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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
From what I've seen in 2010 they had OTR jackets with standard sack features. Today they offer soft 3/2 rolls via RRL and a "Polo soft coat" with only a soft shoulder.

At some point this year I'd like to pay them a visit but my research has come up empty on what jacket models they offer in their program.

Where I live I can get a great price on H.Freeman MTM but their Nat VI is not a true 3/2, I used to work at BB and don't trust their product, and I'm in California so I don't plan on making it out to J.Press or O'Connells.

If anyone has any experience with Ralph Lauren MTM in the past few years I'd appreciate any feedback.
 

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Can you get to Cable Car in San Francisco? They do the Southwick Douglas & Cambridge MTM which check pretty much all of the boxes.
 

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Can you get to Cable Car in San Francisco? They do the Southwick Douglas & Cambridge MTM which check pretty much all of the boxes.
The last time I visited the Cable Car Clothiers web site, I just about fell out of my chair. To say their prices are on the high end would be a serious understatement. I'd check for a local company that offers English American Tailors line of products.
 

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I don't think POLO does MTM anymore. I can only opine that something is not as expensive as it once seemed when you can't get it anymore. Polo MTM was in that category.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I don't think POLO does MTM anymore. I can only opine that something is not as expensive as it once seemed when you can't get it anymore. Polo MTM was in that category.
It's still going.

From what I can tell it appears Purple Label is the priority. I was asking to see if Polo still had some solid options.

The MTM program seems to have been scaled back to larger door stores. My store at Stanford closed and the one in San Francisco is tiny. There was only one employee their when I stopped by.

I agree with you in that their OTR prices are absurd and I'm sure custom is worse.
 

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Right, Purple Label is the priority. I know the SF store does not do any MTM. I have been told that NY and Chicago do some Polo MTM but have never really had confirmation on that.

Also, just to be clear, although I once believed that Polo's OTR prices were high, I don't think that anymore and wish I had bought more when it was available. My one and only Polo MTM was an incredible black flannel forward pleated dress trouser, the Philip model - w/ side tabs. Wish I'd bought 10 of them. I wonder if Corneliani (who made it) can duplicate it. Probably not. Polo's cuts and styles were unique.
 

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I would contact Southwick and ask who their retail partners are in your area. They definitely offer MTM and a reasonable price. Their Douglas pattern remains a standard option.
 

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I see many Anglo-Traditional influences, along with what I would describe as American Equestrian/ Point to Point / Ivy Hunting similarities. In a macro sense, this thread reinforces the similarities between the upper classes in Europe and the US.

At one time, my wife and I were on the periphery of a group of young European expats...they pejoratively referred to themselves as Eurotrash. In reality these were the well educated offspring of European diplomats and old money families. We were all young, doing with other similarly minded young adults do at that point of their lives. Their attire was almost uniformly American Trad based, but with distinctive European influences. They looked much like some of the people depicted in this thread. I recall many a drunken evening in their company, and a memorable conversation with the son of the Belgian representative to the Hague Conferences that created the EU. He confided that his father was in favor of the concept but privately believed it would be impossible to erase centuries of international rivalry with the stroke of a pen.
 

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LOL, in the 1990s I was doing a sabbatical at the University of Amsterdam, and the Dutch were pushing hard for the EU to become a reality. In one of the Dutch newspapers -- like Het Parool or NRC Handelsblad (or perhaps the London Times, I forget) -- there was a wonderful cartoon, It showed twelve ladies, outfitted like the Rocket City dancers of New York, and wearing sashes with the names of the European nations, doing their thing -- holding hands and kicking their legs, but with one difference. Eleven of them were kicking their left leg in one direction, but the twelfth, at one end, was kicking hers in the opposite direction. Her sash said Great Britain!
 

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Regarding Made in the USA, a point to consider is manufacturing cost. The previous owner stated that the traditional BB OCBD was sold at a loss. BB moved to a premium price level to justify selling their Made in the USA shirt. This shirt sold fairly well for them, and I understood they mostly sold out of the first few runs of the shirt. My recent visit highlighted that many price points are now lower than when under previous ownership. This is a result of manufacturing overseas, and (I believe) a conscious effort to move price points down to attract younger buyers.

