A company with a history of value
of Brooks Brothers
On April 7, H. & D.H. Brooks & Co. opened for business.
In 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, his childhood home. As “Makers and Merchants in One,” the firm assumes absolute control over its offerings, ensuring customers the highest level of quality.
- White House officially reopens
after being burned in 1814 by British in War of 1812
- Congress decides US flag should have 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars
- First Savings Bank in United States opens: The Bank of Savings in NYC
- 320 ton Savannah becomes first steamship to cross an ocean (Atlantic)
- Charles Macintosh develops first waterproof raincoat in Scotland
- JW Goodrich introduces rubber galoshes
- First steam locomotive is introduced in the United States
- Erie Canal opens, linking Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes
- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both die on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence
- William Austin Burt patents first typewriter then called a typographer
Henry Sands Brooks calls on his sons
Henry Sands Brooks calls on his sons—all of whom had become retailers themselves—to assist with his burgeoning business. His eldest son, Henry, Jr. takes the helm upon his father’s passing later that year. He remains in charge until 1850, when younger brothers Daniel, John, Elisha, and Edward, assume leadership and change the firm’s name to Brooks Brothers.
- Oberlin College in Ohio becomes first coeducational institution
- NY Yacht Club is formed
- Edgar Allan Poe publishes "The Raven" in NYC
- Florida admitted as 27th state
- First baseball game is played in Hoboken, NJ, with NY Baseball Club
beating Knickerbockers 23-1.
- Elias Howe receives a patent for the sewing machine
- James Polk is first US President to be photographed in office
- California Gold Rush begins when gold is found in Coloma, CA by James W. Marshall
- Alexander Stewart opens first US department store at Broadway and Chambers Street in NYC
Brooks' introduction of ready-made clothing
"The first to embark on that which is now a leading commercial pursuit," wrote the editors of Carroll's 1859 New York City Directory of Brooks' introduction of Ready-Made 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 clothing, an innovation of Brooks introduced to aid the fortune seekers in their quest.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" is published
- San Francisco and Los Angeles are both incorporated as cities
- California becomes the 31st state in the Union
"The Golden Fleece symbol is adopted as the company’s
trademark. The logo, a sheep suspended in a ribbon, had
served as a symbol of fine wool since Philip the Good chose
the emblem for his Order of the Golden Fleece. Later, wool
merchants in Europe adopted the symbol as a way of
advertising woolen wares to a largely illiterate public, and the
Brookses, who wanted to associate their shop with the
European sartorial tradition, did the same."
The younger brothers Daniel, John, Elisha, and Edward,
assume leadership and change the firm's name to
The New York Timesbegins publication. The paper is two cents per copy
- R.H. Macy opens a "fancy dry goods" store in NYC
- Pony Express starts mail service across Great Plains, Rocky Mountains and
the High Sierra to California
- Lincoln elected 16th President of the United States
- Confederate forces fire shots on Union forces at Fort Sumter, South Carolina
in the first battle of the Civil War
- Abraham Lincoln announces Emancipation Proclamation
- Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address
- New York City experiences rioting as a result of Civil War draft
Rioters sack the store.
As New York City inhabitants are drafted into the
Union Army, a riot breaks out beginning in Manhattan’s
19th ward. As Brooks Brothers is well known as providers
of Union uniforms, rioters gather at the Catherine and Cherry
Street location and sack the store.
The night after this attack, as the riots continued, Brooks
was admirably guarded by a twelve-year-old boy named
Francis G. Lloyd.
Forty years later, Lloyd would become the first outside of the
family to lead the firm.
Illustration from Leslie's Illustrated newspaper, August 1, 1863
On the occasion of his second inauguration, Brooks
Brothers gives loyal customer Abraham Lincoln a great
coat with 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 two weeks later.
- General Lee surrenders to Union at Appomattox Court House in VA
- President Abraham Lincoln shot in Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth
A token of appreciation
With the end of the Civil War came the opportunity to
restore Brooks Brothers' commitment to sourcing English and
Scottish saxonies, flannels, and worsteds.
The youngest Brooks brother, Edward Sands Brooks, is
selected for the task and given this medallion by his brothers
as a token of their appreciation.
