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Catalogs of the Old Republic
August 8, 2014 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Abandoned Republic: Before its current incarnation as the Gap's dressier cousin, Banana Republic sold military surplus and safari-style clothing.

Founded by the husband-and-wife team of journalist Mel and illustrator Patricia Ziegler, the company was known for its catalogs featuring beautiful, detailed illustrations and clever, sometimes hilarious copy ("The source of these ludicrous swim trunks is a mystery."). The Abandoned Republic blog features catalog scans, stories from former staff, and photos of some of BR's vintage offerings.

The Zieglers later moved on to create another wildly successful republic - The Republic of Tea - and tried their hand at online retail with considerably-less-successful ZoZa.com.
posted by Metroid Baby (75 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I used to love how the empty clothes held the shapes of living bodies. These catalogs captivated me as a kid.
posted by latkes at 9:10 AM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Abercrombie & Fitch was once an outfitter's as well.


I remember visiting Boston or somewhere in the early '80s and seeing a Banana Republic for the first time. It was sort of like a Tommy Bahama with a slightly more "great white hunter" vibe. At the time, I was much more interested in The Sharper Image.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:10 AM on August 8, 2014


I miss the original store. Great, unusual, and relatively inexpensive stuff. My usual analysis:

Old Navy = cheap Gap
Gap = crap
Banana Republic = expensive Gap

Note the consistent stream of Gap across all three.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:11 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I wish there was still a store (and very probably there is?) that sold utilitarian and sturdy military / outdoorsy styles cheaply. It's a style I tend towards, but it's often hard to find without it being expensive.
posted by codacorolla at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Just so we're clear, y'all know Gap Inc owns Gap, Old Navy and BR, right?
posted by The Whelk at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh my God, it was like an early J. Peterman catalog.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I remember this - Out of Africa was a huge influence on fashion, and the "safari look" was really in.

I liked it because cargo jackets and pants = lots of big, roomy pockets.

Also, for some reason, America discovered Australia in the early to mid eighties and was smitten. Men At Work and Crocodile Dundee (1986), anyone?

It's funny how pop culture influences fashion - I rediscovered this in this FPP I did about K-drama/K-wave.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:19 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


In the 80s, Banana Republic at South Coast Plaza was like Disneyland, there was a real rusted-out jeep in the middle of the store, jungle accoutrements and even a little 'river' in the floor with water in it, you had to walk over a 'bridge' to go in the store. It gradually got more and more boring over time.
posted by anazgnos at 9:19 AM on August 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


When I was a kid, my dad was super into banana republic and I loved spending time in their stores. They had all kinda of cool explorer gear from the 30s and I was a kid who LOVED indiana jones. And their gift boxes looked like jeeps and biplanes! It was the coolest to me. I swear my dad still wears his old BR stuff. He doesn't even acknowledge the new store's existance.
posted by sleeping bear at 9:20 AM on August 8, 2014


Also: the Banana Republic stores themselves were HEAVILY themed, like Disneyland shops: I recall monkeys, bananas, cargo containers, safari colors and netting.

What a time.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:21 AM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


(upon preview, I see anazgnos recalls too.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:21 AM on August 8, 2014


I think all the large BR stores were like that. I remember the Jeep too. We used to try and recreate Duran Duran videos in the store when we were bored.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:21 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Abercrombie & Fitch was the super-weird one for me. I went a couple of decades between setting foot in a store, so I knew them as a teen when they were kind of old school Northeastern outdoorsy/outfitter, and the next time I noticed their existence it was for putting out racist t-shirts for the trendy teen market.
posted by tavella at 9:21 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I remember this because my grandfather took me to one of them and as a kid into military stuff and Indiana Jones I was probably more excited about this than I was about going to Disney World. I still have some of the unit patches and stuff I got on that trip.

You can imagine my surprise when I staggered into one some years later, pumped to revisit the wonderland of my childhood, and found yuppie clothes instead of old jeeps and olive drab jackets.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:23 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


We used to try and recreate Duran Duran videos in the store when we were bored.

As employees, or as shoppers?

