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GAP vs Banana Republic vs J.Crew: I Tested the Mall Brands

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William Barton
Expertise:

Style, Grooming, Fitness, Boots, Workwear

William has been covering men's style, grooming, and fitness topics for The Adult Man since 2018 as both a writer and photographer. Based in North Carolina, he's also the face of premier men's boots website BootSpy.com and the popular BootSpy YouTube channel. If William could only wear one outfit for the rest of his life, it'd be slim blue jeans, a green fitted oxford shirt, Chelsea boots, and a nice watch. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Apr 4, 2024
9 min read

West Coast Mammoth

GAP

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Upscale Essentials

Banana Republic

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East Coast Goliath

J.Crew

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GAP is my go to brand for inexpensive everyday jeans. They have the best variety of fits and washes for their denim and it lasts a long time. I also like GAP’s shirts, but the quality and sizing can be inconsistent, so if I’m getting something nicer than a t-shirt, I’d rather spend a bit more and get Banana Republic. I’d choose GAP over J.Crew for most items.

Visit GAP

I have clothes from Banana Republic that are 10 years old and still look great (and I’ve been wearing them once a week). If you have the budget, then I would choose Banana Republic over GAP and J.Crew every time, but their clothes can be quite pricey. For higher end pieces like chinos and jackets, stump up the extra cash for Banana Republic. For tees and jeans, save some money and shop with GAP.

Visit Banana Republic

J.Crew is solid, and their end of season sales are when you can score a fantastic deal on certain unusual pieces that are hard to find elsewhere. For basics like tees and jeans, GAP is stronger, and for crisp everyday outerwear and shirting, Banana Republic is the way to go. But every once in a while, you can snag a cashmere cable knit sweater for a song through J.Crew, so don’t let them off your radar.

Visit J.Crew

Pros:

  • Best jeans and greatest variety of fits from a mall brand
  • More basics options, fewer graphic tees and “fad” clothes
  • All of GAP’s brands (Banana Republic included) are connected online, i.e. same checkout
  • Clothes are very durable
  • Consistent fit across their entire line
  • Awesome outerwear options
  • You can buy online and return in store
  • Fabric selection tends to be nicer than GAP for similar price
  • They have the fattest sales

Cons:

  • Sizing isn’t always consistent
  • I’ve found their denim line to be overpriced and not even as good as GAP’s
  • A lot of their line is fad-related, and they chase the fast fashion trends more rather than focusing on timeless classics (though they do have many awesome basics)

I’ve tried dozens of brands over the years—everything from premium tees to jackets to shoes to sweats. 

And even after trying so many boutique brands, I always come back to the classics: J.Crew, GAP, and Banana Republic

I have pieces from these brands that are 10+ years old. I even have an emotional attachment to a few shirts from these big hitters, and I won’t let them go despite the fact that they’re in tatters now after wearing them weekly for 15 years. 

Over time, I’ve learned which categories each of these brands do their best work in. It’s hard to say one is better than the other. But these three brands have their specialties. 

So keep reading to find out whether GAP, Banana Republic, or J.Crew is your next shopping destination. 

Overview

GAP logo Banana Republic Logo j.crew logo white background
GAP Banana Republic J.Crew
Best Product Jeans Chinos and jackets Sweaters
Construction Decent, not always consistent Great Good
Comfort Good Good Good
Customer Experience Free 60-day returns (in-store available), $7 shipping Free 60-day returns (in-store available), Variable shipping $5 shipping, return in store or $7.50 online
Visit GAP Visit Banana Republic Visit J.Crew

GAP

model wearing GAP denim shirt
Rocking the GAP Denim Pocket Shirt

GAP was founded in 1969 San Francisco, and they were originally a denim and records retail outlet. You can practically smell the Jerry Garcia from here. 

The store became so popular that it just made sense to start making their own denim, and that’s exactly what they did. By the mid-70s, GAP was spreading across the country like wildfire. 

You’ve probably been wearing things from GAP your entire life. They’re a huge part of the American style culture, even if you never really thought about it. 

model in GAP long sleeve henley
The GAP Henley and GAP Jeans combo

The brand’s staple is still their denim, and they’ve kept true to simple, fit-focused basics with minimal branding. Except they do still have those hoodies with the big stupid GAP logo right on the front that everyone seemed to have in 7th grade—not sure what they were thinking there. 

So where does the brand fit now? 

GAP is a great place to get your seasonal staples. I’ve ever seen a piece from GAP that felt like a total showstopper. But their Oxfords, tees, and jeans all make the basis of solid everyday outfits, and they won’t cost you a small fortune.

