J. Crew has filed for bankruptcy. While that doesn’t mean the store is going away for good, it inspired us to have a full discussion on the Brand! We trace its history from it’s early catalogue/RL wanna-be days to its status as the mainstream’s voice for #menswear, Americana, and heritage.
Even though we don’t always buy from it (especially as our tastes have changed), it still holds a place in our hearts. Perhaps this is a sign for how mainstream menswear/mall brands will fare in the future..
Hey guys! Before we start, I just want to announce that we are officially going to be opening up the podcast (not the blog proper) for sponsors and patrons! We explain it in the episode, but this is mainly to cover the cost of producing the podcast (in which we’ve enlisted a few friends who graciously donate their time) as well to improve it for the future.
Becoming a Patreon Patron will not only give you a bonus episode every month, but it also unlocks our upcoming discord channel where you can talk menswear instantly with other enthusiasts (and us). Think of it like our FB group but a bit more dynamic! The Patreon will launch in June.
If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor of the pod, send us an email at StyleandDirection@Gmail.com
- 0:20 Intro
- 1:05 Updates on Sponsorships and Ads
- 6:45 J. Crew
- 10:20 “(J. Crew) was like Polo Ralph Lauren except on the more accessible side; middle class versus upper class.”
- 10:35 “When the catalogs were coming out that was lifestyle branding, people canoeing or at beautiful cape cod beaches.”
- 11:45 “(J. Crew) was instrumental to the revival of classic menswear. They led the preppy revolution of the late 2010’s.”
- 14:35 “J. Crew tapped into what was happening in the men’s fashion world…they were the height of (that scene).”
- 18:00 South Coast Plaza
- 21:55 “Seeing (the pieces) in person was such a big deal to me…it was like the first independent menswear store: it was curated, people who worked there dressed with personal style, they had a sense of experimentation.”
- 22:45 “It seemed like everyone that worked there was really passionate about dressing well, it wasn’t just a job. It felt more like The Armory/Drake’s; you could go in there, talk to them about something and you could tell that they know about it. They know the product and have an opinion on it.”
- 25:00 “(J. Crew) always had more of a distinct voice, which a lot of mall brands don’t have anymore.”
- 29:10 “Another really cool thing that I liked about J. Crew was that people learned about Aldens or Barbour for the first time coming into our store.”
- 30:10 New direction
- 33:20 “There was still a lot of stuff that, even if I didn’t personally like – it’s still cool that we have patchwork madras shirts, even if the collar’s bad.”
- 35:15 Pricepoint
- 35:45 “You’re starting to get more and more custom, more access to artisanal brands that may be more expensive but are at a better value.”
- 37:00 “Even to regular people, they aren’t ready to pay that price. The world just isn’t ready to dress up the way we do, it’s hard to justify.”
- 39:50 Future of retail in menswear
- 40:20 “Banana republic, H&M – they didn’t have a look, but J. Crew has always had a look; it was always tapped into this americana, everyman prep aesthetic.”
- 41:20 “Right now, guy’s either want to just dress like the MFA basic bastard – they can go to H&M or UNIQLO and do that pretty well, or they want to get into a more niche style. They want streetwear, techwear, classic menswear, and you’re not going to be shopping at mall brands to get that.”
- 45:05 “(J. Crew) is a place you could go to get dressed for everything and you’d be fine.”
- 47:10 “There’s different styles out there that have an identity. Yes you’ll go to the boutique but it’ll remind you of J. Crew.”
- 48:35 “You have the business side where you want to make a profit, and then you have the other side of the consumer where you want taste – you want something, and it’s this constant battle between the two, which makes this whole next stage in the menswear industry interesting to watch.”
- 49:40 “There’s no longer any sort of big generational style of dress…hippies dressed a certain way which really denoted a lifestyle and ideology and immediately told people ‘this is what I’m about,’ and I’m not sure there’s any popular style of dress that can do that anymore.”
- 52:05 “(J. Crew) was a way for me to see the wider world of menswear diluted into a mall brand look.”
- 55:35 WAYWT
- 57:15 “It was nice to see that the mall had a gleam of hope, something accessible but still looks good.”
- 59:00 “Where else but Urban Outfitters are you going to find self-help books with the f-word in the title?”
James Brett was the CEO of West Elm and brought Johanna Uurasjarvi as chief design officer who worked at Anthropology and West Elm who replaced Somsack Sikhounmuong (Somsack soon became the designer for Alex Mill). A year later J.Crew hired Jan Singer during the beginning of this year as the new CEO after the departure of James Brett do to disagreements from the board.
- Die, Workwear: Menswear’s Last Big Moment
- Put This On: Do We Need J. Crew Anymore?
- Put This On: J. Crew is Still a Solid Value
- r/MaleFashionAdvice on J. Crew here & here (more recent)
- Derek Guy’s Washington Post editorial
- A recent repost of a 2011 J. Crew lookbook on MFA
Submit your Questions and Stories!
The next episode is going to be a big AMA and will coincide with the launch of our Patreon! So stay tuned.
Podcast is produced by MJ and Matthew.
StyleandDirection | EthanMWong | SpencerDSO
Great episode. I lived in OC my entire life until summer 2018 when I moved to Texas, so I am very familiar with South Coast Plaza and worked next door to the main J. Crew store from 1992-97. So I saw J. Crew during it’s 90s college-prep heyday, its bland doldrums of the late 90s-early 00s, and then its Drexler-Lyons-Snyder-Muytjens era rise. It seems they are in a period echoing those late 90s bland clothing with the odd outstanding exception.
I think the contribution of Todd Snyder to the J. Crew menswear revival gets downplayed. He was key to opening the Liquor Store, hiring Partner & Spade to help with branding and design, and he reopened the Liquor Store under his own label after J. Crew closed it. He also initiated bringing in outside brands like Red Wing that continued to great success in the Muytjens era. Not sure if he designed the initial Ludlow suit, but his own line had very similar cut suits when he first launched.
I found the Muytjens era (and Lyons era for the womens) to get more “fashiony” as the years progressed. The menswear was definitely a gateway drug to classic menswear, but it wasn’t classic itself. For a long time, the Ludlow was the only suit cut they offered, with its skinny lapels, low gorge and low-rise pants. There was a time, I think around 2015-16, when the offered a “wide-lapel” version which had normal size lapels, but I haven’t seen that cut offered recently. The lookbook pictures from 2013 and 2017 both look #menswear IMO.
While I hope J. Crew will be able to survive, I do hope they find a balance between the exciting clothes of the early Lyons-Muytjens era and the classic American prep from the 90s.