I mean, that's awesome either way, I'm just curious.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 AM on August 8, 2014


It's strange to reflect on how the name persists, meaninglessly, because it's become a brand, not a phrase; as if now "Banana Republic" meant "nice-ish sweatshop-made office wear" and not "Third World imperial client state" — because that's what capital, arbitrarily, decided it should mean. Is there a word for that strange de-contenting of brand names, the way they turn into empty signifiers over time, presumably deliberately, as a matter of brand management?
posted by RogerB at 9:24 AM on August 8, 2014 [16 favorites]


Just so we're clear, y'all know Gap Inc owns Gap, Old Navy and BR, right?

They do now. They didn't back in the day. And I miss the outfitter's aspect of BR too.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:26 AM on August 8, 2014


Now it's more like Banna Republicans, AMIRITE?
posted by shothotbot at 9:26 AM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I guess the closest we can come today to the general "feel" of the old BR catalogs and stores is Trader Joes?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:27 AM on August 8, 2014


As employees, or as shoppers?

Shoppers, of course! Employees were not allowed to rise chin-first out of the fake river in slow motion.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:27 AM on August 8, 2014 [14 favorites]


codacorolla: I wish there was still a store (and very probably there is?) that sold utilitarian and sturdy military / outdoorsy styles cheaply. It's a style I tend towards, but it's often hard to find without it being expensive.

You mean, like a military surplus store? They're a fine source of sturdy, outdoors and military garb and gear, plus a source of all the weird military things you never knew you wanted, like that munitions box that could double as a CD carrier (sleeping bear, didn't you use one in college? Or am I thinking of someone else?)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:29 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess the closest we can come today to the general "feel" of the old BR catalogs and stores is Trader Joes?

I dunno, Trader Joe's seems more pretentious, even though it isn't compared to Whole Foods pretends not to be.
posted by Melismata at 9:29 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually, The Gap used to be good. I still have a kelly green golf shirt from I think 1992 that fits as well as it did when I got it; nice, heavy fabric, too.

And remember the groooovy 70s/80s radio ads? "Fall in to the Gap" that went from alto to basso profundo in five words!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:30 AM on August 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


As someone who bought a dress from Banana Republic to wear to a wedding just a couple days ago, I'm curious - when did the transition happen from what it was THEN to what it is NOW?
posted by Windigo at 9:35 AM on August 8, 2014


I just found out from my wife last year that BR is not the safari store anymore. I don't shop for clothes a lot.

Also until like 2 years ago I thought DSW was a craft store or something and that Kohl's was, I dunno, a yankee hardware store? I have been corrected.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:39 AM on August 8, 2014


....because this pretty much blows my mind. Imagining a jeep in a BR? Whaaaa? I had to stop and think...are they talking about THE Banana Republic?
posted by Windigo at 9:40 AM on August 8, 2014


I loved the original Banana Republic, it was an army surplus store made from other countries armies. A great place to find weird stuff.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:41 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the BR transition happened in the 1990s, late 1990s maybe... When they realized that people wanted the gap for work.
posted by k8t at 9:42 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thought this was a Star Wars thread. A little disappointed
posted by JARED!!! at 9:49 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


>an army surplus store made from other countries armies

Does something like it still exist? Probably has perennial appeal. apparel.
posted by stbalbach at 10:02 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


> And remember the groooovy 70s/80s radio ads? "Fall in to the Gap" that went from alto to basso profundo in five words!

Yes, and they had TV ads too! Here's a 1981 example.
posted by languagehat at 10:05 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's so easy to mock (modern) Banana Republic, but like, some of us are totally ok with a Gap For Work. I'm not trying to make a fashion statement when I'm in my conservative office environment, I just want to get through my day with as little fuss and staring as possible. It's... fine. They have work shirts that fit. I prize BR most for its lack of making waves. Banana Republic is the absence. Banana Republic is the void.
posted by naju at 10:07 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


The transition from the Banana Republic of the past to now isn't the loss of the meaning of Banana Republic but rather the broadening of what counts as a Banana Republic to the point where it now includes much of the United States.
posted by srboisvert at 10:11 AM on August 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


Hmmm yeah does the store's change coincide with the first Gulf War and the increased dependence on foreign oil, you may be onto something there.
posted by naju at 10:14 AM on August 8, 2014


To this day, I still have a couple of Mill Valley Banana Republic sweaters, two bomber jackets, and an outgrown Poet's Sweater that I would pay dearly to replace in my modern size. That and the waxed cotton Portmanteau Jacket would be two of the first things I'd fetch once having acquired a time machine.
posted by delfin at 10:18 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the BR transition happened in the 1990s, late 1990s maybe... When they realized that people wanted the gap for work.

