top of page

Eulogy for the Brooks Brothers OCBD

If you are interested in traditional American menswear, you are most likely aware of the common criticism that is directed toward the Brooks Brothers OCBD. The most common are:

There is no front pocket on many of the shirts

The fabric is thinner than it used to be

There is no locker loop

There is no back collar button

It is a few inches too short

These are all completely valid criticisms, in my opinion. I agree with every one of those critiques, and it is why I order many of my OCBDs from, mostly custom made, shirt-makers who make a shirt with a front pocket, thicker material, locker loop, back collar button and the right length. As for these shirts, for me, many of these issues are not make or break. Do I want a shirt to have a locker loop and back collar button? Yes of course, but is it really the most important thing? No. Even when we come to the front pocket, I think, sure it is nice, but is it an abomination without it? No. The front pocket actually wasn't added until the mid 1960s, I believe. Below is a picture of Fred Astaire, from the 1950s, in what I understand to be a Brooks Brothers OCBD, with no pocket

So, for me, these are of course critiques I share, but I don't really get too outraged by them. Sure they would be nice, but to my mind, they are cherry-on-top features, not core features. For me, the core feature of a great OCBD is the unlined collar, cuffs and placket. If you are making an unlined collar of a full proper size on your OCBD, then you have already won much of the battle. It should also be noted, it was only the majority of the dress shirt OCBDs that had no pocket. The sports shirt OCBDs, have a pocket.

All of that being said, the reason I am praising the OCBD from Brooks Brothers isn't because they simply make a shirt with an unlined collar, cuffs and placket that isn't quite perfect. I am praising them because they made this shirt in an incredibly wide variety of patterns, that you really can't find too many other places, if at all.

Pink ground stripe, purple ground stripe, dark green ground stripe, brown and dark green plaid, blue and green plaid, tangerine, violet university stripe, dark solid green, pale medium green, the four shirts in the title photo. These are all OCBDs with an unlined collar that I have bought from Brooks Brothers featuring patterns that can't really be found anywhere else right now. To find these in an OCBD with an unlined collar is rare. There are fantastic shirt-makers that feature rare and unique colors for OCBDs. Mercer and Sons has a red university stripe that is truly red, not crimson. It is a red I haven't seen anywhere else. They also have a black university stripe and a grey university stripe. These are rare. Michael Spencer has a mint university stripe which is really rare. Ratio Clothing has a really unique pale red, almost like a dull deep-pale pink. Brooks Brothers isn't the only company to have rare colors and patterns available for an OCBD, but they sure seemed to have more than anyone else, and when there were sales, they were more affordable than anyone else.

When I want the perfect shirt with all the bells and whistles, I order from one of the custom shirt-makers mentioned above. Michael Spencer makes a truly amazing shirt with a beautiful collar roll, and he is a great guy. If you email the company, he himself emails you back to answer any questions you have. But, when it comes to the sheer variety of different rare patterns offered in an unlined OCBD, Brooks Brothers truly was on a different level.

It seems these unlined collar, made in the USA, OCBDs from Brooks Brothers are no longer being made. I have heard that they are no longer making any more in the USA and I wonder if these are gone for good from Brooks Brothers. The ones in existence currently, are the last batch. They seemed to be unloading all of the merchandise this past spring with 50% on shirts that were already on sale for 50% off, bringing shirts with a $140 price-tag, down to $35. I don't think I was alone in realizing what was going on, that this may be the last of these shirts. I bought, and continue to buy many of these, perhaps too many (ha!), even when it's not great for my pocketbook. But, maybe, and I don't think it is a stretch to imagine, these rare patterns may not be made in an unlined OCBD for a long time, if ever at all.

When in the foreseeable future will I be able to find a purple ground stripe OCBD with an unlined collar? I don't imagine anytime soon, and certainly not for a semi-reasonable price. How long will this shirt, which I only wear 1 season, in the spring, last? With proper care, I don't think 10 or 20 years is an unreasonable expectation. I have OCBDs that I have owned a decade, worn heavily, treated very badly that still look great. Buying these hard-to-find, rare OCBDs from Brooks Brothers, at what may be the end, seems, to me, a good idea. I wouldn't be surprised if in 2035, I am wearing the same pink ground stripe OCBD I am right now, thinking to myself about how glad I am that I bought this shirt when it was still possible to do so, even if I was strapped for cash at the time.

Thank you, Brooks Brothers.

bottom of page