EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, this already sorta-kinda-ran at the very bottom of the recent Banana Republic Friends and Family post. But let’s be honest, not everyone scrolls that far down, AND, nobody is gonna find it if they google “BR Standard Review.” So here it is. Also note that these things are half off through today, 3/15… but up until very recently BR had excluded them from all codes and promos.
In January, Banana Republic shut the doors on their men’s Lululemon competitor brand, Hill City, which I reviewed in the Fall of 2019. The product was fine, but not overly noteworthy enough to survive, let alone truly compete with Lululemon, Rhone, Tracksmith, and countless other high end athletic wear brands (yet the GAP inc brand Athleta is super successful on the women’s side). The body wasn’t even cold before they introduced Hill City’s replacement: BR Standard. Is this just Hill City version 2, or is it a true expression of the Banana Republic brand?
“The new spirit of luxury for today’s explorer.”
When Joe asked if I was interested in taking a few items for a spin, my initial assumption was BR had a ton of leftover Hill City inventory and simply decided to rebrand it. It was a logical thought, given how quickly BR Standard launched after the Hill City shutdown. But, is this reality?
Yes and no. Some pieces seem to look and wear (possibly) identical to their deceased Hill City counterparts, while others are related yet unique. Let’s get after it. And as a sizing note, I (Jason) am 5’7″/175.
The most egregious Hill City clone of the bunch, this REALLY seems like a 1:1 identical shirt to the Train Tee formerly offered by Hill City. And while the Hill City t-shirt was $38, they’ve priced the BR Standard option at an eye-watering $50. A comfortable shirt, for sure, with great moisture wicking properties, an athletic cut, and ample stretch and natural movement – but not twice as nice as the MK-1 shirts from Under Armour. Still, if you’re looking for a logo-less, fitted but not shrink-wrapped workout shirt, this fits the bill. If it IS identical to the Hill City version, it should retain shape wash after wash, keep you dry, and wear with all-day comfort. But, so does the MK-1. And therein lies the issue with the value, here. One big advantage if you have an eye toward sustainability: the shirt uses an 80% polyester, 6% spandex, 14% modal fabric blend, with 72% of the polyester coming from recycled plastic bottles. Size shown is a large.
Keep moving, technologically! And boy, do these move. Perhaps the stretchiest item in the group. If your body can handle it, you can do a full split in these. I can’t, but not at fault of the shorts. 100% polyester fabric, like just about everything else in the catalog. These are breezy but not weak, water repellant, and have a zippered pocket in the rear, a zippered pocket at the hip for phone/keys/etc. and 2 open hip pockets for additional storage. The zippered hip pocket is clever – it’s offset from the hip bone, so the zipper itself doesn’t create any discomfort or hotspots the way some zippered hand pockets do on pants or shorts. Smart.
There is no liner, so know that before you buy. The waistband is another smart feature – the drawstrings are tightly contained within the elastic, so as to prevent disappearance into the abyss. We’ve all been there. Only one knock against this item, which keeps it from being best in show – clown pant crotch. The cut in the groin is a bit odd, and causes billowing in this area. It’s not a deal breaker, but depending on your physique it could look a bit off. It’s a small complaint, but details matter for a $59 (FIFTY NINE!) pair of gym shorts. They really, really gotta open this new BR Standard line up for codes and promos. Size shown is a large.
This jacket is the most obvious window into BR’s intentions for the BR Standard brand. More fitness-origin brands are designing and producing non-athletic gear season after season to milk the athleisure cash cow, and instead of being a true fitness brand (which the train tee and tech short could be part of), BR Standard also offers non-sporting gear in athletic fabrics. The Lululemon effect.
The jacket itself is exactly fine. Nothing noteworthy, while nothing overly offensive either. The 100% polyester fabric, as with the entire launch collection, is stretchy and swishy. I wouldn’t recommend wearing this with the joggers if you’re trying to sneak up on someone. The fit is true, with a nice athletic cut and room in the shoulders and chest. But, I do wish BR had opted for raglan sleeves, or at least drop the seam a few inches. There’s a crisp shoulder line where the sleeve meets the torso, with a bit of a loft to it. This may soften over time, but out of the package it’s kinda sharp. Your mileage may vary, and you may even love this look! Otherwise, the rest of the jacket works well. Elastic cuffs produce that sporting vibe and keep wind out, while an elastic cinch around the waist can do the same. While the shoulder is a minor quibble, there is one major mark against the jacket for this reviewer. The flap pocket on the upper left chest seem as if it was tacked on after the design phase, as if the production team said, “WE NEED MORE POCKETS!” It feels random and out of place, and the whole jacket would look substantially better without it. It’s an unnecessary detail, and at this price range and in this segment, details make or break a brand’s success. Size shown is a medium.
This one is just silly. Yes, this is a blazer built in technical 100% polyester fabric to promote motion, but it’s weirdly cut and it’s just not working. I would not recommend any of you dear readers spend your hard-earned money on this. The cut is straight through the torso with nearly no taper. And that motion? It comes with the classic swish-swish of old school tech fabrics. That’s fine for the joggers, shorts and maybe even the tech jacket, but not for something that’s supposed to look and act like a sportcoat. If other brands can manage to build basic athleisure pieces for the gym and lounging with no swish-swish, a blazer should follow (wait for it) suit. The hidden zip pocket in the sleeve is bizarre. Product photos show this as a stash spot for wireless earbuds, but what’s wrong with regular pockets? I’m not sure who, in the real world, needs a blazer like this. Except, maybe this guy. Size shown is a medium.
The final dose of technological motion. The best, was saved for last. I didn’t want to close on a sour note with the (to me) dreadful blazer, so we close with the surprisingly above average tech jogger. Again, 100% polyester with noticeable swish-swish, but the stretch is bountiful and beautiful; comfortable for deep squats, lunges, or box jumps. A real go-hard pant for the gym, while properly fulfilling in the athleisure aesthetic, too. Especially when paired with the tech jacket. Lots of zippered pockets to keep your phone, earbuds, wallet, or other necessities for your workout or on-the-go secure, and zippers at the ankles too for added ventilation. Sill pricey at $89, but that seems to be the going rate for a hybrid athletic/athleisure pant. Given the dual functionality of the pants, these are the best bang-for-buck of the batch and my top pick.
Final Thoughts: The BR Standard products are average, but overpriced when excluded from hefty codes or promos. Not a winning combination. BR needs to spend more attention to details to fine tune the product in order for it to be a real competitive threat to the brands mentioned at the top of the post. Details separate the decent from the damn good. And as a late entrant to the category, at these prices, would be wise to phase in quarterly promos. It’s difficult to gain ground on a stalwart like Lululemon, and offering somewhat comparable items at a lower entry price from time to time is a reasonable route to maintaining viability for the brand. Hill City rarely ran discounts, and look what happened. It got a second chance as BR Standard. I don’t think another resurrection is in the cards, so BR needs to make the most of this afterlife.
About the Author: Jason P. spends his days working in the creative marketing department of a big telecom company. He also does a bit of real estate investing on the side. He believes in curating a timeless, classic wardrobe with subtle modern touches for today. He and his wife love hiking with their dog and shopping at local small businesses and antique stores when they travel. Jason is a practitioner of muay thai and traditional boxing, and his favorite drink is a hoppy New England IPA