No, there was BR in more or less its contemporary form in 1992, and it wasn't new then. I remember because I spent part of my Christmas money on a very nice, simple black crepe skirt.

What I've noticed is that BR has become more mid-market in its aesthetics - the stuff I got there (on clearance) when I was in college was pretty nice, quiet colors, good materials. Now it seems like it's all weird stretch modal junk at incredibly high prices. (I actually got the most glorious giant silk shawl there back in about 2000 on the clearance rack - on one side it's ombre and shades from aqua to pale gold; on the other it's a turquoise and the two sides are held together with little embroidered stars. I got it for $19.99, marked down from almost $100.)
posted by Frowner at 10:19 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Army/Navy stores used to be everywhere, every town had one (or more). Now I don't even know where one is. WWII and Vietnam generated a lot of surplus but it's obvious that it's all gone (and the stores as well). I definitely would shop at one if it was within a reasonable distance.
posted by tommasz at 10:20 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I definitely would shop at one if it was within a reasonable distance.

The closest one is on Main Street in Canandaigua.
posted by valkane at 10:23 AM on August 8, 2014


In the 80s, Banana Republic at South Coast Plaza was like Disneyland, there was a real rusted-out jeep in the middle of the store, jungle accoutrements and even a little 'river' in the floor with water in it, you had to walk over a 'bridge' to go in the store. It gradually got more and more boring over time.

I totally remember the disappointment of that jeep being gone. I loved that store as a kid, but I don't think I ever convinced my parents to buy me any safari gear.
posted by Huck500 at 10:37 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a punk rock kid in the early 80s, military surplus was definitely a part of my wardrobe. I remember poking around a Banana Republic a few times checking out Bundeswehr tank tops and such -- initially, they sold actual military surplus from a wide variety of non-US countries, but then switched over to military/safari inspired clothing, and then to just khakis and casual clothing with a faint adventure air, laying the groundwork for what they are now. I do wonder at what point they pulled the jeeps and fake palm trees out of their stores, though.
On a related note, I remember my dad getting Abercrombie and Fitch catalogs in the 70s when they sold things like tropical linen suits and panama hats, and pretty much seemed like outfitters for a character from a Tennessee Williams play.
posted by zombiedance at 10:45 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Actually, The Gap used to be good. I still have a kelly green golf shirt from I think 1992 that fits as well as it did when I got it; nice, heavy fabric, too.

I remember this being something of note in 1992 when TIME Magazine did its one big "Whither Generation X" article (before then going on to ignore us like all the rest of the media); they pointed out that a lot of Gen-X would shop at places like The Gap because it wasn't showy or ostentatious, it was good quality, and it wasn't outrageously expensive. ....Wasn't that about the same time that Sharon Stone showed up at the Oscars in a Gap t-shirt-and-skirt combo as well?

I also had totally forgotten about a bunch of my high school friends having the Israeli Paratrooper Bag until just now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:50 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I only recently divested myself of my leather bomber jacket I got at the BR at the mall (after saving for ages). It was just the right Indiana Jones meets Snoopy fighting the Red Baron. It's so hard to reconcile the memory of buying it under the giant netting and canoes and pictures of crocodiles with the Mad Men 60's pop fashions there today.
posted by Mchelly at 10:57 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe the stores changed because the US government finally ran out of surplus $50 jeeps packed in cosmoline. /s
posted by exogenous at 11:01 AM on August 8, 2014


Their Israeli Paratrooper briefcase served me well through college and beyond. Like zombiedance, their military surplus of the world vibe fit in well with my punk aesthetic. The sense of betrayal when they got bought out and watered down was strong.
posted by calamari kid at 11:04 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thought this was a Star Wars thread. A little disappointed.

If it makes you feel any better, Star Wars started its decline in 1983 too.
posted by condour75 at 11:09 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


I bought a French Watchman's Cape from them before I headed off to college in Massachusetts. Thick, woolen, sturdy, grey ... I still have it, I still love it, I still wear it, even though I've been unable to remove a little bit paint I splotched on it 20 year years ago. That cape has protected me from nasty hotel linens, warmed me at auctions in unheated barns, and created a little cone of warmth even when the snow and ice piled up around me.