What I Like

  • Of the three brands, GAP’s jeans are the best, plus the variety of washes and fits is excellent.
  • GAP still chases trends, but I usually find more timeless basics from them compared to the other brands.

What I Don’t Like

  • Between the three brands, GAP is the least consistent with their build quality.
GAP

GAP is an excellent brand for you if you’re looking to bolster your seasonal wardrobe and want to add a few basic pieces that work well with just about any outfit you put together.

Shop GAP Read Our Review

Banana Republic

Banana Republic linen line t shirt and overshirt
The Banana Republic Linen-Cotton Coat (now sold out)

Banana Republic is owned by GAP, and they’re geared toward the high end, both in their adventurous styling and in price. They’re the best choice if you’re looking to stand out with a fashion-forward wardrobe.

BR also has an interesting history, originally founded in San Francisco by two reporters in the late 70s. The owners would stock up on pieces they found while traveling abroad and the brand became known for their sense of adventure. 

If you wanted to look like you just summered abroad, well, Banana Republic was the ticket. 

I’ve bought maybe a dozen pieces from Banana Republic—most of which I still own and wear now. I don’t think their jeans are as good as GAP. But they have some fashionable tees (less like staples, more like standalone pieces to wear in summer), and their chinos are amazing. 

Banana Republic white linen tee
The Banana Republic Linen Henley and Traveler Chino

Be careful with Banana Republic: they can go too deep into trends. While their clothes are the best of the three brands from a construction and materials perspective, you can spend a lot of money on a patterned shirt that stops being fashionable a year or two down the road. I’ve done it myself. 

But if you stick with more timeless classics from Banana Republic, you’ll be rewarded with clothes that last many years.

What I Like

  • Banana Republic clothes are quite durable. I’ve owned several pieces for over 10 years.
  • Their fit is the best and most consistent of the three brands.
  • BR outerwear, while expensive, is fantastic.

What I Don’t Like

  • Their basics (like tees and jeans) are just more expensive, and not necessarily better. But toward their higher end, the quality difference is much more noticeable.
Banana Republic

Banana Republic has been around forever (that should tell you something right there). In general, guys who are looking to step up their wardrobe and try a variety of different clothes are pleased with Banana Republic.

Shop Banana Republic Read Our Review

J.Crew

model skipping rock in jcrew madras shirt and white dock shorts 1
J.Crew summer outfit

I browse J.Crew about four times a year, and that’s because they drop fat sales at the end of every season where you can get an incredible piece at a huge discount. 

For instance, I was writing this article and I found a cable-knit crew cashmere sweater for around $70. I’ve been wanting one of those for three years. They’re usually $200 or $300. I can’t tell you how it is, because it hasn’t arrived yet. But I’m stoked on it. 

To me, that’s where J.Crew really shines. 

model wearing j crew outfit crouching by river

If I need a new pair of jeans or a new white tee and I’m not looking for anything special, I turn to GAP. I like their fits better and they have a better variety of simple, unbranded staples. 

If I want some crisp button downs or more fashion forward pieces, I’ll turn to Banana Republic, suck it up, and spend the extra money. 

But by peeking in at J.Crew every once in a while, I’ve made some huge scores. Another big win was a heavyweight cotton moleskin overshirt that I picked up about 8 years ago. I’ve probably worn it over 500 times, and it feels better now than it did when I bought it.

What I Like

  • I love that you can buy online and return in store.
  • J.Crew’s fabric selection is usually a bit nicer than GAPs, despite their similar price.
  • J.Crewdiscounts so hard—and regularly, too, so you can find incredible deals every once in a while.

What I Don’t Like

  • They focus a lot on chasing trends and they have less everyday unbranded staples than GAP, so while their selection is huge, sometimes shopping with them is a little like having 1,000 TV channels but nothing to watch.
J.Crew

The classic. Maybe J.Crew was the first place you went for your nice clothes. There's a good reason to make them the next, too.

Shop J.Crew Read Our Review

Features Face to Face

Fabric

GAP jeans pocker detail
GAP Jeans and Henley

It’s difficult to compare specific features of the three brands against one another because they all have massive lines of clothes and carry everything from cotton basics, to technical fabric jackets, to activewear. 

So I’ll rely on my experience to give generalizations. I’ve owned about a dozen pieces from GAP, Banana Republic, and J.Crew alike. 

From a fabric perspective, I think J.Crew and Banana Republic are on an equal playing field. GAP lags behind a bit, mainly because their fabrics are a bit thinner. That doesn’t mean the design or construction is worse—just that the fabrics don’t feel quite as sturdy. 

