Last month, Michael Bastian, the fashion designer and newly hired creative director for Brooks Brothers, assembled an in-house “forensic team” to research, analyze, measure and deconstruct the entire archive of Brooks Brothers Oxford Cloth Button-Downs. The goal, according to Robb Report, was to “reassemble Bastian’s signature iteration” — not only the fit but the colors, too. “Getting that perfect pink was really a priority,” Bastian told the luxury-lifestyle magazine. “Brooks Brothers always made the best pink shirt — there’s just a drop of blue in it, and no yellow.”
All of which seems perfectly reasonable. Until, that is, Bastian started to tinker with the details of the highly coveted button-down shirt. First, he made it from heavier fabric. Then, he shortened the hem, which according to members of the MaleFashionAdvice and NavyBlazer subreddits is a goddamn abomination. “A couple of years ago I bought some BB regent-fit shirts and I already felt like those could’ve been a little longer,” noted one commenter in r/NavyBlazer, the self-proclaimed “country club of Reddit.”
But what really pissed them off was the new sizing system. The Oxford Cloth Button-Down has historically come in numerical sizes. The first number on the tag refers to the neck width, and the second refers to the length of the sleeve. Thus, if the label shows “16 34,” this means a neck width of 16 inches and a sleeve length of 34 inches.
Bastian, however, replaced this age-old sizing system with alpha sizing, or the fancy name for the “small,” “medium” and “large” designations. While alpha sizing is far more simplified than numerical sizing, it also entails a bunch of guesswork. Since there’s no standardized way to assess sizes in the alpha system, it’s typical for a “small” to sometimes feel like a “medium” or even a “large” depending on the brand or style.
Hence the outrage. “The sizing part is hilarious,” writes an r/NavyBlazer subscriber. “We care deeply about the details, fit is absolutely key to this design.” Another r/NavyBlazer denizen tells me in no uncertain terms: “This was a bad move by BB.” Meanwhile, a third adds, “My thoughts on this matter aren’t appropriate for civilized company.”
That said, some cooler heads have prevailed. “I already bought a few, and I really find it hard to believe that they’re actually cut shorter,” a r/MaleFashionAdvice commenter maintains. “They’re generously-sized regent fit shirts.” A second notes that the change is just part of a cycle in the Oxford Cloth Button-Down’s illustrious history. “They’ve changed the formula so much over the years it’s no wonder they fit different,” he argues.
Part of it, as always, is price, too. The Oxford Cloth Button-Down is 90 bucks, and for that kind of money, it’s not unrealistic to hope for a more precise fit, not just a “medium.” But again, all isn’t lost either. As another r/MaleFashionAdvice subscriber points out, at least the shirt pocket is back. Or as he rationalizes, “You win some, you lose some.”