Why has BB aggressively abandoned their client base ?

Associated issues are changing demographics and aging of their core customer. We can point to years or eras when BB started to decline. Regardless of where one places the inflection point, the almost wholesale changeover to corporate casual dress codes had a significant impact. Within a 5yr period, many workers went from a need for 4-6 suits, with associated shirts and ties, to a need for 1 suit and maybe a sport coat. Their basic working wardrobe devolved to Khakis or similar trousers, with a polo or open necked shirt. Eventually the pendulum had swung so far towards casual that several low-med level men's stores began to offer rental suits, much as one would rent formal attire. No need to buy a suit for that "one wedding" or some one's funeral.... This niche became a significant revenue source because there were enough men who no longer needed to own a suit. Contrast this mindset with that of their father or grandfather, who likely wore a suit every day when they entered the workforce.

The heyday of Ivy occurred at a time when successful men were depicted in the media wearing Ivy/Trad or similar attire. This is what was expected if one wanted to conform to expectations. As we moved farther away from that period, requirements and expectations become more diverse and inclusive. You no longer needed a 3r2 NS Sack to be "correctly" attired. BB and others continued on but in an environment that was increasingly moving away from them. The 70's were difficult, but the early 80's brought a resurgence which lasted until early 90's before the changeover to corporate casual began to take hold. This period coincided with the beginning of the slow age related decline of their core customer base. Eventually BB realized that one must adapt or perish. The problem was that by adapting BB become a commodity goods store with high price points. As their clothing become more generic, they lost what made them unique.
 

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@rl1856: An excellent analysis. Your observations are very well taken. Thank you.

One of the fascinating things about human beings (full disclosure: I am a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist) is that we simultaneously desire and resist change. On the surface, this may seem like a contradiction, but in fact, it isn't. We like the idea of progress and want life, in general, to improve for ourselves and our children. At the same time, we find stasis comforting in many areas of our lives, especially within domestic life. Things that are familiar are soothing and whatever leads to their disappearance provokes anxiety in us. Sartorial styles and items are part of this general process. So we cling to a particular style of dressing and to articles of clothing that form this style, and want those things to be constant in our lives. Unfortunately change sweeps away many things in its path, and the world changes around us. And as we grow older, this change becomes increasingly discomfiting.

I think this is the broader process that has led to our frustrations with Brooks Brothers, or other makers who appear to have abandoned us. But, as @rl1856 points out so eloquently, it is something that BB and others are compelled to do if they wish to survive in some form. If they want to escape market forces, they need money and support from generous pockets that will enable them to survive within the older tradition and not succumb to the forces of the new. In fact, this sort of support is precisely what has helped J Press remain the bastion of unchanging, conservative Trad/Ivy dressing -- support from Japan, a source that, at least originally, must have surprised most Americans. The Japanese provided this support because for a long time, there have been elements of Japanese society that admired Ivy style and contributed to a resurgence of interest in it within Japan. More broadly, Japan has also adopted western habits and manners in clothing over the last century or more, in areas far wider than Ivy, especially in formal clothing.

I can't help drawing a comparison to the idea of cargo cults discussed by cultural anthropologists and ethnographers (another full disclosure: I used to be married to one). Cargo cults (mainly post-WW II) refer to the great admiration and enthusiasm, seen first among Melanesians and Pacific Islanders, for objects that were part of Western society. These objects were introduced by European colonizers, often through airdrops, when they invaded or acquired many of these nations and islands. Colonialism depends on the extraction of raw materials and wealth from the subject nations and also creating markets in those nations for the sale of finished products to further enrich the colonizer. Cargo cults are an almost bizarre outgrowth of this process. Briefly, a cargo cult is a system of beliefs and rituals among indigenous peoples that they trust will induce a more advanced society with technological prowess to deliver desirable goods to them. You can read more about this in the link at the end of this post.