It wasn't the format change of the brand that bothered me so much as the precipitous dip in quality and sometimes imagination. It went from being a unique brand to something ordinary and in lockstep with the world, adventurous to conformist, long-lasting to season-lasting (and sometimes not that long).
posted by julen at 11:10 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I loved oldskool BR catalogs. Some of it seems almost unbearably pretentious to me now (the distinction between a "traveler" and a "tourist", for example; the upshot was that "travelers" were somehow more authentic and less obnoxious, but really what it boils down to is that travelers can afford not to do package tours), but it was great stuff for someone stuck in a second-tier midwestern state university, and they got Hunter S. Thompson, no shit, to write copy for them (scroll down to the "portmanteau jacket").
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:35 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


For various reasons I wasn't near a BR for like 15, maybe 20 years. I remember thinking I must have misremembered the store because it seemed so incredibly different and not necessarily in a good way.

This clears that up.
posted by sio42 at 11:39 AM on August 8, 2014


My wife and I used to get their catalogs back in the early 80s. I still kick myself for not getting this German army wool topcoat. Oh, it looked so fierce.
posted by Ber at 12:03 PM on August 8, 2014


Thank you for posting this. I loooooooved Banana Republic in high school and even collected the catalogs. I want to say that I was devastated when they were bought out by The Gap, but that was in 1983 and I know I was not aware of them then. I think they must have turned into Upscale Gap in 1990 or so.

I think I fell in love with J. Peterman in the '90s because the catalogs reminded me of the old Banana Republic catalogs. I admire the fact that they haven't transitioned to photography over the years.
posted by rednikki at 12:04 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


On a related note, what I really remember from the early/mid-nineties was all the post-Cold War gear flooding the military surplus and caters-to-college-kids-with-vintage-and-secondhand type stores. Tons and tons of heavy wool coats from Eastern Europe, tons of combat boots, all these military bags. Because I was young and had never even been in a military surplus shop before, I thought that was just the way of the world, and was devastated, some years on, to realize that the endless heaps of wool coats were gone and the high-quality military backpacks now cost $49.99 instead of twenty bucks.
posted by Frowner at 12:23 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


they pointed out that a lot of Gen-X would shop at places like The Gap because it wasn't showy or ostentatious, it was good quality, and it wasn't outrageously expensive

So, Uniqlo is the new Gap?

I really like Uniqlo.
posted by schmod at 12:33 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


The old Banana Republic had t-shirts. The t-shirts had pictures on them. I remember this because in 1991, when I was 9 and my cousin from Wisconsin was 12, she came to visit us in Florida for a few weeks during the summer, and when we went to the mall, we had to go in the Banana Republic store because she wanted a Banana Republic t-shirt because that was what was cool in her group of friends. I got one too. I wore it tucked into rolled up jean shorts, with the sleeves cuffed. Somewhere there exists a picture of my cousin and me in our matching Banana Republic t-shirts. She was also really into Guns N'Roses and made fun of my C+C Music Factory Tape. And that is what I think about as I scroll through this thread.
posted by millipede at 12:44 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


My brother started ordering the catalog in the early 80s under the influence of The Official Preppy Handbook, which he (ever defining his own weird vision) treated as a literal fashion guide rather than satire. I carried my actual-surplus Israeli Paratroopers Briefcase for many years, because I couldn't afford an actual leather satchel like Ford Prefect (yes, enormous nerd). All this felt much more special in a rural Minnesotan town of 6,000.
posted by nanojath at 12:49 PM on August 8, 2014


Army/Navy stores used to be everywhere, every town had one (or more). Now I don't even know where one is. WWII and Vietnam generated a lot of surplus but it's obvious that it's all gone (and the stores as well). I definitely would shop at one if it was within a reasonable distance.

Man I used (late 1960s - 1970s) to get all kinds of stuff at army surplus. Lots of old electronics and comm gear, but clothes and bags and outdoors stuff, too. One item we used to laugh about was a box of little flat tin cans, labeled in perfect 20th century military bureaucracy-speak:
Impregnator, shoe, 12, black
The tins were grey and didn't have a picture of an endemic New Zealand bird, but were otherwise very familiar.

Is there a modern way to shop for modern military surplus, you may ask?

