home that has seen its visitors pop in less and less, slowly forgotten as its rules and its clothes and its presidents have changed. The concept of a Chapter 11, by very token of the labyrinthine US bankruptcy system, doesn't necessarily mean it's game over: the American stalwart is simply restructuring its debt in the eventual hope of survival. But given the desperate worldly state of things, and the alarming, ongoing ascent of infections in the USA, a brand that is American down to its very core is quickly realising that the Land Of The Free is seemingly not the fertile ground it once was.

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