Three years ago, Jonathan wrote into r/MaleFashionAdvice (MFA) asking for help. “Has anyone come from a place where they were seriously hoarding clothing but managed to cut it down to a reasonable size?” he inquired. “I realize I’m probably an extreme case, but I’m curious what other people’s experiences are here.”
Jonathan soon became a legend to the 3.5 million members of the subreddit — he was the guy with hundreds of Brooks Brothers shirts. While he’s no longer that guy, he did spend nearly a decade amassing the largest collection of BBwear the guys of MFA had certainly ever seen. This is his story.
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I purchased my first Brooks Brothers shirt sometime in August or September of 2010. It was a solid white, non-iron dress shirt with a spread collar — basically, your standard white button-down. At the time, I was a 23-year-old with aspirations of attending law school, and at night, I’d browse online forums for prospective law students. That’s where I first read about Brooks Brothers. My thinking was, “If I want to be a lawyer, I ought to start dressing like one.”
But finding work was a struggle. I had limited professional experience, and I’d only been out of undergrad for just over a year. After several months of searching, I finally landed a low-paying cubicle job at a law office. I actually wore my very first Brooks Brothers shirt to the interview.
Over the next couple years, I purchased a handful more Brooks Brothers shirts, relying on seasonal sales to buy my new office attire. On average, I spent about $50 per shirt. It was also around this time that I really became fascinated with the Brooks Brothers style: preppy, sharp and not over-the-top like Ralph Lauren. I still had aspirations of attending law school, so I held onto the idea that I should dress for the job I wanted, rather than the job I had. I guess on some level, I thought that if I looked put together, my life would just sort of fall into place. But that’s not how life works.
By 2014, I started purchasing a lot more from Brooks Brothers. I would still shop their sales even though I was earning a little more money at this point and was better able to afford it. But I didn’t just shop their seasonal sales anymore. There were sales seemingly every day, and I could get a significant discount if I bought in bulk. I’d also scour eBay, which is where I could buy shirts for as low as $25.
It wasn’t long before the closet in my small one-bedroom apartment filled up with button-downs. In 2016, I actually moved to a larger apartment to better accommodate all the clothes I kept buying. I even had to install a sturdier closet rod because the weight of the clothing pulled the other one out of the wall.
You’d think at this point that I’d be introspective and consider what it might mean to install a stronger closet rod to accommodate all of my shirts. But that’s not what happened. Instead, I just kept buying, and buying, and buying. I suppose on some level, I was filling a psychological hole.
By 2019, I owned 450 shirts, 50 to 60 pairs of pants and 40 pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes. I’d spent around $30,000 over a nine-year period. My favorite shirts, which I had in every color, were the non-iron oxfords with the Golden Fleece logo. I even bought duplicates of some of them because they were so far back in the closet that I forgot I already owned them. I also wasn’t in law school.
There were moments of semi-clarity when I’d realize that all my shopping wasn’t in my best interest. These began to occur in 2017 when I was briefly seeing a woman who, upon looking inside my closet, told me, “You have a problem. These aren’t appreciating assets. You don’t need most of them.”
That was the first crack, so to speak. Up until that point, I didn’t think I had an issue. Although I brushed off her comment, I did become a little self-conscious afterwards. Whenever I had a date over, I kept my closet door closed.
In late 2019, after a different woman made a comment about the number of shirts in my closet, it finally dawned on me: I had a problem. This was around the same time I also decided that I wouldn’t be going to law school after all.
At my new job at a Fortune 200 company, the dress code was casual. I could wear jeans every day, so I didn’t need all those clothes I bought. One night, I pulled all my clothes out of my closet, grouped them by color and pattern and tried to justify parting with items that I didn’t wear as much (or at all, as was often the case). Some of my shirts still had tags on them. Anything that didn’t make the cut went on eBay. That was progress. But even then, I still had a couple hundred more shirts I needed to sell.
Then 2020 happened. With COVID, I was working from home in sweatpants every day. I definitely didn’t need hundreds of button-down shirts. It didn’t make me happy anymore either. By that point, my closet was a burden more than anything else. So I got rid of the rest of my shirts on eBay. I’ve recovered $20,000.
Today, I probably have six or seven Brooks Brothers shirts left. Ironically, I never wear them — they’re just sitting in a box of stuff I’m trying to get rid of. My entire wardrobe consists of six pairs of Sid Mashburn selvedge denim jeans and maybe 25 Eton shirts. That’s it. And honestly, that feels like too much at times.
When I look back on it, I think I saw the Brooks Brothers brand as a symbol of success. I desperately wanted to look like someone I was never meant to be. Once I realized that, letting go became a lot easier.