Brooks Brothers

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For the English pop duo, see The Brook Brothers.
Brooks Brothers
Type Private
Industry Clothier
Founded Manhattan, 1818
Headquarters Madison Avenue, Manhattan, New York
Key people Founded by Henry Sands Brooks
Products Men's and women's Luxury Clothing
Parent Retail Brand Alliance
Website brooksbrothers.com

Brooks Brothers is the oldest men's clothier chain in the United States and is headquartered on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. Founded in 1818 as a family business, the privately owned company has been owned by Retail Brand Alliance since 2001 and now also features clothing for women.

History[edit]

On April 7, 1818, at the age of forty-five, Henry Sands Brooks (1772-1833) opened H. & D. H. Brooks & Co. on the northeast corner of Catherine and Cherry streets in Manhattan, New York. He proclaimed that his guiding principle was, "To make and deal only in merchandise of the finest body, to sell it at a fair profit, and to deal with people who seek and appreciate such merchandise."[1] In 1850, his three sons, Elisha, Daniel, and John, inherited the family business and renamed the company "Brooks Brothers."

The first Brooks clothier store, at Catharine Street in Manhattan, 1845

In its early history, Brooks Brothers was most widely known for introducing the ready-to-wear suit to American customers. In the mid-nineteenth century, Brooks Brothers outfitted United States President Abraham Lincoln and considered him a loyal customer.[2] At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln wore a coat specially crafted for him by Brooks Brothers. Hand-stitched into the coat's lining was a design featuring an eagle and the inscription, "One Country, One Destiny." He was wearing the coat and a Brooks Brothers suit when he was assassinated.[3] As a supplier of soldiers' uniforms during the Civil War, Brooks Brothers became a target of outrage for its allegedly shoddy production. With a contract from New York state to supply uniforms for the New York Volunteers, Brooks Brothers took shredded and sometimes decaying rags, glued them together and stitched them into uniforms. They would fall apart in the rain and were the subject of ridicule from other regiments.[4]

Brooks Brothers has outfitted 39 of the 44 American Presidents.[2] United States President Ulysses S. Grant began his association with Brooks Brothers during the Civil War, when he ordered tailored uniforms for the Union officers in the American Civil War.[2] President Theodore Roosevelt was fond of Brooks Brothers' clothes; he even ordered his dress uniform for the Spanish-American War at Brooks Brothers. Many more presidents, including Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were known to wear Brooks Brothers clothing lines.[3] Franklin Roosevelt wore a Brooks Brothers collared cape and fedora at the Yalta Conference in 1945.[5]

In the late nineteenth century, Brooks Brothers tailored many distinctive uniforms for elite regiments of the New York National Guard, as well as uniforms for New York state troops and Union officers during the Civil War.[6] At that time, contracts for uniforms were notorious as an example of corruption in how they were obtained and the poor quality of the clothing delivered, the uniforms often having been made of pressed rag so that they fell apart in the first rains.[7]

The Golden Fleece symbol was adopted as the company's trademark in 1850. A sheep suspended in a ribbon had long been a symbol of British woolen merchants. Dating from the fifteenth century, the image had been the emblem of the Knights of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. In Classical Greek mythology, a magical flying ram, or Golden Fleece, was sought by Jason and the Argonauts.

The last member of the Brooks family to head the company was Winthrop Holly Brooks, who ran the company from 1935 until its sale in 1946, when the company was acquired by Julius Garfinckel & Co. Although Winthrop Brooks remained with the company as a figurehead, after the acquisition, John C. Wood became the director of Brooks Brothers. Just prior to that, Wood had been the carrier of the papers for the Dumbarton Oaks Conference.[8] Under the leadership of Wood, Brooks Brothers became even more traditional.

Brooks Brothers logo, ca. 1969

By 1969, ten Brooks Brothers stores were in operation and located in Manhattan, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., as an integral part of the retail conglomerate Garfinckel, Brooks Brothers, Miller & Rhoads, Inc., that held the company until 1981 when it was acquired by Allied Stores.

