Monday, March 18, 2013

Poor Man’s Brooks Brothers

 “Poor Man’s Brooks Brothers.” I’m not sure where or when I first heard that but it made sense the moment I did. That’s what Joseph A. Bank was back in the early 1980’s when I discovered them. My first encounter was in Washington D.C. during the summer when my liver and I pretended to work for the Senate Judiciary Committee while really working the mean streets of Georgetown and the beer soaked floors of the Day Lily Restaurant, aka the Chinese Disco.

My KA brother and Presidential Gardens roommate, WHS and I rolled into the Washington, D.C.  Jos. A. Bank one Saturday and the Poor Man’s Brooks moniker stood. The place was brimming with 3/2 sack goods and bevies of button downs and foulards and Brooks aping collaterals that would leave one believing their fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy could be tactically supported by this singular purveyor. I bought a gray seersucker 3/2 sack sportcoat that afternoon and wore it for the next decade.

My next Bank encounter was in Charlotte, North Carolina after I somehow ended up in the pharmaceutical business. No longer indigent but certainly not flush, I was a regular at Bank-Charlotte. My first ever Aldens came from there. I was ready to deepen my footwear bench beyond Weejuns but wasn’t ready or able to add shell cordovan to the queue. I wear to this day, my calfskin Alden tassels, courtesy of Bank-Charlotte.
When you see this logo, rest assured that you are looking at a pair of Aldens in excess of twenty years old.
And if you ever see this logo, rest assured that you are looking at something that once existed but based on the edematous piles of poo currently purveyed at Jos. A. Bank, will never be again. The idea that Jos. A. Bank at one time offered a line-up including Alden seems laughable today. But they were at one time, a Poor Man’s Brooks Brothers. Indeed.
Onward. Still vigilating and mama tending. In calfskin Jos. A. Bank Aldens.



Anonymous said...

Presidential Gardens- in Arlandria. I lived there for a month. Probably within six months of you one way or the other. Hadn't thought about that place in a long long time. I just bought a red and white seersucker suit from Jos A B, via the eBay...Made in Downtown Bangladesh. Probably not fully canvassed. Worth every bit of the $65 it cost me.

Still Po

NYC kid in CHI said...

What? No Britches? Bought my first suit there (the summer after college graduation).

ADG said...

Still Poo...Send us a picture.

NYC Chi Man...Chill out boss. Britches was the Poor Man's Polo shop. That's a whole 'mother story.

Anonymous said...

I remember those Jos Bank days. Can't say I remember the clothes quality, but I was living in Chicago at the time and buying Polo University Club at Mark Shale.
Wish I could still fit into clothes cut like that!

Donald said...

I, too, remember when Bank was called this. 'Bout 1984 I worked alongside a young consultant from E&W who was dressed head to toe in Bank stuff. And he looked fantastic. I made sure I got a catalog, for back then there was no local store.

The last time I stopped at a BB store it looked, for all the sale signage, like a Jos Bank store. Maybe BB is the rich man's Jos. A. Bank? That, too, is a whole 'nother story.

Thanks for your blog--it's a must read for me.


ilovelimegreen said...

I remember in the mid eighties when Jos. A. Bank moved from its not very exciting bargain basementish storefront on South Charles Street to a glitzy glass fronted location on Light Street -formerly the Playboy Club in Baltimore. I remember my father snickering about the new location. I meanwhile felt a bit risque as a 19 year old whenever I tried on dresses in the fitting rooms at the new location.

Toad said...

Remember their earliest catalogs? On hard cardboard with fabric swatches for each shirt and suit. It was incredible. Those were the days

C.L. Young said...

I agree with the comments on Jos. A. Bank. My father shopped there when I was a kid so I have only to look at some of his older clothing from the 1980's (yes, he still has a few of them) to compare the difference in workmanship.

They made some great stuff and I have inherited some great silk knit ties and madras shirts that are all Joe Bank made. I think they gave BB a run for the money in terms of offering good stuff at a fair price.

On another note, you are certainly a "shoe guy"! I really dig those Joe Bank tassels and was very surprised to see them. I just got blessed with my first pair of Alden's (Aberdeen tassels)and now understand what I have been missing when it comes to shell cordovan. Simply majestic!

Archibald said...

Thank you for this lovely anecdote, as it also gave me exactly the information I was looking for. I am about to purchase a pair of Alden PTBs on the Barrie last, with this exact somewhat unusual Alden logo shown in the first picyure above.

Now, I am even more certain it will be a good investment :)

Kind rgds. from Sweden