October 19, 2011  ·  style

The Gap Brands value proposition

The three primary Gap clothing brands are priced in a pretty clear hierarchy, with Banana Republic at the top, Old Navy at the bottom, and The Gap somewhere in between. The quality of the goods at these mall stores doesn't correspond to the price tags, however. We should probably know better by now, but we keep being drawn in by the occasional promising-looking item on 40% markdown and we've learned a few things about what to buy and what to avoid.

Banana Republic — Occasionally we find outerwear at BR that is well-made and (when on sale) a remarkable value. Some of it's not so good, but you can tell which is which as soon as you see it. Also, we'd characterize their merino sweaters as consistently great. Most of their knitwear is total fail—seams that pull apart after a couple of washings, uneven shrinkage that produces asymmetrical garments, you name it. We've never had good luck with their pants or woven shirts either.

The Gap — This brand can't seem to do anything right. Our thin, out-of-shape Gap t-shirts have all been quickly relegated to sleeping or car wash duty. The last time we bought pants there, the legs were two different lengths. Seriously, they weren't even close. On the other hand, their "1969" denim is OK in its darker washes.

Old Navy — We don't go there for anything other than basics—high style isn't exactly their forté—but for reasons unknown the budget end of the Gap empire has produced a lot of tough, durable stuff over the last couple of years. Strengths are their lightweight outerwear, straight-leg denim, and nice-fitting layering tees that never seem to stretch out or fade. We also like their cheap cotton sweaters for weekend wear.

Also See