âI feel like I’ve auditioned my entire career for it,â says Michael Bastian of his new role as Creative Director for Brooks Brothers, the 203-year-old mainstay of American preppy style. Indeed, with his eponymous Gray Label, Bastian would often riff on a sleeker, sexier, and more adventurous take on the Brooks Brothers world – the type of clothing, he says, he wanted to find at Brooks Brothers but didn’t. couldn’t. It should come as no surprise, then, that his first order of business was to rework the most iconic and beloved piece of the mothership: the button-down shirt in oxford fabric.
At just under $ 90, you can spend more on socks from some brands, but the appeal of the brand’s OCBD, as the style is known in men’s clothing circles, is the authenticity, since Brooks Brothers invented the category. That’s a lot of history to be learned and a tremendous dose of nostalgia. “Everyone has their idea of ââwhat the perfect one was,” Bastian says. “But the truth is, they’ve tweaked the design a lot over the years – there’s never been just one version.” The earliest versions, dating from the 1930s, were “cut so long they were almost nightgowns,” and the shirt only took on the basic form we know today before the 1970s.
The designer assembled an internal “forensic team” – including a member known as The Keeper of the Shirts – to research, analyze, measure and deconstruct the entire archive, then reassemble Bastian’s signature iteration. . But it wasn’t just a matter of adjustment. âGetting that perfect rose was really a priority,â says Bastian. âBrooks Brothers has always made the best pink shirt – there’s only a drop of blue in it, and no yellow. Other chromatic highlights include a button-down poplin shirt in a bold red Bengal stripe.
Bastian’s version is a relaxed revolution of precise details: thicker fabric, a shorter, looser fit with wider sleeves and a sleeker turtleneck despite the unchanged shape. (The secret, Bastian says, is actually the placement of the collar buttons: âIf you don’t get exactly what you need, you won’t get that perfect curve, like a violin.â) The breast pocket is back, the six pleats the gathered cuffs remain and the various fits and sizes of dress shirts are gone – only one construction is now available in S, M, L, etc. the shirt, says Bastian, is coming soon.