Brooks Brothers is the oldest clothing retailer in the country. The brand boasts nearly two centuries of experience designing classic, American menswear.
In 1818, Henry Sands Brooks opened H. & D.H. Brooks & Co. in New York City. The store billed itself as “Makers and Merchants in One” and offered high quality clothing for men. In a rush to seek their fortunes, pioneers of the California Gold Rush didn’t have time to wait for their clothing to be tailored. To attract these shoppers, the store introduced ready-to-wear suits in 1849. The pioneers flocked to the store.
After his father passed, son Henry, Jr. assumed control of the store. He remained in charge until 1850, when his younger brothers Daniel, John, Elisha, and Edward took the helm and changed the store’s name to Brooks Brothers.
The same year, the company adopted the golden fleece logo, which featured a sheep suspended by a ribbon. The logo was an homage to European sartorial traditions.
In 1864, Abraham Lincoln was elected for his second term. For the inauguration, he wore a Brooks Brothers great coat with an embroidered lining featuring an eagle and the inscription, “One Country, One Destiny.”
More than dressing presidents, the company kept its eye on innovation. While at a polo match in England, John E. Brooks saw the player’s collars were buttoned down to prevent flapping in the wind. Brooks returned to America and created the button-down shirt in 1896. It has been called “the most imitated item in fashion history.”
The company continued to pioneer new ideas and introduced Harris Tweed to America in 1900, along with madras fabric in 1902, Shetland sweaters in 1904 and seersucker suits in 1935.
Despite the Brooks Brothers’ success, Winthrop Holley Brooks sold the company to Julius Garfinckel and Company in 1946. John C. Wood was hired as President, and the company passed out of the Brooks family’s hands. By 1971, there were 11 Brooks Brothers stores located throughout the country. Eight years later, the company opened the first international location in Tokyo.
As the brand’s reach spread, so too did its cultural influence. The Official Preppy Handbook spent 38 weeks on top of The New York Times Best Seller list. The book called Brooks Brothers “the Oldest Preppy Store Still Alive,” and the store’s trousers and shirts were referred to as staples of the preppy uniform.
Beyond the prep set, the company has dressed 40 out of 45 presidents. When Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he wore a Brooks Brothers’ topcoat and scarf.
Today, Brooks Brothers operates nearly 300 stores throughout the world. The company continues to thrive on innovation. The brand has partnered with designers Thom Browne and Zac Posen to create new, fashion-forward takes on its signature American style.