Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Debate: What Is A Banana Republic?

Today James tweeted, "In almost 2 years of reading these blogs, [I] don't think I have seen anyone hype Banana Republic once. That cant be good..."  He makes a great point and while I have mentioned BR every now and then through a highlighted product or two they really fail to get any blog love whatsoever - I would even surmise that I have seen more press for Old Navy.  Many times I have checked out their website looking for cool stuff to share with you guys and have come away completely empty handed, even when BR debuted their own "heritage collection".  You could make the argument that their suiting options are decent, but is it just the lesser of evils?  I am in no means trying to be a hater (hell, I'm all about Gap), I'm just trying to get a handle on this whole thing.  

Anyhow, I've obviously been thinking a lot about this today and this is what I have come up with: Banana Republic exists in a pseudo universe where all men are dressed by women.  Seriously, browse the website and see if you disagree.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

-L.A.S 


[Editor's Note: Yes, I realize that Gap owns Banana Republic and Old Navy.]

64 comments:

  1. Back before I knew better, I checked them out. I bought a few t-shirts I thought were good (at the time) and I picked up some striped slacks on sale. Now I only wear one of the t-shirts when no one is looking. Even then I knew better than to trust their dress shirts and all the other gimmicky clothes.

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  2. My wife and I were at the mall the other day and mentioned to each other that we have no desire to go in there. Too expensive for what they're selling.
    p.s LEC at Sears was awesome.

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  3. "Banana Republic exists in a pseudo universe where all men are dressed by women."

    You hit the nail on the head.

    Also, their clothes are of inferior quality to...well, just about every other designer.

    I too am a fan of the GAP and wonder what they were thinking when they developed BR.

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  4. As a former employee of BR, I can attest to it being the place where most of the men are dressed by their respective women but like any other respected places, there are gems to be had there, mainly in the Heritage (maybe not this particular season) and Monogram, their higher end line.

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  5. I completely agree. I've gotten 40% coupons in the past for BR and despite my best efforts, found nothing worth purchasing even with the discount. It just seems like the clothes are lacking in terms of both style and fit. Also, the quality of their dress shirts has gone down over the years as well. I used to buy an occasional slim fit dress shirt there, but now the material to their shirts has a very thin, almost cheap feeling to them. And at 80$ a pop, it ain't like they're cheap either.

    BR--where women dress their men--is definitely what they've become. Argyle polos. Half-zip sweaters. Penny loafers. Baggy chinos. Old man prints. Need I go on?

    I will say this. I have gotten some good belts from BR in the past. Outside of that though, my money is spent elsewhere.

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  6. Good observation. I'd say Banana Republic just doesn't deserve any hype. Their clothes are high quality but painfully bland and stuffy -- especially in terms of fit (good luck trying to find anything that's not cut to fit a cardboard box).

    While it seems competing brands (J.Crew, Brooks Brothers, even Lands' End) have at least some idea of what's in style, BR almost exists outside fashion. I don't know what its market is, but [boring middle-aged men whose wives dress them] seems about right.

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  7. I can see no difference at all between BR and the other crap that young people wear. Could you enlighten me?

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  8. BR has the nasty tendency to put one touch too many on their pieces. They take something classic and simple and then ruin it with some inane detail; Cardigans with slouchy pockets, shirts with garish stripe patterns, pullovers that make Old Navy look downright regal. It often seems like they are afraid that their customers will not pay for anything understated. If you took j.crew/polo/martin+osa (RIP) and merchandised it for guys wearing Ed Hardy and Affliction, you'd get Banana Republic.

    Not surprisingly, this ignorance of detailing leads to goods made of inferior fabric that do not wear well. Even though their stuff fits me better than j.crew and about as well as the Brothers, I never buy it because it seems like a waste.

    The brand needs help top to bottom. An upscale line will not help when upscale customers don't stop by in the first place.

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  9. Anon @ 11:37pm - First tell me what isn't crap in your eyes and I will enlighten you.

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  10. I check out the website occasionally for old times sake. everything i saw was bland and baggy. they have a great opportunity to offer great fitting dress clothes at an affordable price. everybody knows banana republic and they have stores everywhere but they don't take advantage.

    old navy - inexpensive beater clothes
    gap - casual/workwear
    banana republic - business

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  11. I was just talking to a friend about this. I'm really not a big BR fan at all. It seems to stufy and yuppie. I guess everything in there looks "nice" but rarely is anything interesting or exciting.

    If GAP clothes were made with the quality of BR clothes, booyah.

