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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Some of our younger members may only know Banana Republic as an urbane haven for metrosexuals, but I have vague memories of when the store name made sense and the image and clothing were quite different.

Around the mid 1980's Banana Republic sold rugged outdoor wear with an exotic expeditionary theme. Foreign correspondents and photo-journalists outfitted themselves there. It was loose-fitting natural fibers in muted colors: the exact opposite of the current incarnation.

Their mall stores perhaps started the theme store. They often had half of an old Army Jeep up against the front side wall along with a big palm tree. The clothing was in and atop rough-hewn wood crates with 'destination' city names (i.e. CAIRO) stenciled on them. The catalog page for the item would be tacked on to give all the info needed.

The catalog, if memory serves, was very similar to J. Peterman. Coarse natural paper with colored sketches of the items, perhaps two to a page, with text blending adventure and product description.

I also remember that the stores had wacky soundtracks, composed of tribal music and animal sounds. There was probably other bric-a-brac like horn coat/hat hooks on the wall.

I believe that their logo consisted of a red star crested by two bananas, which made perfect sense. The signature product, for some reason, was their t-shirts. They were very de riguer for bobos of the time. Just white t-shirts with some exotic animal (lizard, rhinocerous) on the back in browny-olive ink, and the store name. They may have had a pocket, not that sure.

How they jumped from this to faux boutique, I don't know. Please share your memories of this unique shopping experience of yore.
 

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How they jumped from this to faux boutique, I don't know. Please share your memories of this unique shopping experience of yore.
Abercrombie & Fitch. Used-looking clothing for half-naked sylphs and twinks today, the ultimate sporting goods store from 1892 until...

In the early 90s, when I shopped there, they had clothes that today are carried by Orvis. I actually still have two dress shirts and a cricket sweater from those days.

I also will always remember the leather giraffe standing in the corner of the store at Phipps Plaza. And the Bay Rhum cologne.
 

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I am to young to remember the glory days as you describe them, but I do remember my favorite t-shirt as a child was one my father bought me at Bannana Republic. It had a large lizard lying on an exotic map on the back, with a logo or other such thing on the front.
 

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Actually, back in the Seventies, Banana Republic bought up and then re-sold surplus gear from armies round the globe, including many in Central America (hence the name). It was only after they had used up the surplus goods from said tropical countries that they descended down the path to what they sell today.

Buzz
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
some backstory

Courtesy of productdose.com:
Mel and Patricia Ziegler were young journalists who set out to travel the world. Mel was sent to Australia on an assignment and stumbled upon an army surplus store stocked with British military supplies. He purchased several hundred dollars worth of merchandise and returned home to California.
Mel started receiving compliments every time he put on his safari jackets and cargo shorts. The Zieglers decided to purchase surplus clothes by the pound from Australia and sell them to their friends and family. Mel and Patricia quickly realized there was a strong demand for these products and in 1978, they started the Banana Republic.
The first Banana Republic storefront was located in Mill Valley, California. In conjunction with the storefront, the Zieglers also started a mail-order catalogue that became an instant success. The catalogue featured clothing from striking locales and had narrative stories throughout...
 

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Books Too!

I remember getting foreign army surplus stuff at a store in Mpls called Ragstock and another called Tatters. Kids who could not figure out the bus system or whose parents weren't willing to drive them to these stores bought their stuff through the Banana Republic catalog at a premium. I did get an Israeli comando bag from BR to use as a book bag which I have now used as a diaper bag for three kids. It has held up incredibly well.

In 1987, as a freshman in college, I bought a "The Best Summer Jobs in Alaska" as the local Annapolis Banana Republic was closing out their book section. I then spent parts of the next three summers in Alaska working jobs in tourism and fish processing. Today's BR does seem to have much more in common with parent company GAP than Ragstock, Tatters, or the BR of old.
 

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I remember that one of my more comfortable pairs of jeans when I was in high school (mid 90's) came from Banana Republic. I remember the tropical theme of their stores from that time too.

I bought a wool car coat from them online last weekend. Decided to return it today. I haven't been to one of their stores in YEARS and the one I went to today was considerably different than the safari-esque stores I remembered.

Have they always been part of the Gap empire?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I did get an Israeli comando bag from BR to use as a book bag which I have now used as a diaper bag for three kids. It has held up incredibly well.
Oh yeah, the paratrooper bag with the red embroidery? BR did sell those, at a price three or four times what the regular surplus market price.

Gap acquired BR in 1983. So I believe the private label jeans chronology is: Gap jeans, Banana Republic jeans, Polo, every other store in the world...
 

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I remember getting a tee shirt from my cousin for Christmas one year...I loved it, real quality cotton, with an elephant and the globe on its back. My cousin was a big time "out doorsy" type that loves LLBean and the like.

I also picked up a new with tags khaki shirt on the Trad Forum that was "Made in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong"...awesome!
 

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Remember their line of apocryphal sports shirts? They were khaki shirts with things like "Batsman of the Kalahari" on the back.

I really liked the old Banana Republic. It's too bad.

Same with Willis & Geiger...
I shopped at Willis & Geiger for decades. Great outdoors wear...perhaps the greatest available after World War II. The company was bought and murdered by Land's End, I will never...NEVER!....buy anything from Lands End.

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Yes, I was very disappointed as well when Lands' End chose to shut it down.

I mentioned this on another thread a while back, but a friend of mine and I tried to pursuade Lands' End to sell the name to us, but they didn't want to. I was told that the signature fabrics (ventile cloth and that rip-proof khaki stuff) were impossible to source because of quality control issues. We tried...
 

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I bought a few items from the old Banana Republic. A Bombay shirt, a Caribbean shirt and some Ghurka shorts. It was really fun going into the store. I went to the one in the Galleria in Dallas. I still wear the shirts although the Ghurka shorts are too small now:( Also, I believe they had an older type A & F in the Galleria.

Max
 

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I used to pick-up alot of my work clothing at the Marin and San Francisco (Polk Street) locations back in the dark ages. Light weight, perfect for the tropics and the jungle.

Abercombie & Fitch was a go-to location also. Particularly the Beverly Hills store.

Royal Robbins and Orvis seemed to have picked up the void.

Still have one green bush shirt from Banana Republic, circa early1980's, that gets used.

Yes, it still fits.
 

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Abercrombie & Fitch. Used-looking clothing for half-naked sylphs and twinks today, the ultimate sporting goods store from 1892 until...

In the early 90s, when I shopped there, they had clothes that today are carried by Orvis. I actually still have two dress shirts and a cricket sweater from those days.

I also will always remember the leather giraffe standing in the corner of the store at Phipps Plaza. And the Bay Rhum cologne.
I recall rather vividly being in the San Francisco store on many occasions with my Father when I was young, and having visions of going on Safari to exotic lands. It was also where I handled, and acquired an appreciation for British double rifles and better quality shotguns.

My first day there My Father bought a matching set of three Smith and Wesson model 29 (44 Magnums) in three barrel lengths which subsequently became mine.

I tried not to long ago to explain to my teenage daughter that it was once something other than blaring techno and an overwhelming presence of bad cologne......she didn't quite get it...:icon_smile_wink:
 
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