Brooks Brothers has long been associated with men’s suits and ties, the protocol interview suit and work dress code on Wall Street. The store was founded on April 7, 1818 as H & P.H. Brooks on Cherry Street in Manhattan, NY. Cherry Street is the Lower East Side and home to George Washington, Governor Clinton Dewitt and Samuel Legget. Lord and Taylor was also located nearby. Eventually, Brooks Brothers moved to Fifth and Broadway and Madison Avenue, Henry Sands Brooks was the patriarchal founder and his four sons worked with him to develop the company. 200 years later, the company has declared bankruptcy with plans to close 51 of its 250 US stores and shutter many stores abroad. The closures are mostly due to COVID-19 and a declining need for more traditional work clothing. The company logo is a Golden Fleece, in Greek mythology, the symbol, a ram. The Order of the Golden Fleece, under the Duke of Burgundy, supplied wool from Britain and Belgium. The branding logo was emblazoned on merchandise from t-shirts to sweaters. The men’s staples are woolen suits, silk kerchiefs, peacoats, causal pants and trousers made from madras and seersucker, polo shirts and striped ties. In historical context, in the year 1818, the White House reopened after the fire of 1814 due to British warfare. The Savannah Steamship was built, The First Savings Bank was established and in Scotland, Charles Macintosh invented the first waterproof raincoat in this era. Ready made suits were coming into vogue for the upper classes who needed attire for work and recreation. Abraham Lincoln wore a Brooks Brothers suit to his inauguration and he was wearing a Brooks B. suit when he was assassinated at the theater. The American flag and insignia were sewed into Lincoln’s jacket. Since Lincoln, 41 American presidents have worn Brooks Brothers. Some other notable customers are; Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, JFK and Clark Gable. A Brooks Brother’s red, white and blue tie is worn by Jennifer Aniston on a 2009 GQ cover. The cover says; USA, USA and Aniston wears the patriotic colored tie, (Triple Guard Striped Tie) in a seductive manner, she has nothing on except the tie, promoting an American male fantasy. The gentleman look is in the tailoring, logo and advertising, a sign of the times of prosperity and Protestant work ethic. In 1858, Macy’s had a fancy dry good story. 1860 brought The Pony Express across the country from The Great Pacific to The High Sierra out West. The following year, was the battle of Fort Sumpter and the end of the Civil War, the NY subway came along almost ten years later. The polo coat was a hit in 1896 and The Repp Tie (1902),a silk stripped colorful tie with vibrant colors, following, the on trend polo coat. A Brooks Brothers factory was operating in Brooklyn, bringing the clothes to New York’s Upper East Side. The women’s line was added in 1926 and home decor is a staple too. Brooks Brother is a precursor with: Paul Stuart and L.L. Bean and the influence of the 1980’s Preppy Handbook. Menswear designer, Ralph Lauren, was in the picture, but he had not gained the fashion recognition. Lauren first designed ties for Brooks Brothers and companies such as; J Crew and Banana Republic are similarly styled lines which have followed the clothing brand’s footprints.
In 2009, Brooks Brothers opened its first Canadian stores in Vancouver and Toronto as well as one in Mexico. The Black Fleece Line came to fruition and joined their Red Fleece design book. The Red Fleece Collection is professional, traditional and stylish design, consisting of Red Fleece men’s cologne in a red bottle with a striped ribbon. There are commercials in which men and women, dressed in the current collection, speak of their careers and a recent ad; colors of the world with models tossing balloon like globes up in the air. Designer, Zac Posen, collaborated with Brooks Brothers to add a high fashion look. The Chairman and CEO, Italian billionaire Claudio Del Vecchio, son of the Luxottica Eyewear Company founder, took control. Brooks Brothers assets and liabilities are valued at 500 million to 1 billion dollars. WHP Global and Swiss Garments are companies which have funded the company. Now, Simon Partners and Brookfield Properties are going to auction, in attempt to save the traditional Brooks Brothers clothiers. The stores have expanded globally; in Australia, Asia, Spain, France, the UK. So, if one wants a tie, grey suit, gold shell earrings, a pair of cufflinks or children’s clothing with your mini me look, you will still be able to go to the navy lettered store and keep up with America’s old world tradition with a modern twist.