Outfit 9 J.Crew 2
The J.Crew Madras Shirt

This obviously depends on which type of garment you’re getting, but if you were to compare, say, Oxford cloth button downs from the three brands, J.Crew and Banana Republic shirts will feel quite similar, and GAP’s would be lighter in weight. 

Durability

Banana Republic has the best build quality of the three brands. Some of the oldest pieces in my closet are from BR, and many of them still look almost like they’re new, despite being 10+ years old. 

close up banana republic linen chore coat
The Banana Republic Linen-Cotton Chore Coat

GAP doesn’t last that long—I only have one shirt from GAP that’s in the decade category and I should’ve thrown it out a long time ago because it’s covered in holes, but I love it and refuse to get rid of it. 

I do have one J.Crew piece that’s 8 years old—that cotton moleskin overshirt—and it’s better than ever. But I have plenty of other J.Crew pieces that haven’t held out that long, so that particular shirt is just outstanding. 

If I were to rank durability, it’d look like this:

  1. Banana Republic
  2. J.Crew
  3. GAP

Style

GAP grey crew neck sweater
The GAP Cotton Slub Sweater

GAP nails the unbranded basics. Their tees fit well and their denim is the best of the three brands. Plus I love that GAP has a massive variety of washes and fits for their jeans. 

Once you find the fit that works well for your body type, you can pick up a bunch of pairs and have them for years and years. 

Banana Republic is more of a trend-setting brand. That’s a double-edged sword. Some pieces are timeless—like a denim shirt, for instance. But other pieces like an asymmetrical zip merino sweater—those are going to be out of style this time next year. 

And because Banana Republic is so expensive, it hurts deep in the goiters when you spend $300 on a jacket that’s part of a dead trend. 

Banana Republic white linen striped tee
The Banana Republic Linen Henley and Traveler Chino

So while I think Banana Republic’s line offers the biggest unique style wins, they also deal out the biggest losses, too. 

J.Crew has some fantastic pieces, and they also carry a bunch of really ugly shirts that seem like something a freshman would wear when rushing a frat. 

Stick to J.Crew’s older styles—I mentioned their cashmere cable knit sweater—that’s a classic that’ll never go out of style. 

JCrew Ludlow suit on model
The J.Crew Ludlow Suit

Also, J.Crew carries the Ludlow suit (I reviewed it here), and that’s a surprisingly great suit with excellent fabric. 

So while J.Crew is always chasing trends, they have a solid lineup of timeless pieces that are actually pretty great. 

Which is Best for You?

Looking for a new pair of jeans or a simple t-shirt? Go with GAP. Their quality on these basics is solid and you’ll get a bargain on it. 

Best for Basics
GAP

GAP is an excellent brand for you if you’re looking to bolster your seasonal wardrobe and want to add a few basic pieces that work well with just about any outfit you put together.

Shop GAP Read Our Review

If you want to build a distinctive wardrobe that helps you stand out in a crowd, then you’ll have the best luck with Banana Republic. Just expect to spend a lot of money. 

Durable and Distinctive
Banana Republic

Banana Republic has been around forever (that should tell you something right there). In general, guys who are looking to step up their wardrobe and try a variety of different clothes are pleased with Banana Republic.

Shop Banana Republic Read Our Review

And it’s always worth checking J.Crew a few times a year because they run deep discounts where you can get fantastic pieces at a great price. Like my new cashmere cable knit sweater for under $100. If you’re patient and can wait on the pieces you really want, every once in a while J.Crew will surprise you.

Best for Sale Buys
J.Crew

The classic. Maybe J.Crew was the first place you went for your nice clothes. There's a good reason to make them the next, too.

Shop J.Crew Read Our Review

What’s great about all these brands is that they can be one-stop shops. So if you’re the kind of guy who loves to find their one brand and then just buy from them only, you can do that with either GAP, J.Crew, or Banana Republic. 

FAQs

Are J.Crew and Banana Republic the same company?

No, J.Crew and Banana Republic are different companies. Banana Republic is owned by GAP. J.Crew owns Madewell as their higher end brand.

What’s the difference between GAP, Old Navy, and Banana Republic?

While being owned by the same company, GAP, Old Navy, and Banana Republic are very different brands. Old Navy is the cheap discount brand. GAP is the middle of the road clothing staples brand. And Banana Republic is the high end, fashion forward brand.

Is Banana Republic a luxurious brand?

Yes, Banana Republic counts as a luxury brand, though they’re on the “low” end of the luxury spectrum. Still, their quality is quite good and their pieces have enough design sensibility to be considered luxury.