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  12. Recently, the last 2-3yrs, they have completely shifted their marketing IMO. Look at how cheap the clothes look and are presented on the site now. Either their bottom line is hurting or they have been misled on what is desired. They have become bland and boring.

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  13. Firstly, you couldn't get an image for this post? Don't you read Pew Center eyetrack studies? Anyway.

    BR is definitely stuck in an alternate universe where 1990s gays are the tastemakers. The heritage line has gotten some play in GQ over the past few years, but I usually pop into the store when I'm shopping Portland and none of their heritage line shit is ever in the actual store.

    I guess I didn't actually have anything valuable to add to this discussion, but I hate Lawrence Schlossman with the heat of a thousand suns, so there's always that.

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  14. I'm amused that someone finds BR "stuffy and yuppie". It's just the same old sloppy stuff you see everywhere.

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  15. They have solid undershirts. That's the only thing I've ever bought there.

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  16. https://www.marchbrae.co.uk/acatalog/Classic_Bedale.html

    This is not crap.

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  17. Anon @ 12:03- We are on the same page. I'm not sure how old you are talking when you say young, but I will say that a "young" person wearing J. Crew is keeping their shit together much more so than a "young" person wearing a striped button down from BR.

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  18. Their stripes are a major buzzkill if may add insult to injury.

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  19. I COULD wear Banana Republic from head to toe and kill it, but the BR club is not a club I wanna be a member of. Recognize we buy into brands and what they represent, BR got no soul. BUT, their no show socks are unrivaled for me (I can't do the sockless thing).

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  20. Might I request your learned opinion as to what is the difference between J. Crew and Banana Republic?

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  21. Ouch! Doesn't look like anyone really wants to argue.

    I do have a couple pants that I like to throw on with a white tee for an afternoon on the patio. And a shirt or two that I like. One very excellent scarf that I couldn't pass up.

    Other than that, yeah, just nothing that really says "I'm an awesome article of clothing and people will notice how fucking cool you are."

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  22. Anon @ 12:13- There difference is between gear like this:

    http://www.jcrew.com/AST/Browse/MensBrowse/Men_Shop_By_Category/sweaters/cotton/PRDOVR~21408/21408.jsp

    and this:

    http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=28665&vid=1&pid=745041

    Yay? Nay? Do you really not get it or are you trying extra hard to bust balls?

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  23. agree with the general thrust of all the comments.

    I haven't bought anything there in a long time, and am generally not a huge fan. Maybe some chinos on eBay?

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  24. The difference between J. Crew and BR?! The only thing they have in common is they're both chain stores. Other than that, the two aren't remotely similar.

    Allow me to demonstrate:
    BR casual dress shirt: http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=44875&vid=1&pid=743995

    J. Crew casual dress shirt:
    http://www.jcrew.com/AST/Browse/MensBrowse/Men_Shop_By_Category/shirts/lightweightwashedshirts/PRDOVR~25391/25391.jsp

    One looks like something a man in his 20s-30s might wear, the other looks like a design you might see in an Austin Power's movie. Really, there's no comparison.

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  25. BR is mostly forgettable, I'm afraid. I have a few of their odd jackets because (generally) their 42s fits me well with only an adjustment to sleeve length. With the frequent friends-and-family sales, the tailored clothing hits a sweet spot of price v. quality. Their current cut for suit trousers, however, seems like it was designed for men with zero ass. Combined with the short rise, they're basically off-limits for me, which is too bad because the jackets fit me well.

    I bought some T-shirts there, and the hem stitching was coming out of them after only a few washings. Gap has trumped them on denim, too.

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  26. I walked into BR once and yada, yada, yada I walked out empty handed.

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  27. My suits from there do just fine. Shirts and polos, not so much.

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  28. Thanks fo educating me about the difference, guys.

    Now I get it.

    I'll stick with Lands' End and L.L. Bean, with your kind permission.

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  29. Anon @ 12:38- Sart Inc loves LE and LL Bean so no permission necessary. C'mon, if you're gonna bust balls in the first place be prepared to get a little back.

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  30. BR: Overpriced "business wear" for men who don't know better.
    BR: Gap's attempt to appeal to a slighter higher income bracket
    BR: Trapped in the 2000 Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Lord help us) 'metrosexual' (I'm going to die soon) look.

    I (grudgingly) work for Gap, get 50% off at BR, and I never use my discount because the clothes aren't appealing at all, and they don't carry XS/36 in Canada.

