In many ways, the tale of Brooks Brothers is also the story of America itself. Widely regarded as the most historic haberdasher in the continental United States, the company was established in New York by Mr. Henry Sands Brooks in 1818. Having already made a name supplying clothing to seafarers and traders, Henry Sands would lead the company for the remainder of his life — before his sons took the reins, renaming it ‘Brooks Brothers’ in 1850. As America’s fortunes waxed, so too did Brooks Brothers’: U.S. statesmen and titans of industry who’d once favoured European tailoring began turning to the Manhattan stalwart for all of their sartorial needs; and by the early 1900s, a distinctive ‘Brooks Brothers’ look had emerged. These days, the brand maintains a diverse array of men’s, women’s and children’s collections, but the image of the Brooks clientele — one that has included Union generals, Golden Age movie stars, and 39 sitting presidents — has endured.
Brooks Brothers’ earliest days were marked by the invention of countless of the brand’s signature styles. In 1895, they debuted the ‘Number One Sack Suit’ — quite literally the foundation of what is now thought of as the Ivy League/prep style. Loosely inspired by English drape cuts, the sack suit was distinguished from its European counterparts by a boxier silhouette, three-button front, and was usually worn in conjunction with trousers that were cuffed and sewn without pleats. Not long after it made its debut, the sack suit became synonymous with America’s coastal elites — a regular sight in Ivy League classrooms and on Capitol Hill.
Just five years later, the company would follow up the sack suit’s runaway success with its equally influential ‘Original POLO Button-Down’. (It’s such a seminal part of the prep/Ivy aesthetic that devotees nowadays simply refer to it as the ‘OCBD’.) Inspired by a design John Brooks — grandson of the company’s co-founder — had seen worn by English polo players, the OCBD embodied a giant improvement in the construction and wearability of formal shirting. The style’s signature feature was a soft unfused collar, capable of being buttoned down at the tips during times of strenuous physical activity. This innovation, along with the robust (relatively sporty) cloth from which the OCBD is fashioned, transformed shirting into a staple that could be worn casually. In 1981, nearly a century later, Town and Country editor Bruce Boyer reiterated exactly why these staples of the Brooks Brothers look had remained so influential:
“The line, whether for jackets or shirts, is freer flowing, more natural and more loosely cut than European clothing, which is generally more shaped and contoured.”
Although the more buttoned-up facets of Brooks Brothers’ DNA — sack suits, OCBDs, repp-striped ties — are what constitute the brand’s image-at-large, it’s always been important to balance this heritage with an outlook towards the future. This is what drives Brooks Brothers to design ‘new mainstays’: classic pieces made relevant, in 2019, through constant design and material innovation. To showcase its irreverent, prep-inspired creations for FW19, the brand has joined forces with noted actor and Hong Kong ambassador Louis Koo, who shares a passion for fresh yet heritage-inspired clothing.
Brooks Brothers, Shop 1096a, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2234 7088