- First subway line in New York opens
- First part of Atlantic City boardwalk opens
- Broadway lit by electricity and given the name Great White Way
- Clara Barton establishes the American Red Cross in Washington, DC
- New York's Brooklyn Bridge opens after 13 years of construction
- James Ritty and John Burch of Dayton, Ohio invent the cash register
- George Eastman registers the name Kodak for trademark
- Washington Monument dedicated in Washington, DC
- Karl Benz patents the first automobile fueled by gasoline
- The Statue of Liberty dedicated in New York Harbor
- First issue of Wall Street Journal is published
- Grover Cleveland signs Enabling Act admitting North Dakota, South
Dakota, Montana and Washington as states
- Stanford University opens in California
- Coca-Cola sold in bottles for the first time
- George Herman "Babe" Ruth is born in Baltimore, Maryland
Brooks' introduction of the button-down polo shirt
At a polo match in England, John E. Brooks, grandson
of the founder, noticed something peculiar about the
players’ collars: they were buttoned down so as to prevent
their flapping in the wind. John brought his discovery
back to Brooks Brothers, and thus was born the
Button-Down shirt, a Brooks classic and what some
have called "the most imitated item in fashion history"
- First modern Olympic Games open in Athens, Greece
- First movie theater in United States opens, charging 10 cents for admission
- Plessy vs. Ferguson decision upholds “separate but equal” concept leading to widepsread segregation in the American South
- Charles Dahl publishes Dow Jones Industrial Average
- Bram Stoker's Dracula is published
Brooks Brothers receives this laconic note from Lieutenant Colonel—and future president—Teddy Roosevelt. This particular uniform is the one he wore during the historic charge up San Juan Hill.
Brooks Brothers first imports items made of Harris Tweed, the weaving of which has long been a cottage industry in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. To this day, Harris Tweed is made in the home of the weaver, and each bolt can be traced back to an individual artisan. This double-breasted, raccoon-collared beauty was a best seller back in '28. (Ah, the Jazz Age.)
Unable to afford two-button jackets when three-button jackets
become passé, college students press back the lapels of their
old jackets. Brooks Brothers adopts the trend into its
permanent line and calls it “The Number One.” With its
trim, natural shoulder, undarted front, and non-functional
third button, the Number One “Sack” dominates American
business attire for the first 60 years of the 20th century.
- First Rose Bowl played in Pasadena; University of Michigan defeats
- First trans-Pacific cable to link Hawaii to US
- JC Penney opens first store in Kemmerer, WY
Brooks Brothers is the first to offer this cool
and colorful Indian fabric to its American customers for
Though already well-known in the UK as regimental ties, Brooks reverses the direction of the stripes in repp ties (formerly left to right, or “from heart to sword”), divorcing form from meaning and opening up the patterns to everyman.
- Ford Motor Company is founded
- First World Series is played
between Boston Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates
- First motorized flight by Orville Wright in North Carolina
- Guglielmo Marconi’s technology transmits first radio message from Teddy Roosevelt to King Edward VII
After 85 years in business, Brooks Brothers has a customer base stretching far beyond its New York home. To serve customers farther afield, Brooks sends out Roadmen to set up trunk shows in cities across the country. Because the experience required one to be a merchant, an allocator, a customer service rep and a salesman paying one’s dues as a Roadman becomes a prerequisite for company officership.
Brooks brings to America the traditional sweaters made in private homes on the Shetland Islands, which on a rainy day were known to smell of boiled cabbage (or whatever else might have been on the stove back in Scotland). Upon the introduction of a wider variety of colors in 1938, this sweater would become a sensation among college-aged women and help spur Brooks’ entrance into the women’s business.
- Las Vegas is founded
- Einstein's Theory of Relativity is published
- San Francisco earthquake kills close to 4,000 and destroys 3/4 of city
- First ball drops in Times Square at the New Year
Brooks President Francis G. Lloyd spots block-printed silk ties on the English well-to-do. When he brings the fabric back to America, men can’t get enough of the ties. A shortage during the Second World War—the antique blocks used to print the ties were buried in case the mills fell victim to an air raid—caused a run on the Madison Avenue store when it was rumored they’d temporarily come back into stock.
"Brooks Brothers makes its first tentative steps outside
Manhattan in opening a seasonal branch in Newport,
Rhode Island. The store administers sartorial first-aid to
summering elite who can’t make the trip to New York."