Arrr, me mateys! Arrr, me buckoes! Arrrrrrrrmy surplus:

Army Surplus World
Army Navy Sales
Uncle Sam's Army Navy Outfitters
Army Surplus Store
posted by Herodios at 12:56 PM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


And remember the groooovy 70s/80s radio ads? "Fall in to the Gap" that went from alto to basso profundo in five words!

Yes, and they had TV ads too! Here's a 1981 example.



Oh, God- I've been having some seriously weird early-'80s nostalgia lately. Thanks for the timely reminder that they actually really sucked.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:20 PM on August 8, 2014


Fall 1986. The Inca Trail. Couldn't go to Macchu PIcchu, but I could have the Bombay Shirt, for $20. And the French Army Bush Hat. Still have the hat; wish I had the shirt--so soft.
posted by xtian at 1:31 PM on August 8, 2014


Um.

....Okay, who makes clothing that's like this today? I'm....asking for a friend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on August 8, 2014


I also had totally forgotten about a bunch of my high school friends having the Israeli Paratrooper Bag until just now.

That was a BR item? I got both of mine (one olive, one black) from a military surplus store. I'll be damned.
posted by palomar at 1:44 PM on August 8, 2014


For outdoor clothing Cabelas is reasonably priced (and has some new militarily sorta stuff)

The Sportsman's Guide also has general outdoor clothing, and also a real surplus catalog.

I don't know of any catalog which caries these classy products. Come on, 65$ woven panama hat? Egyptian cotton jacket? Where goes fashion there goes the knock off market. Its like the "Israeli Paratrooper Bag". I don't think they were made exclusively for BR. Its just that BR sold the heck out of them!

1981's Indiana Jones came at the right time, eh? The 70s was all preppi or Levis or punk. Khakis gave the aspiring 80s yuppie an alternative--Indiana Jones is a preppi and a punk (and a drunk)!

I <3 the 80s!
posted by xtian at 2:14 PM on August 8, 2014


It broke my heart when BR became $$$GAP$$$. I had bought stuff from the catalog for years because it fit my style perfectly. Sad to say the only thing I have left is the Authentic Australian Cattleman's Raincoat. It weighs a ton because it is coated in wax but it outlasted my Burberry Raincoat (which I bought about the same time) by decades. It is truly an heirloom garment.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:50 PM on August 8, 2014


I think I fell in love with J. Peterman in the '90s because the catalogs reminded me of the old Banana Republic catalogs. I admire the fact that they haven't transitioned to photography over the years.

Wait.

Wait wait wait wait.

J. Peterman is REAL? It's not just a recurring Seinfeld joke?

...I learned something today.
posted by delfin at 3:24 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I also had totally forgotten about a bunch of my high school friends having the Israeli Paratrooper Bag until just now.

The rusted, somewhat sketchy looking army/navy surplus in seattle, directly across from the starbucks corporate HQ still sells these.

They're still that price too, i think.
posted by emptythought at 4:58 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


delfin, it would probably blow your mind further to know that not only is there a real John Peterman, who was portrayed by actor John O'Hurley in the show, but when he sold the company to Paul Harris who quickly ran it into the ground he bought it back with O'Hurley as a co-investor.

I guess I'll tell my Bill Murray anecdote here because I find it pretty uninteresting myself otherwise, but I was in the BR at Broadway and .. 79th? ... back in probably the summer of '89, and it was still very much like the catalog at that time although Gap already owned it. They were moving into malls, though, at a fast clip at some point around there, diluting the unique cachet that had accompanied the catalog era. I was one of the people who aspirationally subscribed to the catalog and just enjoyed the product descriptions and the little narrative fantasies they would spin to accompany them. I'm a latter-day Indiana Jones! I'm an jet-setting troubleshooter! I'm a photojournalist without portfolio!

Anyway, I was shopping away and Murray walked in out of the summer sun, maybe just to be in air conditioning, and was immediately set upon by the assistant manager or whomever, in an attempt at becoming a sort of personal shopper. Murray did not seem to know the store, the products, the general purpose for the combination, or have much interest in buying, and sort of wandered about in a daze getting a spiel on everything he touched. One of the few things he actually picked up, that I saw, was the ladies' flight suit and got a supercilious explanation of why it wasn't for his gender. As I was attempting to live like a real New Yorker™ (and also because this was pre-Internet in most ways that mattered and I had no idea how socially essential it would later be to carry around an interesting Bill Murray anecdote), I was far too cool to approach him. The punchline has nothing to do with Murray, though: I took my two bags of merchandise to my friends' place in the 90s and waited while they cleaned house. In a very sit-commy mixup, however, the bags of merch I had just paid something like $150 to buy were accidentally shoved next to the bags of trash they were cleaning out of closets, and the whole kit and kaboodle -- out of my sight -- ended up carted down the hall to the incinerator. Which none of us realized until around 11 that evening.
posted by dhartung at 5:02 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


and they got Hunter S. Thompson, no shit, to write copy for them (scroll down to the "portmanteau jacket").

