200 Years of Brooks Brothers Milestones and Iconic American Design
Since 1818, Brooks Brothers has upheld traditions and craftsmanship that have defined over 200 years of American style, dressing 39 presidents, along with industry leaders and cultural innovators.
1818: THE FIRST STORE
On April 7, 1818, at the age of 45, Henry Sands Brooks opens H. & D.H. Brooks & Co. on the northeast corner of Catherine and Cherry Streets in New York City. As “Makers and Merchants in One,” the firm assumes absolute control of its offerings, ensuring customers the highest level of quality.
1849: READY-MADE SUITS
“The first to embark on that which is now a leading commercial pursuit,” wrote the editors of Carroll’s 1859 New York City Directory about Brooks Brothers’ introduction of ready-made tailored clothing. Pioneers of the California Gold Rush, unable to wait on the whims of a tailor, flock to Brooks Brothers to pick up ready-made suits, an innovation Brooks Brothers introduced to aid the fortune seekers in their quest. Pictured here: A Brooks Brothers trademark of displaying suits on long tables. The suits were intentionally folded partially inside out to reveal the fine stitching and craftsmanship of the garment (a practice discontinued in the mid-1960s).
1851: THE LOGO THE NAME
The Golden Fleece symbol is adopted as the company’s trademark. The logo, a sheep suspended in a ribbon, had served as the emblem for Philip the Good, The Duke of Burgundy and his Order of the Golden Fleece in the 15th century. Later, wool merchants in Europe adopted the symbol as a way of advertising woollen wares to a largely illiterate public, and the four Brooks brothers, who wanted to associate their shop with the European sartorial tradition, did the same. Henry S. Brooks’ youngest sons, Daniel, John, Elisha and Ed¬ward, assume leadership of the company and change the firm’s name to Brooks Brothers.
1865: PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S COAT
Loyal customer Abraham Lincoln wears a Brooks Brothers greatcoat purchased from the Grand Street store on the occasion of his second Presidential inauguration. It has an intricately embroidered lining, bearing an eagle and the inscription “One Country, One Destiny.” Sadly, this was the same coat he was wearing when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., two weeks later.
1900: THE ORIGINAL POLO® BUTTON-DOWN SHIRT
At a polo match in England, John E. Brooks, grandson of the founder, noticed something peculiar about the players’ collars: they were fastened to the body of their shirts to prevent them from flapping in the wind. John brought his discovery back to Brooks Brothers, and thus the button-down-collar shirt, a Brooks Brothers classic and what some have called “the most imitated item in fashion history,” was born. This shirt also embodied a second fashion innovation of the time, an attached collar. Until this point, gentlemen typically purchased their shirts separately from their collars.
1902: DEMOCRATIZING THE STRIPED REP TIE
Brooks Brothers bucks tradition and reverses the stripe direction of the well-known regimental neckties of the United Kingdom (formerly left to right, or “from heart to sword”), separating form from meaning and opening up the pattern to everyman. The best-selling striped rep tie is born.
1915: 346 MADISON AVENUE FLAGSHIP OPENS
Following the completion of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, Brooks Brothers relocates to 346 Madison Avenue, its present-day flagship location. The surrounding area had become the preferred location for New York’s most prominent university and social clubs, whose members clamoured for a Brooks Brothers store in the neighbourhood. The company kindly obliged.
1949: A SHIRT FOR WOMEN — AT LAST
The pink shirt gained widespread popularity and was featured in a prominent fashion magazine in 1949 when Brooks Brothers introduced one specifically for women — a move motivated by the desire to keep women from depleting the stocks of the boys’ department.
1979: FIRST INTERNATIONAL STORE
The original Japanese flagship store opens in the Aoyama area of Tokyo. Today, Brooks Brothers has more than 80 stores in Japan and more than 1,000 points of sale outside of North America.
1998: A TRULY WRINKLE-RESISTANT SHIRT
Brooks Brothers introduces the first successful 100% cotton non-iron shirt, billed as the ultimate travel shirt. It was a worthy successor to the company’s 1953 version, the wash-and-wear Brooks Brothers weave shirt, which had the distinction of being the first piece of clothing ever to feature Dacron®. Brooks Brothers non-iron shirts continue to be among the company’s most popular items.
2014: A MORE MODERN SENSIBILITY DEBUTS
Brooks Brothers introduces a more youthful collection, initially conceived as a line of Ivy League–inspired sportswear. It evolves into the Red Fleece Collection, a modern lifestyle brand with a twist on classic preppy style, featuring slimmer fits and versatile workday-to-evening designs — all while reflecting the same attention to quality and detail that has defined Brooks Brothers for 200 years.
2016: INTRODUCING ZAC POSEN
Brooks Brothers debuts its first collection by world-renowned fashion designer Zac Posen, named Creative Director of Women’s Clothing and Accessories. Posen, well known for his techniques in artisanal craftsmanship, fuses our brand heritage with ultra-feminine constructions in exquisite fabrics and buoyant prints.
2018: OUR 200th ANNIVERSARY
Through constant innovation, adaptation and style disruption over the centuries, Brooks Brothers achieves a milestone not held by any other American retail brand: 200 years in business (and counting).