Dear Banana Republic, This Is Getting A Little Ridiculous
Those who know me know that I am a big Banana Republic fan. It used to be looking through my closet would basically be the same thing as looking through a Banana Republic store. Over the years, though, this has slowly changed. As more time goes by, I — and I think many, many others as well — have become increasingly less interested in the brand. Their unique style and design tastes have become somewhat muddled, and while I remember pining over pieces from their collections in the past, in recent years, nothing tempts me quite the same way. Perhaps more disappointingly, though, is their reduction in both quality and fit (though the two do generally go very much hand in hand).
There has been a noticeable decline in quality at Banana Republic this last couple of years. Things like buttons, stitching, outerwear materials, and so on have become cheaper-feeling. While, yes, they have started new design partnerships with certain fabric mills and are using higher quality materials in some of their, say, sweaters, one can reasonably say that the overall quality of the brand has deteriorated substantially. But this isn’t even the main point of this article.
Rather, I would like to focus on something even more important: fit and consistency. It used to be that I knew my size in Banana Republic, and that, if I got my size, whatever I got, about 9 times out of 10, would fit perfectly. It literally got to the point where I could order blind. If they released a new button down shirt I liked, I would order it, and just put it straight into my closet/rotation without even trying it on. I knew it would fit. Outerwear and sweaters, too, fit nice and slim, and when I ordered my size, I could be sure that these garments would fit. Now, though, it is an utter crapshoot. Their site is riddled with negative reviews of their outerwear, just for instance, stating that the coats fit like garbage bags, way, way too big for the size advertised. They have updated their line of offered shirt fits, as well, and many people find that they don’t fit properly into any of them anymore. They used to offer three different fits — now they offer only two. One is too wide of a cut, the other, too tight. They need a perfect middle ground that they used to have, and now they have no longer. Is it to cut costs? To be more like J Crew (who is far from a model of how to successfully run a clothing company these days in its own right)? Who knows! But what I do know is that their clothing used to fit far slimmer and cleaner, and had a distinct Banana Republic shape and cut to it. That is all gone now, and their clothing fits much worse for it.
But perhaps most egregious is that the consistency of fit is utterly trash these days. You can buy three shirts from the same line, in the same fit, at the same time, and they will fit three totally different ways, sometimes off by full inches. Don’t believe me? This is exactly what I recently did, and painstakingly measured each one of them. Just take a look at the pictures and then the measurements chart, and tell me that something is not severely wrong with BR’s production lines.
Yes! That is right! Those three shirts were sold as the exact same fit and the exact same size. All three columns should essentially look exactly the same, but in reality, they are super different. It’s simply inexcusable! From a brand charging a solid amount of money for their shirts, the fact that the same exact cut of shirt, from the same exact line of shirts, fits so radically differently one from the other is simply not acceptable. In a world where custom made shirts cost only about $10-$20 more than what BR charges, why on earth would we continue to put up with this sort of crap from companies like BR? I, for one, know that I will be taking my business elsewhere. There is just no reason to put up with it! While deviations in fit of a couple of millimeters is acceptable (though ideally even that should be kept to an absolute minimum), deviations of full inches is comical and simply untenable from a clothing brand.
Considering that BR no longer offers that same sort of unique look and style that hey used to, and that their cuts and fits are worse than ever, and that even within those cuts and fits there is no consistency at all — and that ordering three shirts will give you three totally differently fitting products — there is really no real reason to stay with the brand. What is redeemable about it? I used to buy things there all the time. Now I hardly ever do. Nothing looks too great, nothing fits well, and just because I find one thing that fits doesn’t mean the same product, in the same size will fit me next time. If BR keeps it up, they’ll be headed the way of J Crew. And given all the other excellent options out there for men these days, this really looks like it could be a possibility in the coming years. It would make me quite sad — I truly hope BR can turn things around because I’d love to be able to buy from them again — but making me sad won’t stop a brand from going under.