That's... actually a really cool jacket too. It looks like a barbour, but less "I'm having a midlife crisis and desperately want to look like daniel craig combined with some cafe racer poser"

Too bad my options consist of ebay and ebay if i want one now. Anyone know of similar jackets somewhere for not-$500?
posted by emptythought at 5:07 PM on August 8, 2014


I had a really ugly green jumpsuit from BR that I loved when I was in college. I wore it with those Converse that folded down to show another color canvas. I looked like a baby dyke gas station attendant.
posted by Biblio at 5:47 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


For outdoor clothing Cabelas is reasonably priced (and has some new militarily sorta stuff)

The Sportsman's Guide also has general outdoor clothing, and also a real surplus catalog.


But neither of them are that romanticized "oh hai somedays I'm pretending to be Isak Dinesen and some days I'm pretending to be Nellie Bly" look.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I ALWAYS thought BR was pretentious yuppie bullshit, but this was the real deal.
posted by evilDoug at 8:28 PM on August 8, 2014


Oh BR, I loved it back in the day. I still have a collection of the catalogs stashed somewhere. They were like the "Escape" radio show in paper form. I loved those vests, and the Indiana Jones style hats (my fedora got run over by my mom's car), and those pants that convert to shorts (my thighs were too thick to wear them), and the leather jackets (my butt was too big and made them ride up), and, and...I had exactly the wrong figure for BR clothing, but that did not diminish my love for it.
posted by happyroach at 10:03 PM on August 8, 2014


They had this band collar shirt (today, I would never wear a band collar, but it seemed so cool back then) with, I think, cork buttons. Or something with the look of cork. I loved that shirt dearly. It seemed to be cool in the summer, but maybe that was my powerful imagination at work. And of course I had to have the paratrooper bag.
posted by lackutrol at 11:54 PM on August 8, 2014


Speaking of mil surp stores... this is from an anonymous google review (yeah, probably a racist calcinated old dude, who is writing about a Canadian store): "I was then given the definition of "Surplus" and told that all of their surplus items are REAL military gear (implying same exact quality / standards / military grade etc) but are just "extra leftovers". Yeah right, the military releases soldier ready, good equipment that us tax payers have funded for years with millions / billions of dollars in research to be sold to civilians at discounted prices in musky little shops ~ BS!">

How truthful is this sentiment re: surplus and "surplus stores?" Certainly, things have dried up since Vietnam, but is there a real differentiation between surplus and "surplus?" And certainly, "Surplus" stores will try to sell expensive garbage to naive customers.

Sure, "Surplus" stores have far higher ratios of crap:good-stuff than they used to, but is there a legal definition for "surplus?"
posted by porpoise at 12:58 AM on August 9, 2014


I was thinking about BR all evening. One of the items that I bought and wore like hell until it got trashed was a riding skirt: buttoned up it was a mid-calf skirt, unbuttoned it was culottes. It was especially great for biking. Oh man, did I love that skirt. In Olive Drab, naturally.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:21 AM on August 9, 2014


I remember the original stores! The store fronts themselves were amazing--like Indiana Jones movie sets.
I never saw the jeep one though. They even had jeep gift boxes.

Here's another article I found.
posted by eye of newt at 11:54 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I remember walking into a Banana Republic store--maybe in the early 90s? The salespeople were dressed like British Explorers from the 1800s, complete with pith helmets. "Don't you feel little silly in that getup?" I asked. The poor sap admitted that he did indeed.
posted by LarryC at 4:20 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


IJWTS that I still have a paratrooper briefcase. I don't use it anymore, but I've kept it mostly because I like it.

BR is clearly a giant inspiration for J. Peterman - and I'm very glad Peterman is back in biz. I've bought a few things from them over the years, and they've been of uniformly high quality.
posted by uberchet at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2014


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