Brooks Brothers was acquired by the British firm, Marks and Spencer plc, in 1988. In 2001, Marks & Spencer sold Brooks Brothers to Retail Brand Alliance ("RBA"), now known as The Brooks Brothers Group, a company privately owned by Italian billionaire Claudio del Vecchio (son of Luxottica founder Leonardo del Vecchio). Along with Brooks Brothers, RBA comprises Carolee, a designer of jewelry for department stores and specialty stores. In 2007, RBA sold its high end women's brand Adrienne Vittadini.

Today[edit]

As of 2012, there were 210 Brooks Brothers stores in the United States and 70 in other countries, including India, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China, Dubai, France, the United Kingdom, Chile, Canada, Panama, Italy, Mexico, Perú, Singapore and Greece. In 1998, Brooks Brothers launched its official website. Headquartered on New York's Madison Avenue, United States flagship stores are in Manhattan, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Beverly Hills.

Brooks Brothers 44th Street location in Manhattan

Although most of Brooks Brothers' clothing is imported, many of the firm's suits, sport coats, shirts, and some accessories are manufactured in the United States. Many of its mid-range "1818" line of suits are manufactured at Brooks Brothers' Southwick plant in Haverhill, Massachusetts. All Brooks Brothers necktie silk is woven in England or Italy, and the ties still are “cut and piled” at the Brooks Brothers’ tie factory in Long Island City, New York; many of its shirts are manufactured at its shirt factory in Garland, North Carolina. Brooks also has a series of books on etiquette and manners for ladies and gentlemen. Its higher-end label is the Golden Fleece line which features suits that are hand tailored in the United States.

In September 2007, Brooks Brothers' CEO, Claudio Del Vecchio, announced the unveiling of a new high-end collection of men's and women's wear named Black Fleece. Del Vecchio announced that the first star guest designer for the new collection would be New York menswear designer Thom Browne.[9] Black Fleece received so much critical and commercial success that Brooks Brothers opened a stand-alone Black Fleece boutique on Bleecker Street in the Winter of 2008.

Brooks Brothers store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California

In 2008, the company began an extensive renovation of its flagship store at 346 Madison Avenue and in January 2009 closed a smaller location at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street in Manhattan. Brooks Brothers had planned to close store #124 in West Nyack, New York, on March 27, 2010, due to slumping sales.

In 2010, Brooks Brothers moved its call center and online customer service location from Edison, New Jersey to Enfield, Connecticut.[citation needed]

Clothing innovations[edit]

Although today many people consider Brooks Brothers a very traditional clothier, the company introduced many clothing novelties to the American market throughout its history as a leader in the American menswear industry:

  • Ready-to-wear in 1849
  • In 1896, John E. Brooks, the grandson of Henry Sands Brooks, applied button-down collars to dress shirts after having seen them on English polo players.
  • English foulard ties, introduced by Francis G. Lloyd in the 1890s before he was made president of the corporation
  • Ivy League sack suit, 1895
  • Pink dress shirt, became a sensation to go with charcoal-gray suits
  • Shetland sweater, introduced in 1904
  • Polo coat about 1910
  • Madras, introduced from India via Brooks Brothers to the public in 1902
  • Argyles: in 1957, Brooks Brothers became the first American retailer to manufacture argyle socks for men
  • Light-weight summer suits: the first lightweight summer suits made of cotton corduroy and seersucker were introduced by Brooks during the early 1930s
  • Wash-and-wear shirts: in 1953, the store pioneered the manufacture of wash-and-wear shirts using a blend of Dacron, polyester, and cotton that was invented by Ruth R. Benerito, which they called "Brooksweave"
  • Non-iron 100% cotton dress shirt, 1999[10][11]