The originally English polo coat is a camelhair overcoat
which finds immense popularity in the early part of the
20th century. It gains special favor among female college
students at schools such as Smith and Radcliffe
who button the double-breasted item right-over-left in
the style of a woman’s coat.
- Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire becomes deadliest industrial fire
in history of New York City
- RMS Titanic sinks in North Atlantic on maiden voyage to New York
- Henry Ford introduces assembly belts in plants for manufacturing
- Panama Canal opens, connecting Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
Winthrop Holley Brooks, fourth-generation descendant of founder Henry Sands Brooks (and former Whiffenpoof), buys a Wyoming dude ranch in partnership with Princeton grad Irving H. Larom. Though Winthrop left the ranch in 1935 to become president of Brooks, an office dedicated to the running of Valley Ranch was located at our 346 Madison flagship until 1968.
Following the completion of Grand Central Terminal, Brooks Brothers relocates to 346, its present flagship location. The surrounding area had become the preferred location for New York’s most prominent university and social clubs who clamored for a Brooks in the neighborhood. Brooks Brothers kindly obliged.
- First Pulitzer Prizes awarded
Upon the United States’ entrance into the First World
War, Brooks was ready to clothe and supply the troops
overseas with uniforms and a wide assortment of supplies
designed for the field and the barracks. As this service flag
from April 1918 shows, some of those men were our own.
A fashion icon throughout the
Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald
helps to popularize several
Brooks innovations, including
the button-down attached-collar
shirts, which are seen as more
than a little trendy.
- Nineteenth Amendment passed allowing women the right to vote
- President Taft dedicates the newly completed Lincoln Memorial in
- First issue of Time magazine published and features Joseph G. Cannon,
former Speaker of House on cover
- Hollywood sign officially dedicated in Los Angeles
- Puccini's Turandot premieres in Milan's Teatro alla Scala
On his historic trip across the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh didn’t have the cargo space to pack a change of clothes. Instead, he relied on the kindness of the American ambassador to France, who, naturally, loaned him a Brooks Brothers suit upon his landing.
From the Great Crash through the Great
Depression, Brooks is one of the few retailers to
extend credit to those in need, and every account
was settled in full—eventually.
- Warner Bros. releases first Looney Tunes short,
- "Sinkin' in the Bathtub"
- President Hoover names “The Star-Spangled Banner” as national anthem
- New York's Empire State Building open as the tallest building in the
- world at 1,250 feet
- Amelia Earhart becomes first female to fly solo across the Atlantic
Brooks introduced seersucker to the United States in the
1920s, but it took another 10 years before Brooks’
signature suit patterns appeared for the first time in the
ancient fabric. After a small brochure features the seersucker
"Palm Beach" suits, the store cannot keep up with demand.
- Parker Brothers markets “Monopoly”
- First Porky Pig cartoon is released by Warner Bros.
- First Superman comic published by DC Comics
- Orson Welles broadcasts “War of the Worlds" for The Mercury Theatre
- FDR signs first Minimum Wage Law
- Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard establish Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto
- First Batman comic published by DC Comics
- McDonald’s opens first location, in San Bernardino, California
- Bugs Bunny makes his official debut
- Walt Disney's "Fantastia" is released
Brooks Brothers’ devotion to charity has long been
an important part of the company. During the
Second World War, Brooks was a prominent
supporter of the American Red Cross, and today
this tradition is continued with a number of charities,
including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
- General Mills introduces Cheerios
- RKO releases “Citizen Kane”
- Walt Disney and RKO release “Dumbo”
Brooks Brothers opens a tailored clothing factory in Brooklyn...
Brooks Brothers opens a tailored clothing factory in Brooklyn and one on Fair Street in Paterson, New Jersey, to manufacture men’s shirts.
Winthrop Holley Brooks sells the company his great-great grandfather founded 128 years earlier to Washington, D. C.-based Julius Garfinckel and Company. John C. Wood is installed as the company’s President and remains so for over 20 years. When asked by The Times upon his retirement what he’d done for the company, he simply replied, “I made it Brooksier.”
- 22nd Amendment ratified setting two-term limits for American Presidents
Gable, among America’s most famous actors of the
Thirties and Forties, insisted upon Brooks Brothers
custom suits because no ready-made suits could fit his
physique: a 44-inch chest and a 32-inch waist.