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  31. Most of this is just echoing what everyone said above. They sent me a 40% off one item coupon the other day, and it took me forever on their website before I settled on...a belt. And then it arrived today, and it's pretty weak, so I'm going to return it. You'd think they'd take a look at how J. Crew is just destroying them, and would do something to go after that market. If I got a 40% off one item coupon from J. Crew...good lord, it would take me a week to make a decision, and even then I'd be torn about what to get. With BR...no such worries.

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  32. I have one old sportcoat from there that I'll wear on airplanes as I don't mind stuffing it into an overhead compartment. I may have a pair of socks that I bought with a discount...last time I washed them, they were falling apart, so I may have dumped them. Also have an old, old pair of chinos that seem to fit much better than anything they make now.

    Percy hit the nail on the head with the "trapped in 2000 Queer Eye/metrosexual" look. Then again, I see a ton of dudes who are still rocking that look, so no doubt BR does just fine.

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  33. Here's a perfect example of BR's near-miss approach to fashion. Hey, gingham's really IN right now, right? Well, yeah, except they came out with:

    http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=44873&pid=719772&vid=1

    I mean, ugh. Either do a simple blue/white pattern, or do a really attractive multi-color gingham. It's not like there's a shortage of styles to emulate. Go look at Epaulet's spring gingham shirts, for example. But don't do this horrific multiple blue thing. Egads. The more I look at that photo, the more annoyed I get.

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  34. the obsolete librarianApril 1, 2010 at 4:20 AM

    The best product Banana ever made was that "bush", "jungle" vest. Haven't seen it in 20 years. Frankly, there store is nothing more than Structure with hardwood floors. Or perhaps a toned down Express. I'd rather shop at J. Riggins. Their clothes do indeed look like something your girlfriend would pick out for you, if she was really corny & secretly hated you. Banana Republic=minivan driving clothes. Something I might wear if I was going to a Josh Groban concert. Blaaaah.

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  35. the obsolete librarianApril 1, 2010 at 4:21 AM

    *their store, that is.

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  36. I went in once when the missus was looking for a dress. Suffice to say, I've not been back since.

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  37. So, who's keeping Banana Republic afloat?

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  38. Old Trad- Apparently dudes who don't read blogs.

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  39. Like many of the posts, I too have noticed a decline in the overall quality of their offerings. As well, the "interpretation" of standards is mired in senseless details, poor sizing, and awkward fit. I would rather wear a seriously distressed vintage M-65 jacket than anything I have seen offered as a casual jacket by this company. I have permanently shifted my loyalties away from this brand and company in general. That said, if your wife or partner does the shopping, great place to get bland stuff with a bit of glam so that you will never really be out of place and really never be that cool.

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  40. I like the belts from BR, and their shoes, now made by Clark's are nice quality. The clothes, however haven't been updated to any real degree since the 90's. And that's where they fail. I have a couple BR sweaters, and one pair of chinos I really like from their new vintage straight line. Still can't buy a shirt. Almost everything else I own is J.Crew. Not a teenager. Not a yuppie. Not a hipster. Just a guy.

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  41. I have noticed less and less of their items appealing to me over the years. I was excited when they beefed up their slim shirting offerings, but I didn't see any shirts I actually liked and would prefer other brands for the price point.

    I will say that I have a belt, a blazer and a few pairs of trousers from BR that I purchased at deep discounts and that I like very much.

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  42. The polo shirts now have a large elephant on the front. Enough said

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  43. I too have some deep discount trousers that are sufficient for my work environment, but it pains me to think of someone paying retail for BR with the other brands available at very close price points (if not cheaper in some cases).

    Also, I agree with the "non-blog dudes" comment.

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  44. I've ignored them over the course of the last couple of years and I just decided to take a look at what you guys were alluding to and it's seriously horrid. Then come to think of it, they've been on this downward spiral for some time. Orange Linen?! Who the fuck do they think we are?! I hope they are working on pulling someone higher up from J Crew or the like to clean this shitty mess....

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  45. I do like a lot of their sportcoats, but I am not willing to pay $300-400 for what feels like a $200 coat at best. I'll come back a few weeks later to see if it's on sale, but as a 40R, my size is typically gone.

    Everything else in there I find underwhelming.

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  46. BR's one saving grace is the socks - great looking argyles and they go on sale for cheap.

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  47. I think like a lot of things, BR is patronized by guys who don't really want to think about their clothes. Same with abercrombie , the gap, and even J.Crew to some extent. It's like when you need milk. They go to where they've always gone to get it. I think a lot of guys my age (27) simply dress the same way they did their first year of college. Which means that combo of metro-silvery shirts and abercrombie's version of prep.