Brooks Brothers did not make an off-the-rack black suit between 1865 and 2003.[citation needed] For many years, a myth circulated that the reason the company did not make black suits out of deference to Abraham Lincoln who wore a bespoke black Brooks frock coat, a gift from the company, when he was assassinated. It is not clear if this policy was the result or cause of the traditional American fashion rule that black suits in daytime for men are proper only for servants and the deceased.[12]

Horween Leather Company supplies leather shells for footwear to Brooks Brothers.[13][14][15]

Notable alumni[edit]

Ralph Lauren started out as a salesman at the Brooks Brothers Madison Avenue store. In a famous lawsuit[which?] against its former employee, Brooks Brothers managed to retain its rights to the iconic "original polo button-down collar" shirt (still produced today), in spite of Lauren's Polo trademark.[citation needed]

Notable customers[edit]

A display in a Brooks Brothers store

Statesmen[edit]

Brooks Brothers has outfitted 39 of the 44 American Presidents, including Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama to name a few.[2]

Current U.S. President Barack Obama wore a Brooks Brothers coat, scarf, and gloves during his inauguration in 2009.[16]

French former president Jacques Chirac buys his shirts at the Madison shop.[17]

Music and Fine Arts[edit]

Brooks Brothers is the official clothier of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.[18]

Andy Warhol was known to buy and wear clothes from Brooks Brothers. According to 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."[19]

Television[edit]

Brooks Brothers supplies clothes for the television show, Mad Men. In October 2009, Brooks Brothers created a limited edition "Mad Men Edition" suit with the show's costume designer.[20]

Chuck Bass and Nate Archibald on the Gossip Girl TV series frequently wear clothes from Brooks Brothers.[21]

Stephen Colbert, of the Colbert Report and formerly of The Daily Show and Strangers with Candy, has all of his suits for the Colbert Report supplied by Brooks Brothers.[22]

Aziz Ansari's character, Tom Haverford, on NBC's hit sitcom Parks and Recreation, frequently mentions buying clothes from the Brooks Brothers Boys collection because, as he says, "the cuts are slimmer, and it's cheaper. Win win."[23]

Film[edit]

Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Barry Fitzgerald, Fred Astaire, Nina Foch, and Maria Riva are among a long list of Hollywood celebrities who obtained special attention during the 1940s at Brooks Brothers in Manhattan, and they also catered to executives in the emerging television industry such as Fred Friendly and Edward R. Kenefick of CBS.[24]

Brooks Brothers frequently is sought out by costume designers in Hollywood, dressing stars in such films as, Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor, Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums, and Will Smith in Ali.[25] The company produced made-to-measure period costumes for Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters.[26]

George Clooney wears Brooks Brothers throughout the film Up in the Air and scenes were shot in a Brooks Brothers airport store.[21] The men of the film The Adjustment Bureau wear Brooks Brothers.[27] In November 2011, Brooks Brothers announced that it had designed a custom wardrobe for Kermit the Frog for the movie The Muppets. The young stars of Slumdog Millionaire were all dressed by Brooks Brothers for the 81st Academy Awards.[28]

Brooks Brothers made all of the men's costumes, nearly 1500 items, for the 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby. They also sponsored the premieres in New York City and Cannes Film Festival. This was followed by a limited edition collection designed with Catherine Martin and sold at Brooks Brothers stores around the world.

Literature[edit]

The lead character Lestat de Lioncourt in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles often describes himself to be wearing suits by Brooks Brothers.

F. Scott Fitzgerald refers to Brooks Brothers clothing in his debut novel, This Side of Paradise.

Mary McCarthy's short story "The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt", which can be found in her collection The Company she keeps, 1942, is one of the more famous literary references to the Brooks Brothers.

Bret Easton Ellis also refers to clothing from Brooks Brothers worn by Patrick Bateman and his colleagues in his controversial novel, American Psycho.

James Thurber refers to Brooks Brothers shirts in some of his short stories. Kurt Vonnegut also refers to a Brooks Brothers suit worn by the main character in his book, Jailbird.