My point here is that Japanese behavior toward Western clothing has an intriguing parallel in cargo cults, although in a more modern way. There are major differences: Japanese society is technologically advanced, and quite the equal of Western societies in skill and craftsmanship in clothing, although this was not the case a few decades ago. But their adulation of Ivy Style and their attempts to recreate and reinvigorate a fashion that they feared was becoming an anachronism or even moribund, does appear to resemble the worshipful attitudes of the nations that formed the old cargo cults. In the fine attention to detailed work in many articles of clothing made in Japan, I see some of the old rituals associated with cargo cults. And this is all the more significant because traditional Japanese style in clothing -- kimonos, haoris, getas, etc. -- has literally nothing to do with western dress!

 

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One of the things I most appreciate about AAAC is that I always seem to be learning something new. In this case rl1856 and drpeter, respectively in posts 10 and 11 above. I read both posts several times to insure I didn't miss any details and am now a wiser man for it. Thank you gentlemen for your interesting and instructive posts. Oh...and have a very merry Christmas! ;)
 

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Eagle2250 and drdpeter: Thank YOU for your kind words and follow up replies. It appears that we are all active in the virtual world, to a greater or lessor extent. Speaking personally, I value forums where people can discuss and debate ideas with civility. There is an expectation that participants refrain from personal attacks, and instead focus on the merit of what is stated. AAC is one such place that I enjoy coming back to, and that is because of the many gracious participants !
 

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rl1856: Well said. I believe we try to maintain a forum for civil discourse and welcome all contributions from people with a range of backgrounds and styles of thought. I hope things stay that way. In a world where civility seems to exist increasingly in the breach rather than the observance, AAAC remains a relatively tranquil forum.
 

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Snip

I can't help drawing a comparison to the idea of cargo cults discussed by cultural anthropologists and ethnographers (another full disclosure: I used to be married to one). Cargo cults (mainly post-WW II) refer to the great admiration and enthusiasm, seen first among Melanesians and Pacific Islanders, for objects that were part of Western society. These objects were introduced by European colonizers, often through airdrops, when they invaded or acquired many of these nations and islands. Colonialism depends on the extraction of raw materials and wealth from the subject nations and also creating markets in those nations for the sale of finished products to further enrich the colonizer. Cargo cults are an almost bizarre outgrowth of this process. Briefly, a cargo cult is a system of beliefs and rituals among indigenous peoples that they trust will induce a more advanced society with technological prowess to deliver desirable goods to them. You can read more about this in the link at the end of this post.

My point here is that Japanese behavior toward Western clothing has an intriguing parallel in cargo cults, although in a more modern way. There are major differences: Japanese society is technologically advanced, and quite the equal of Western societies in skill and craftsmanship in clothing, although this was not the case a few decades ago. But their adulation of Ivy Style and their attempts to recreate and reinvigorate a fashion that they feared was becoming an anachronism or even moribund, does appear to resemble the worshipful attitudes of the nations that formed the old cargo cults. In the fine attention to detailed work in many articles of clothing made in Japan, I see some of the old rituals associated with cargo cults. And this is all the more significant because traditional Japanese style in clothing -- kimonos, haoris, getas, etc. -- has literally nothing to do with western dress!

Thank you for introducing us to "Cargo Cults". In skimming the linked article it occurred to me that the affected cultures were both technologically and intellectually challenged. Not in the sense of cognitive impairment, but in the scope of their education. In many ways the affected cultures were very little advanced from the late middle ages. Then conquerors swoop in from the sky (literally) and bedazzle natives with inconceivable advances in materials and technology. Unfortunately, the natives lacked the educational scope to understand the sudden experience- it was completely alien to them. Thus the newcomers were viewed as deities and the natives later paid homage to attempt to regain the favor of deities.

