One of my favorite brands is J. Crew: I have been buying their chinos and casual shirts forever. Their t-shirts have been part of my wardrobe for a very long time. One of the reasons why I love the brand — they sold classically styled, high quality clothes at an affordable price.
Better than Gap and not as trendy as Banana Republic. I think of them as a young man’s Brooks’ Brothers. In a good year, I would buy at least half a dozen shirts, an equal number of t-shirts and a couple of chinos and some sundry items. It was a nice about $600-a-year relationship. No more.
My relationship with the brand changed over past few years — I still buy their T-shirts (about three to-five a year) but I don’t make it a priority to buy shirts from them anymore. Why? Because they have changed the cut of their shirts to tailored fit – slimmer cut — which are essentially not meant for guys like me who have inched into middle age and have some extra weight around their waist. Nothing looks more hideous than a shirt stretching across a belly :-).
Most (but not all) of their shirts are tailored fit. What that means is that I have to buy off-the-rack shirts that are one size too large. That is a terrible idea because then your shoulders are off, sleeves too long and the shirts when untucked (aka how casual shirts are worn) look completely ill-fitting. What is worse is that it is getting harder and harder to find classic fit shirts.
This is a disease not unique to J.Crew. Most of the brands have started offering their shirts in slimmer size and moving away from fuller fit shirts. Banana Republic is going down this route and so is Brooks Brothers. Others such as Thomas Pink are not far behind. What is really befuddling is that if the fashion designers at these brands are thinking about their customers. It is no different than Silicon Valley, where we early adopters have no idea how real world interacts with technologies. The assumptions we make are just straight up out of sync with the real world. The fashion brands are doing exactly that — making clothes for what they think is the ideal customer.
If you look at America at large, thanks to changing demographics, food, diet and work-environments, we are heavier and shorter. According to a study, average US male height 69.4 inches, average weight is 194.7 pounds and average waist circumference is 39.7 inches. Compare this to the data collected by US National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey for 1999-2002, average US male was 190.9 ponds,
J.Crew and others, it seems, are oblivious to the real world. A friend of mine in the fashion business pointed out that the designers at these brands suffer from couture-itis — they want to behave like famous fashion designers — but what they don’t realize that their end customer is someone else.
PS: There are some brands which make great classic shirts and my business is shifting to them in coming months as I shop for summer shirts. Needless to say, I will keep you posted in case you might be looking for a new shirt.