Thankfully, Brooks ready-made oxford shirts fit him
perfectly, and he bought them by the dozen.
Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise is used to resolve a civil suit brought by Brooks Brothers against Brooks Clothing, who opened a rival shop with replica designs. Fitzgerald’s text becomes the decisive factor in proving that when one says “Brooks,” it means Brooks Brothers.
The pink shirt gained widespread popularity and was featured in Vogue in 1949 when Brooks Brothers introduced one just for women—a move motivated by the desire to keep women from depleting the stocks of the boys’ department.
- 22nd Amendment ratified setting two-term limits for American Presidents
- The Today Show debuts on NBC
Senator John F. Kennedy marries Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in a Brooks Brothers suit. The groomsmen receive a timeless gift from the future president: a Brooks Brothers umbrella. Kennedy was known for wearing “Number Two” two-button suit during his presidency, a trim silhouette favored by the youthful Kennedy.
- Chevrolet introduces the Corvette as a concept show car
- Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California
- Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier of Monaco
to become Princess Consort
Brooks president John C. Wood discovers a classic when he spies a golfer’s wearing hand-knit “Argyll” socks. He asks a Scottish mill to copy them and Brooks becomes the first American merchant to offer the now-famous hose.
- Dodgers play first game in Los Angeles after moving from Brooklyn
- NASA formed as US government ramps up effort to explore space
- Alaska becomes 49th state
- Hawaii becomes 50th state
- NBC launches “Bonanza” as first drama to be broadcast in color
- JFK elected 34th President of the United States
The BrooksEase Suit makes its first appearance on the American scene. Advanced weaving techniques first developed in Sweden for use in automotive upholstery made this 100% worsted wool cloth stretch in two directions, something that Brooks President John C. Wood believed would make this fabric the foundation for the perfect travel suit.
- ZIP codes announced for whole country
- Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers “I Have a Dream ”
- First push-button phone is offered by Bell Telephone to AT&T customers
- JFK is assassinated in Dallas, Texas
- The Beatles make US TV debut on Ed Sullivan Show
Throughout much of the 20th century, Brooks Brothers enjoyed an exclusive importation agreement with London shoemaker Peal & Company, whose shoes had shod everyone from Lord Wellington to Winston Churchill to Fred Astaire. In 1965, Brooks purchases the company’s lasts, patterns, and name. Another prominent Peal patron was pugilist Jack Dempsey, who preferred the bench-made shoes for his long, slender feet.
- Apollo 11 is the first spacecraft to land on the moon and
Neil Armstrong is the first man to walk on the moon
- Woodstock Festival opens on a farm near Bethel, New York
and last until August 18th
- Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" is released in theaters
- Ribbon-cutting ceremony for the World Trade Center in NYC
First call on a handheld mobile phone made by Martin Cooper of Motorola
- Richard Nixon resigns as President of the United States following
Longtime Brooks customer, Nixon was, perhaps ironically, a fan of BrooksGate, an entry-level line for younger customers launched in 1976.
Though an “apartment” inside the company’s store at Broadway and Bond Street location back in 1874 had been dedicated to the sale of women’s clothing, it wasn’t until the mid-seventies that the company launched its first full-scale women’s department
- Massive blackout affects New York City
- 20th Century Fox releases Star Wars
- Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" opens
The original Japanese flagship store opens in Aoyama, Tokyo. Today, Brooks has over 75 stores in Japan.
- Pink Floyd releases “The Wall”
- Iran Hostage Crisis begins: 52 Americans are held hostage for 444 days
- John Lennon killed in NYC near his apartment building, The Dakota
Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook debuts and spends 38 weeks atop The New York Times Best Seller list. The Approved Store list notes that Brooks "ranks as the Oldest Preppy Store Still Alive," and the glossary notes that the Prep Set lovingly refer to the brand as B² for its double-B initials.
Brooks’ shirt factory in Garland, North Carolina is opened. The factory produces a large portion of the regular finish shirting sold by Brooks.