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  48. Y'know, I was going to come in here and defend BR—I like the fairly simple aspect to a lot of their clothes. They're "well-dressed modern." They kind of remind me of Kenneth Cole.

    Then I realized two things:

    1. Comparing to KC is like comparing to the K-Mart of style.
    2. I go into BR almost every time I go to the mall, but I almost never buy anything.

    I do own a couple things from them: I'm a big fan of their boxers, actually. I also have this purple sweater-jacket-thing that is such a great color that it makes up for any missteps in cut/style (and it was on super-sale).

    But really... that's it. I'd probably own more if it weren't so damn expensive. I can't justify spending $80 on a dress shirt when I can go to Brooks Brothers and buy a better one for $66. Ditto on sweaters, chinos, etc.

    It's like I really WANT to like BR, but I just can't justify it for one reason or another.

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  49. I think the ultimate yardstick to measure how much you like a clothing store is how willing you'd be to pay full price for their clothes, assuming you could actually afford it. I can afford BR, but I honestly cannot remember the last thing I bought from there that was full price.

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  50. I totally agree. I recently got a 30% off coupon for BR and Gap and walked into a BR expecting to buy a ton of stuff, but couldn't find 1 decent thing to buy and ended up walking over to Martin and Osa (who are closing btw) and bought a couple of shirts and a chino. BR is so stale and bland. Totally not my style.

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  51. Color me shocked. A considerable chunk of my wardrobe comes from Banana Republic. I'm slightly ashamed of that, but I think their clothes are generally better than, say, J. Crew or INC or comparable brands. Maybe it's because I wear them to work (business casual office), but I really do not understand people expressing preferences for GAP and Old Navy clothes, which I find to be almost uniformly poorly made and unstylish.

    Weird.

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  52. I will say the stuff I own from BR looks more like the J. Crew links than the BR ones. They definitely have some terrible "metro" clothes, but there's decent stuff to be had if you dig a little. And I get it all on sale or with a coupon. Okay?

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  53. I have bought a couple of pairs of dress shoes from the monogram line and have been very happy with them. And recently I picked up a great chambray shirt with one of those 30% off coupons that come in the mail all the time. But for the most part, it's blah, blah, blah. My girlfriend however loves it and the coupons.

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  54. This place invented Metrosexual, and I hope they go down with it too. Queer Eye got cancelled years ago, didn't it???

    Next up Kenneth Cole.

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  55. I feel as though Gap/BR/Old Navy have given up all efforts to make good clothes. They're the fat girl who only wears sweatpants. All the brands are outdated, and one step into the stores will make one see so.

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  56. BR hasn't ever really impressed me. It's either too safe or trying too hard. It's like the lazy man's alternative to Men's Warehouse.

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  57. All these comments so far mentioning & comparing Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and J Crew... yet no person has mentioned Drexler, Robinson, or Oldham?

    I dunno anything about Simon Kneen, but I'd think he's definitely to be included in some way or another.

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  58. When my ex did a makeover of me after I had worked for Oakley for 2 years and owned a sad entire closet of Oakley apparel... she did it all in Banana Republic (with a few items from Old Navy).

    So yeah, I have to say that you are SPOT ON with your RB assessment.

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  59. Totally agree with the girlfriend dressing their man, and the never pay full price. Girlfriend bought me a sweater there, and it went downhill. Other than a crewneck that I wore to death, I have only liked one thing I bought there.

    Most things there I have bought on sale, and then barely wear, or they don't fit well. Any given time I go in there I maybe find one thing I like. Khakis are way too thick for summer time. There's a short sleeve blue and yellow casual shirt that is nice, that is all I see right now.

    I guess it's like a stepping stone from slob to better brands for price. Especially considering you can get almost identical boxers at old navy, and for the same price I can get a BB dress shirt, or buy some high end dress shirts at end of season

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  60. Banana Republic has some really good sunglasses for a reasonable price. Their holiday outfits are nice looking as well.

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  61. hahaha BR suuuuuucks. I work at one. Quitting soon. I feel like the beige sucks the life out of me every time I'm there. @ Eric- the sunglasses are terrible, they are cheap and plasticy, people return them all the time because they're garbage. I tell people not to buy them.

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  62. Banana republic is a country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt clique.[1] The original concept was a very direct reference to a "servile dictatorship" which abetted (or directly supported in return for kickbacks) the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture (especially banana cultivation).

    Hope that applies somehow

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  63. Pseudo-universe? In the universe I inhabit, most men ARE dressed by their women. That's why they look so damn ridiculous.

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