I recently discovered that for years I’d been buying OCBDs from Brooks Brothers in the wrong size. Too big.
I think it all started in the 80s when I was either buying from FLIP (no choice but to fit into what they had on offer) or then later in the decade when picking up some hand me down shirts from Paul B. (the previous owner of Soho Shoes in Walkers Court, W1 now John Rushton Shoes of course). Paul was fond of the poplins, end on end and general plaid sport shirts of the day from Brooks. In those shirts a 16-4 fitted fine. When I started to order my own shirts from the Brooks catalogue (by phone and fax in those days) I gravitated towards the classic heavy oxfords, and the 16-4s in these seemed to be cut much bigger. But then in the 80s the retro look was a lot baggier, more late 50s than 60s perhaps and therefore they did not feel strange at all.
Fast forward a number of years and there’s a generally slimmer trend to chinos and I just couldn’t wear those blouses anymore. I sold a few NOS that I had (silly me) and passed on all the others to an Ivy mad friend in Dakar.
But recently I started actually measuring the shirts that I was wearing that fit the best and disovered that I should be wearing a 15-3 in Brooks. Sure enough when I picked up a fantastic condition gold yellow (maize?) 6 button model from Cardinals5 on FNB the shirt fit like a dream. Still fuller cut than the taper fit Gant Huggers and even the Seros that I have, but absolutely wearable and with that amazing collar roll that seems so much better when the second button is lower than on later 7 button versions.
Then I noticed that Zach DeLuca had some veritable goodies for sale on his newly formed Newton Street Vintage store on Etsy. I’d already bought a very nice grey flannel suit from him back in December (I must get the leg length altered and wear it now the snows have gone) and he’d shipped that very quickly and the suit was immaculate.
A few weeks back Zach announced that he had found a little cache of deadstock Brooks Brothers shirts from circa 1990 (we know this from dates on the price tickets, but they are most likely older before ending up in a fire sale dept store) along with some near perfect condition used examples from the 50s/60s.
Being based in Cambridge MA, Zach is obviously at the ultimate centre of thrifting for Ivy style clothing and the stuff he lists always seems to be in great condition with all the items I’ve bought so far confirming that.
Having said that I should be buying 15-3, most of these shirts that Zach found were 15.5-3 but when the first one arrived (a great deadstock red white university stripe that is a very different colour to today’s model) I put into near boiling water to soak through and wash out over 20 years of shelf soiling and it sized up perfectly.
Other models that he’s had include EUC rare peach colour solids, a great deadstock avocado stripe on white and yellow/orange and white uni stripe.
Colours go around in fashion cycles just like anything else and although Brooks Brothers offerings may seem static it’s interesting to see the variation in colours of the same products over each decade: the red stripe is darker and more blood red than today, the pink solid more salmon, the yellow 50s model almost gold rather than the later primrose yellow.
Some idiot, who shall remain nameless and who doesn’t know any better, recently made this statement on his own web review of Zach’s Etsy store.
“Note to US readers: 17 of Newton Street’s past 21 sales have gone to the United Kingdom. Help do your part as a patriot to keep American clothing in America.”
Such childish xenophobia does not appear to be Mr DeLuca’s attitude and his shipping rates are very low to the EU and he ships fast, too.
Those in the USA may consider Zach’s prices a tad high, but he’s the one doing the sourcing work and when you consider that a new non-iron plastic coated made in malaysia BB shirt costs around £100 here anyway, why not buy an authentic original?
NewtonStreetVintage on Etsy (and all images on this page are Zach’s from his store)