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Clothes Horse

Charlottesville, Virginia

July 21, 2020

I have been called a "clothes horse." I recently looked in my storage unit and I can't deny the label. Yikes - where was my self control??

So this article in the WSJ caught my eye about what the alternatives are to Brooks and J.Crew given they are in bankruptcy. Note, that doesn't mean they are out of business! But a smart person will consider developing a Plan B.

Before I get to the WSJ, I gotta plug my friends Matt and Steve at Country Club Prep. ( If it is something sporty that you are looking for, you can find it at their website.

Now to the WSJ article (I'll vouch for Proper Cloth ( and Kamakura makes a great knockoff Brooks Brothers button down ( Shout out to Ledbury in Richmond for spread collar shirts. (


Even before American style stalwarts J.Crew and Brooks Brothers announced their bankruptcies in recent months, their signature gingham shirts and navy suits were losing currency. As tastes veered toward athleisure and “look-at-me” streetwear, customers strayed from these one-stop shops. For some, the quality wasn’t what it used to be. “I was noticing, and even a few friends who are big into J.Crew said, ‘It’s just starting to fall apart, doesn’t last as long,’” said Shane Curry, 35, a grocery store manager on Long Island who until around a year ago supported the brand.

Although the beleaguered retailers remain open and some frugal fans will surely take advantage of the sales they currently offer, many former devotees have been flirting with other outfitters. Even in these days of social distancing, men still need a reliable place to find work-ready (or Zoom-ready) button-ups and slacks, as well as casual weekend wear. We’ve found great alternatives at several smaller operations: the huggable, earth-toned cotton basics from California’s Save Khaki; the wallet-friendly yet meticulously made button-ups from Japan’s Kamakura; and the cheery, New England-y prep wear from upstart Alex Mill. Here, five men recommend their own go-tos for upscale basics.

A So-Cal Writer Suggests Rowing Blazers, Noah and Amie Leon Doré “Even though I’m Black and multiracial I always gravitated toward styles that were traditionally preppy,” said Dave Schilling, 35, a TV writer in Los Angeles. But isn’t traditional prep what Brooks Brothers does best? Mr. Schilling still wants verve. Clothes “need to have some sort of contemporary flavor,” he said. He finds that in brands like Rowing Blazers, Noah and Aimé Leon Dore which nimbly vamp on preppy staples. He particularly prizes the considered fit of Noah’s double-breasted blazers ($568, and the hefty weight of Rowing Blazers’s rainbow rugby shirts. For outfit inspiration, he’s found that Noah’s website, for one, brims with novel styling ideas such as marrying a candy-striped linen blazer with a pair of trim, abbreviated khaki shorts. An Essential Worker Likes Vintage Brooks Brothers and Uniqlo Secure in his 30s, Shane Curry, the grocery store manager on Long Island, does not “want to dress like a kid.” He finds suitably adult options at Japanese one-stop shop Uniqlo, where he’s scored selvedge jeans (a steal at $40), serviceable chinos ($40, and button-up shirts. “You can put yourself together easily, very easily, and it’s not expensive,” he said. His other style secret? Vintage Brooks Brothers discoveries on eBay. Mr. Curry is “obsessed” with the brand’s quasi-antique blazers, but also hoards vintage oxfords which hold up decades on and can be had for a mere $20. He evangelizes this route for anyone craving the authentic Brooks look for a song. A Money Guy Goes for Proper Cloth Steve Goodman, 62, a wealth management trainer based in Nashville, Tenn., was once a Brooks Brothers zealot but over time came to conclude that its quality was slipping. Last year, he stumbled on Proper Cloth, a purveyor of made-to-measure shirts (from $70, that let him re-create the magic of his button-downs from college. He based his custom order on the measurements of an older Brooks shirt in his closet, and was able to nail down an approximation of its “thick, thick” oxford cloth and button-down collar details. Thanks in part to that fabric, he was pleased to find his Proper Cloth shirt more substantial than those he’d tried recently from other labels. A Millennial Marketer Favors Standard Issue and RTH Tyler Sandoval, 29, a digital marketer in Boston, relied dutifully on J.Crew in his early 20s because it made him look “halfway decent” on the cheap. Mr. Sandoval has never had to conform to a strict office dress code, but over time, his work-wardrobe needs have evolved. While he once stockpiled more polished J.Crew shirts, he now prioritizes sturdy comfort, choosing thick T-shirts from Standard Issue and durable jeans from RTH (from $225, RTH, 310- 289-7911), another So-Cal brand. Like many young, white-collar workers, he now just wants a pared-back uniform: clothes that “hold up” through a daily marathon of leg-bends into an office chair and treks to the coffee machine. An Economist Votes for Shirts from Hawkes and Curtis, and Eton Many men can’t find a clothing brand that satisfies all their needs as efficiently as J.Crew or Brooks Brothers once did. Steven Tokar, 47, an economist in London, has researched dozens of dress shirts to find the ideal foundation for his office look (an exposed shirt becoming all the more important as sportcoats have largely been mothballed, a shift which began pre-Covid). Mr. Tokar scrutinizes each shirt’s measurements, material and even company return policies, documenting the data on his website He’s partial to shirts from British brand Hawkes and Curtis; during sales, he’s acquired three of the label’s extra-slim designs for around $120. For “fancier” moments he wears one from Eton, an upscale Swedish brand whose shirts ($250, wear longer and are easier to find in America. Mr. Tokar is less rigorously research-minded when it comes to trousers, whose sizes tend to be more standardized. For now, he’s satisfied with Bonobos trousers because they fit in the waist and “the price is right.” The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

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