Richard Yates not only wore Brooks Brothers clothing throughout his life, but he often referred to the brand in his writing, notably in A Good School, in which one of the characters tries to hang himself with a Brooks Brothers belt.

In the novel, Junkie, by William S. Burroughs, an addict trades what he claims is a Brooks Brothers jacket for two caps of heroin.

Novelist W.E.B. Griffin often has included mention of Brooks Brothers military uniforms, Dress uniform and Dress Mess uniform in particular, in his best-selling Brotherhood of War and The Corps book series.

In Catch-22, Nately mentions that his father wears Brooks Brothers shirts.

Author Jason Landry makes mention of Brooks Brothers shirts in the essay Zen and the Art of Ironing a Dress Shirt, in his book Instant Connections.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Advanced Market Training January 25th, 2011 Notable Business Series – Brooks Brothers
  2. ^ a b c d "Brooks Brothers Our Heritage, Our History". Brooks Brothers. 2013-02-11. Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  3. ^ a b "About Us | Notable Customers". Brooks Brothers. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  4. ^ Soodalter, Ron (2011-05-09). "The Union's "Shoddy Aristocracy"". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-30. 
  5. ^ "Brooks Brothers Inauguration Bow Tie Primer". guestofaguest.com. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  6. ^ "Brooks Brothers, New York Divided, New York Historical Society. Retrieved June 24, 2010". Nydivided.org. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  7. ^ Allen, Colin (2011-05-09). "The Union's 'Shoddy' Aristocracy', New York Times 10-May-2011". Opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  8. ^ DeLoach, Rhoda, Memoirs of Rhoda Andréa Petry DeLoach, 1992, Sarasota, Florida, an assistant to the president of Brooks Brothers from 1945 through 1947
  9. ^ Givhan, Robin (2007-03-23). "The Man in the Browne Flannel Suit, The Washington Post, March 23, 2007". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  10. ^ The Atlantic Monthly, “Under the Golden Fleece,” by George Plimpton, April 1993, and reprinted in American Heritage, November 1993.
  11. ^ Cotton, Inc. "A Pressing Matter - Does wrinkle-resistant cotton threaten to make ironing obsolete?"
  12. ^ Amy Vanderbilt, Complete Guide to Etiquette (1956)
  13. ^ "A Brief History « Horween Leather Company". Horween.com. Retrieved March 28, 2013. 
  14. ^ Horween Leather Company. encyclopedia.com. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  15. ^ Barbara Rolek (October 27, 2003). "Horween's leather bound by tradition". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  16. ^ Tschorn, Adam (2009-02-16). "President's Day update: Final Obama inaugural wardrobe details confirmed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  17. ^ (French) [1] Le Figaro, 2008
  18. ^ "Jazz at Lincoln Center NewsFlash". Jazzatlincolncenter.org. 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  19. ^ [2] Patrick S. Smith, Warhol: Conversations about the Artist Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988 p. 340.
  20. ^ Catherine Caines, "A cut above", The Australian, April 14, 2010.
  21. ^ a b "Decoding the Brooks Brothers DNA". Luxpresso. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  22. ^ "Stephen Colbert Talks to Women’s Wear Daily". Colbert News Hub. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  23. ^ Brooks Brothers Boys, it's like the cuts are slimmer, and it's c.... TV Fanatic (2010-05-07). Retrieved on 2013-12-06.
  24. ^ DeLoach, Rhoda, Memoirs of Rhoda Andréa Petry DeLoach, 1992, Sarasota, Florida
  25. ^ "US clothing icon's plan well suited for Capital", The Scotsman, April 3, 2007.
  26. ^ "The Great Debaters". Movie Shark Deblore. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  27. ^ Barbara Vancheri, "'The Adjustment Bureau' a good romantic thriller", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 4, 2011.
  28. ^ Cathy Horyn, "Red Carpet, Fashion Machine", The New York Times, February 22, 2009.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°45′16″N 73°58′43″W / 40.754445°N 73.97856°W / 40.754445; -73.97856