The Brooks Brothers’ legacy started in 1818. At age 45, Henry Sands Brooks opened H. & D.H. Brooks & Co. on the Northeast corner of Catherine and Cherry Streets in New York City, where his childhood home stood. As “Makers and Merchants in One,” the firm assumes absolute control over its offerings, ensuring customers the highest level of quality.
In 1833, shortly before Henry’s death, he called on his sons, all whom have became retailers themselves, to assist with his expanding business. After his passing later that year, his eldest son, Henry Jr. took the helm and remained in charge until 1850, when younger brothers Daniel, John, Elisha, and Edward, assume leadership and change the firm’s name to Brooks Brothers.
“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.”
Brooks Brothers gave its loyal customer, Abraham Lincoln a coat with intricately embroidered lining bearing an eagle and the inscription, “One Country, One Destiny”, on the occasion of his second inauguration. Unfortunately, Lincoln was wearing the same coat the same night that he was assassinated.
In 1896, 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”
In 1946, Winthrop Holley Brooks sold off the company his great-great grandfather founded to Washington, D. C.-based Julius Garfinckel and Company. John C. Wood was 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.”
In the mid-seventies, the company formally launched its first full-scale women’s department. 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 now that it is fully committed to it.
In 1998, 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 changed hands in 2003, the name of the newsletter changes back to “The Golden Fleece.”
In 2018, Brooks Brothers achieved a milestone not held by any other American retail brand: 200 years in business (and counting).