If you’ve become disillusioned with J. Crew, try these up-and-coming menswear brands on for size.
Khadeeja Safdar of the Wall Street Journal profiled the struggles of J. Crew, whose social media accounts were “littered with complaints from angry shoppers” who had come to expect quality fabrics and flattering fits.
While new CEO James Brett gives the brand a makeover, here are alternatives to J. Crew to consider for high-quality menswear wardrobe staples:
Iowa-born entrepreneur Todd Snyder advertises a combination of “Savile Row craftsmanship” and “New York aesthetic.” His line instills that same kind of closet envy that leafing through old J. Crew mail-order catalogs produced. It is a true one-stop-shop for everything from suits, button-down shirts and dress trousers to wallets, watches, neckties and underwear. No, it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for, and these “effortless everyday luxuries” are meant to last.
Richmond-based menswear startup Ledbury has earned consistent high-marks from this website for its slightly-modern, slightly-Southern takes on menswear classics. It too offers a one-stop shop for many menswear wardrobe staples, and does a particularly good job with blazers, sweaters and business casual shirting and pants.
Ok, Amazon is a behemoth, but it also maintains a startup mentality and continues to iterate on menswear. Amazon is specifically targeting J. Crew and Banana Republic customers with its Goodthreads and Buttoned Down house-brands. Check out their chinos and button downs, which have a similar look to those found at J. Crew.
Alex Mill has serious ties to J. Crew. Founded in 2012 by Alexander Drexler, the son of J. Crew’s former CEO Mickey Drexler, the company enlisted the services of former J. Crew and Madewell designer Somsack Sikhounmuong to relaunch the brand in February 2019. Back in 2012, Drexler launched the brand with a focus on men’s shirts, but the company’s 2019 relaunch brings a full line of elevated basics for men and women, including tees, sweatshirts and sweaters, outerwear, pants, shorts, shoes and accessories, as well as dresses, jumpsuits and skirts for women. In addition to selling direct to consumers, retailers including Mr. Porter, Unionmade, Stag Provisions and Nordstrom stock Alex Mill.
One of the nice things about Bonobos is their bricks-and-clicks presence. Their well-appointed Guideshops — like this Bonobos outpost in Washington, DC’s Shaw neighborhood — allow customers to touch, see up up close and try on the company’s suits, blazers, chinos, jeans and other menswear to get a feel for fabrics and fit. While Bonobos is best-known for their chinos, their dress pants and accessories also shine.
New York-based startup Proper Cloth specializes in a sliver of a man’s closet — button down shirts. Through regular lookbook and fantastic website layouts, founder Seph Skerritt and his team do an amazing job conveying the fit and feel of the company’s impressive array of casual, semi-formal and formal button down shirts, along with an expanding array of custom suits and off-the-rack knitwear, suits, outerwear, belts, neckties and other accessories. Proper Cloth shirts have been a favorite of Modern Fellows since 2013, and their v-neck cashmere sweaters also impress.
Like Bonobos, a benefit of Suit Supply is being able to actually walk into a physical store and try on the company’s wares — and, in Suit Supply’s case, you can walk out with a purchase in hand. The company’s elegant, minimalist stores, like this one alongside the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, are a pleasure to walk through as long as you can deflect occasionally over-eager staff who are quick to point customers to their luxury suiting line. Their suits either fit you or they don’t — unfortunately for this writer, my shoulders and torso can’t agree on a size — but if they do, you have a highly-rated, inexpensive go-to option. Their knitwear and accessories are also worth checking out.
Founded by Andy Forch and Rich Greiner in 2010, Huckberry boasts an incredibly well-curated selection of menswear, accessories, homewear and textiles alongside journaling on adventure and life. The company owns Flint and Tinder and features the brand prominently, but importantly introduces men to a thoughtful selection of less-well known brands including Topo Designs, Adam Mar, Relwen, About Vintage watches, and Naked and Famous denim. As Andy put it in an article explaining Huckberry’s origin, they founded the company because:
There were men’s stores, sure. Adventure magazines, too. Yet nothing out there spoke directly to us — 25-year-old guys who lived in the city but lived for the outdoors — and we envisioned a brand that was equal parts store, magazine, and inspiration to help guys suck the marrow out of life.
Finally: Don’t Dismiss J. Crew
Finally, it would be a mistake to dismiss J. Crew. The company is in the middle of a transition that hasn’t been fully-fleshed out. The company’s Wallace and Barnes workwear line gets high marks and the J. Crew Ludlow Suit remains a staple in many a man’s closet for good reason — it’s clean, simple and slimming. Modern fellows everywhere look forward to keeping an eye on good things to come from J. Crew.
Photo credits: Photos are copyrighted by Modern Fellows and were taken with permission at Bonobos and Suit Supply.
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