- Ronald Reagan inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States
- Sandra Day O’Connor becomes first female Supreme Court Justice of United States
- Prince Charles weds Lady Diana Spencer in London
- IBM releases first personal computer and names it the IBM PC
- Michael Jackson releases “Thriller” album to massive sales
- Sally Ride becomes first woman in space aboard Challenger Space Shuttle
It may be apocryphal, but legend has it that Andy Warhol spent his first paycheck on some Brooks No. 10s, otherwise known as our iconic white button-downs. Said Carlton Walters, “I got to [know] Andy quite well, and he always looked bedraggled. Always had his tie lopsided, as he didn't have time to tie it, and he never tied his shoe laces, and he even wore different colored socks, but he bought all of his clothes at Brooks Brothers.”
- Berlin Wall falls
- Nelson Mandela freed after 27 years in a South African prison
- Chunnel opens connecting Great Britain and France
- 170 nations extend the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
President Bill Clinton dedicates the newly built Korean War
monument in Washington, DC
- International Space Station begins construction
Brooks Brothers launches the Brooksease Shirt, billed as the ultimate travel shirt. The shirt represents the first 100% cotton non-iron shirt, a worthy successor to Brooks' 1953 version, which had the distinction of being the first piece of clothing ever to feature Dacron.
Brooks enters the Internet era with the unveiling of brooksbrothers.com. At the same time, the long-venerated name of the company’s internal newsletter changes to “@Brooks.com.” When the company changes hands in 2003, the name of the newsletter changes back to “The Golden Fleece.”
- Terrorist attacks on World Trade Center in New York City, Pentagon in Washington, DC, and Shanksville, PA
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Brooks Brothers is purchased by Claudio Del Vecchio of Retail Brand Alliance. He vows that the company’s severely damaged Liberty Plaza store will reopen “as a matter of principle.” One year to the day after the tragedy, the store triumphantly reopens.
- Brooks Brothers begins supporting the efforts of the Make-A-Wish Foundation through charitable donations
SaxXon, a luxurious wool from what has traditionally been called the world's Golden Fleece, is offered exclusively by Brooks. SaxXon differs from other wools because of its helical crimp, which gives SaxXon the highest curvature of any wool. Wools with high curvature have increased wrinkle resistance and excellent crease recovery.
- Brooks Brothers partners with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Though already well-known in the UK as regimental ties, Brooks reverses the direction of the stripes in rep ties (formerly left to right, or “from heart to sword”), divorcing form from meaning and opening up the patterns to everyman.
Brooks Brothers releases The Regent, its first wholly
new suit silhouette in 40 years. With its
- slimmer lines,
- a narrower lapel,
- and trimmer trousers,
the new suit becomes the foundation of what would
become known as the 1818 Collection.
An even trimmer suit—the Fitzgerald, so-named
for Brooks customer John Fitzgerald Kennedy—would join
the collection two years later.
The company partners with award-winning designer Thom Browne to launch Black Fleece by Brooks Brothers, a fashion-forward take on the brand’s more traditional line.
In July 2008, in keeping with its historic claim to being Maker and Merchant in one, Brooks Brothers purchases the 70-year-old clothing manufacturer and in 2009 builds a new, state-of-the-art suit factory in Haverhill, Massachusetts, to house the legendary label.
Jennifer Aniston appears on the cover of GQ wearing a Black Fleece tie. Or the tie appears wearing Jennifer. We can’t decide.
- Barack Obama elected as first U.S. President who has African ancestry
In late 2008, the sartorial world is aflutter with speculation about what Obama will wear to his inauguration. Our guess appears on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily, but Obama chooses a less formal ensemble. But we don't mind; the Brooks Brothers topcoat and scarf he wears to his swearing in make him the 39th of 44 sitting U.S. Presidents to wear Brooks Brothers.
- Brooks Brothers opens its first Canadian stores, in Vancouver and Toronto, and its first Mexican store, in Guadalajara
Thirty years after the success of The Official Preppy Handbook, Lisa Birnbach and Chipp Kidd to releases True Prep, an updated look at “prepdom.” Brooks Brothers, still a fixture on the Prep scene, holds launch parties in cities across America.
Brooks Brothers reestablishes its historical position with the collegiate community through the launch of a more youthful sportswear collection in addition to a licensed collection, meant for campus bookstores, bearing school logos.
Partners with Brooks Brothers as
Creative Director of Womenswear
Brooks Brothers proudly debuts its first collection by world-renowned fashion designer Zac Posen, creative director of women's clothing and accessories. Posen, well know for his techniques in artisanal craftsmanship, fuses our brand heritage with ultra-feminine constructions in lush fabrications and buoyant prints.