A Salute to Brooks Brothers, Turning 200 Years Old

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Runway photo of Brooks Brothers menswear fashion show in Florence - January 2018

Before there was the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Terminal, and the cities of Hollywood and Chicago, there was Brooks Brothers.

Saturday, April 7, 2018, marks the 200th anniversary of America’s oldest retailer—a benchmark few brands can claim, at least in the U.S. Since opening its doors on April 7, 1818, in New York City, Brooks Brothers has grown from a small family haberdasher into a global brand that has shaped and defined American style through its product innovations.

Brooks Brothers 200th anniversary

“Our anniversary marks a significant and historic milestone not only for Brooks Brothers but also for the retail industry,” stated Claudio Del Vecchio, Chairman and CEO of Brooks Brothers. “This is a moment to celebrate two hundred years steeped in both tradition and innovation.”

While best-known today as a “classic” brand, the brand’s founder, Henry Sands Brooks (1772-1833) was not a traditionalist but a dandy and an influencer among his peers, always on the lookout for the newest and most novel styles for his emporium in lower Manhattan selling “every new style of cloth, of the finest quality, made to order in the best and most fashionable mode.”

Some of Brooks Brothers’ classic items were the result of either invention and innovation — many radical for their time. In fact, Brooks Brothers is responsible for the introduction and popularization of some of fashion’s most iconic and enduring items, including the navy blazer, the reverse striped rep tie, the polo coat and the Number One Sack Suit.

Brooks Brothers also lays claims to the athleisure trend, having invented the Original Polo Button-Down Oxford shirt in 1900. Brooks Brothers also was responsible for a pillar of American fashion—ready-to-wear tailored clothing, which was introduced in the mid-1800s as a consequence of the Gold Rush.

This sartorial passion was passed down from Henry to his sons, Elisha, Daniel, Edward and John, aka the Brooks Brothers. The Brooks Brothers brand has outfitted an ever-changing world, pursuing quality and innovation with a respect for the past and an eye toward the future.

Throughout its history, Brooks Brothers has forged relationships for generations of customers: artists and politicians, working people and captains of industry, and Hollywood legends, as well as 40 out of 45 U.S. Presidents.

Today, Brooks Brothers has more than 280 stores in the U.S. and more than 700 locations in 45 countries. Brooks Brothers continues to lead with a pioneering spirit, continually developing materials and designs that deliver performance, innovation and high-quality design.

Some Milestones:

In 1818, Henry Sands Brooks opened a clothing store called “H. & D. H. Brooks & Co.” on the corner of Catherine and Cherry Streets. The first recorded transaction was a loan to a friend.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln wore a custom-made Brooks Brothers coat to his second inauguration. Sadly, he was also wearing it when he was assassinated a month later.

In 1900, Brooks Brothers invented the Oxford button-down-collar shirt after noticing that polo players in England were pinning down their collars while playing.

In 1902, Brooks Brothers introduced the reverse-stripe rep tie, an adaptation of British regimental ties.

In 1915, Brooks Brothers opened its 346 Madison Avenue flagship store, where it remains today.

In 1953, Brooks Brothers invented the first non-iron shirt.

In 1957, Brooks Brothers introduced Argyle socks to America.

In 1961, Brooks Brothers designed the “#2 suit” — a favorite of longtime customer President John F. Kennedy.

In 1976, Brooks Brothers launched its women’s line.

In 1979, Brooks Brothers was one of the first global fashion brands to expand to Japan.

In 2008, Brooks Brothers acquired Southwick in Massachusetts and resumed the manufacturing of tailored clothing in America.

In 2016, Brooks Brothers appointed Zac Posen as creative director for the Women’s Collection.

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