I appreciate that you point to parallels in Japan. Japan emerged from the Shogun era and embarked on a rapid transformation into an industrialized society. Japan interacted with the West, and sent its best and brightest to be educated in the US and Britain. Starting in the mid 19th century, and through the 1920s, the vanguard of Japanese political and economic society was exposed to US Ivy and UK Ox-Bridge environments. This exposure led to an initial acceptance of Western Culture. Note that as early as the late 19th century, Japanese political attachés would wear UK style Morning Suits when engaging in diplomatic activities. While Japan proved to be fertile ground for western influences, it remained a Feudal society focused on serving the Emperor. This mindset ran deep within Japan, and for centuries was the foundation of their Government, Culture and Economy.

Then WWII occurred, which completely wiped out old orders throughout the World, and established the US as the most powerful nation in the world. The US also conquered Japan, and forced Japanese leaders into fealty to the US. Luckily for all, we proved to be a benevolent overlord, after having learned the lessons of Versailles. While ultimately beneficial, the conquest of Japan was a humiliating experience for Japanese culture, which remained Feudal- one lived to serve the leader. This cultural mindset provided the foundation for the Japanese embrace of capitalism, where the Feudal state was replaced by the Corporation which offered lifetime employment and protection. The concept of the anonymous Salary Man, who may be a little cog in the works, but who was honored as a vital component to the process, is just a modern version of expressing loyalty to upper echelon leadership. In embracing the educational, political and economic models of their conqueror, should it really be a surprise at how deeply Ivy became embedded into Japanese culture ? In this light adoption of Western Ivy attire was both a reaction to being conquered, and an homage to a benevolent conqueror.

Now if we can only convince Japanese taste makers to (re)export Ivy back to the West, in sizes that fit our body types !
 

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Your points are well made. Regarding the idea that the Melanasians were "technologically and intellectually challenged", I do have some comments:

First, the idea of technology as it developed in the West isn't necessarily the only way in which techniques and methods can be used in consistent ways to achieve desired goals. The one most important criterion is adaptability to the environment in which a society lives. The use of cognitive skills and abilities to achieve solutions that are adaptable and safe would be more important than any specific type of technology.

For example, those Pacific Islanders developed a system of navigation that enabled them to cross vast stretches of the ocean without instruments like sextants, telescopes and other gear. This system is called etak, and it is a system of celestial navigation that uses the positions of stars observed with the naked eye, plus a close study of currents, driftwood and other items that float on the surface of the sea. Birds and their nature and flight directions are also used. Etak itself is descrbed here:


Etak looks very different from computer-aided navigation systems on a modern sailing vessel. But it is, in its own way, quite sophisticated. Because Europeans privileged their own view of technology and intellectual capacity in light of their own considerable accomplishments -- I'll certainly grant that -- they also tended to discount those of other cultures alien to their own, and thereby missed some of the significant developments that took place elsewhere. Some instances:

The original Australian people, who had settled the continent around 40,000 years ago developed a fairly sophisticated system of understanding, where they created a philosophy and a worldview that was quite different from Western ideas. They also had their own technology for surviving in the outback, although this did not involve the usual machinery seen in the west. The great film Walkabout shows some of this technology, where an aboriginal boy helps two white children survive in the bush.

Lord Macaulay famously claimed, in the 19th century, that a single shelf of English books would be far superior to anything ever produced in India. This was an India that he had little idea of, other than to be part of a colonizing country which had effectively seized power through cunning and military prowess. Macaulay did not know Sanskrit, or much of any of the other Indian languages. Since his pronouncement, the west has come to realize that there is a tradition of complex intellectual and cultural accomplishment in India that had continued over a couple of millenia, although its development and methods, its ontology and epistemology, were quite distinct from that of the west. In fact there were schools of mathematics that produced many of the results that we call Power Series (Taylor's and Maclaurin's series), and the basic ideas of trigonometry were known to the Indians, although in a format that was different from western mathematics.

There are many other examples of technology and intellectual accomplishment in non-western societies that can be described, but my point is that there isn't a single yardstick to suggest that one system is superior to the rest. If one regards one's own society as superior, there can be bad consequences as well. European beliefs about their superiority also led to all sorts of ill-treatment meted out to colonized peoples. And the technology of the west, while doing great things for all human beings, also led to some catastrophic results that are unfolding even now. But that's another story.
 
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