Brooks Brothers History Case Study

For more than 200 years, Brooks Brothers have significantly impacted American fashion and menswear. They served to democratize fashion, making clothing more accessible and affordable to everyone in many ways. They’re noted for their quality, conservative style, and manufacturing for most of their history in the United States. Brooks Brothers have equipped 40 of the 45 American presidents and most of the Golden Age of Hollywood stars.

Despite their distinguished history, they have had to adapt to the times, both for the better and worse. The classic Brooks Brothers basics have fallen out of favor as people’s wardrobes have become more casual daily. In addition, some of their products’ quality has slipped in recent years because some production has been outsourced to other countries. This is a regular occurrence in menswear ready-to-wear.

Brooks Brothers History

One of the oldest and most well-known American clothing companies is Brooks Brothers. Since its founding in 1818, the company has been known as Brooks Brothers after Henry Brooks’s sons. In 1849, they introduced ready-to-wear garments, and the following year, in 1850, they trademarked the iconic Golden Fleece logo.

As well as in The Great Gatsby, Brooks Brothers suits can be seen on “Mad Men.” Stephen Colbert, the popular late-night host, wears Brooks Brothers outfits. According to the extensive (though imperfect) history of Brooks Brothers, the company has had a constant presence in American fashion for many decades. Since their founding, they’ve significantly impacted menswear style throughout every age, and they’ve also helped make the suit more accessible.

Brooks Brothers History – Abraham Lincoln Was a Client

Abraham Lincoln was one of Brooks Brothers’ most well-known customers at this period in the mid-19th century. In reality, he was killed in a Brooks Brothers suit. While Abraham Lincoln was a passionate Brooks Brothers customer, the Union Army he commanded did not fare as well. Questionable methods secured this outfitting contract. When good wool was hard to come by, the Union Army was supplied with clothes made from decaying rags and other pieces of fabric.

Brooks Brothers History – “Shoddy” Clothing

Because these outfits did not hold together adequately, they disintegrated during combat the first time it rained on them. Replacement of these worn-out clothes cost the Union Army $45,000, roughly $11 million today. The word “shoddy” was coined to describe the inferior and somewhat false product the Union Army was wearing. Brooks Brothers did not drop their rates for these shoddy materials.

Brooks Brothers Did Not Manufacture Black Suits for Almost One and a Half Centuries

Brooks Brothers didn’t make a ready-to-wear black suit from 1865 until 2003. As to why this is the case, there are many possibilities. The first reason could be because Lincoln was killed in a black Brooks Brothers suit. However, he had a custom-made suit due to his tall and thin build. Another reason would be that the Brooks Brothers catered to the well-to-do, and the upper classes did not commonly wear black suits at that time. Instead, they were worn by servants and the deceased. Even so, they’ve been selling ready-to-wear black suits since 2003.

The Introduction of Seer Sucker and Sack Suits

The firm initially introduced Seersucker suits in 1870, although they wouldn’t become widely fashionable for some 30 years or so after that. Sack suits, which would become one of their most popular and successful types, were also introduced in the 20th century. This style would become synonymous with Brooks Brothers and American suiting more generally. A larger variety of body shapes could be accommodated by the more generous design of these sack suits, making them a huge commercial success for the company.

Oxford Cloth Button-Down

John E also invented Oxford cloth button-down (OCBD) shirts. Brooks around the turn of the twentieth century. To his surprise, the OCBD would become famous among athletes like tennis players in the 1920s and 1930s after he had seen them in action during a polo match. This was largely due to the shirt’s fabric’s open weave, which allowed air to pass through. OCBDs became a menswear classic thanks to the likes of JFK and Gianni Agnelli in the mid-century. 

Madras Fabric

On a business trip to Bombay in 1958, textile importer William Jacobson met with Captain C.P. Krishnan, a madras exporter from Chennai, previously known as Madras. Initially destined for South Africa, the madras material had a “strong fragrance of vegetable dyes and sesame oils” when the two men agreed to a $1 per yard bargain. Brooks Brothers purchased 10,000 yards of Jacobson’s madras fabric. And in 1902, Brooks Brothers brought the Madras fabric to the U.S. retail market.

The regimental stripe was reversed to allow civilians to wear the “Repp” tie, which had previously only been worn by military people in the UK. This is the same that the Brooks Brothers brought the “Repp” tie to America.

Style Inspiration from F. Scott Fitzgerald

Printed block silk ties were first imported to America by Brooks Brothers in 1908. Many college students across the United States were influenced by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise,” which references the Brooks Brothers. When “The Great Gatsby” was made into a film, Brooks Brothers introduced clothing lines inspired by Fitzgerald’s novel.

Sold Brooks Brothers

The Brooks family sold the clothing brand to Julius Garfinckel & Company in 1946. That made the overall style of most of the company’s clothes even more traditional. With DuPont’s help, Brooks Brothers introduced Brooksweave, a fabric that combined cotton and Dacron for a wrinkle-free finish. The “number two” type of Brooks Brothers two-button suit was a favorite of John F. Kennedy, who wore it to show off his young style. After various ownership changes over the years, Brooks Brothers is now controlled by Italian billionaire Claudio Del Vecchio, the son of Luxottica, founder and creator of the Brooks Brothers group.

Claudio Del Vecchio Purchases Brooks Brothers

Claudio Del Vecchio bought Brooks Brothers in 2001, and things began to turn around. For the first time in its history, Del Vecchio was anxious to peruse the Brooks Brothers’ records, which History Factory held. Brooks Brothers were given a clear strategy to reclaim the brand’s shine by what he and his team discovered there.

Brooks Brothers’ success has always hinged on the relationship between sales associates and customers. There was also the benefit of long-term partnerships and order books that were a wealth of knowledge. The personnel noted other products clients requested or had seen in other countries.

With these comments in hand, Brooks Brothers created some of their most iconic and fashionable designs, including the button-down shirt, panel Argyll socks, and Harris Tweed.

Where Is Brooks Brothers Today?

Brooks Brothers currently maintain some manufacturing in the United States. However, only a few of their fabrics are manufactured and woven in the country. As a result, when people say “Made in the USA,” they’re referring to the assembly of these materials. The Golden Fleece line of suits, several of the 1818 Line of suits, ties cut in Long Island, and numerous shirts primarily made in North Carolina are currently manufactured in the United States.

Brooks Brothers Filed for Bankruptcy in 2020

Brooks Brothers, the shop known for clothed America’s goods since 1818, declared bankruptcy in May 2020, succumbing to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic after years of declining sales as customers adopted more casual clothing and sales went online.

The New York-based corporation filed for Chapter 11 restructuring proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Claudio Del Vecchio, the Italian billionaire who purchased the brand in 2001 and still owns it, told The New York Times in May 2020 that he would not exclude Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In an emailed statement on Wednesday, Brooks Brothers said the filing would allow it to acquire extra funding while facilitating a sale.

The bankruptcy was the most high-profile retail failure during the epidemic, which has resulted in widespread store closures and sales losses, changing city shopping streets across the country. 

Since May, big retailers such as J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, and J.Crew have been forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedures. The chains, including Brooks Brothers, intend to continue operations, albeit at reduced capacity.

Iconic Brooks Brothers Clothing Items

The Brooks Brothers history case study would be incomplete without mentioning the best products from this leading clothing brand.

Brooks Brothers Opera Pumps

A pair of traditional opera pumps would be a great place to start your shopping experience at Brooks Brothers. As far as formal shoes go, Brooks Brothers still carry this ideal for both Black and White Tie events. The ultimate black-tie attire for the most exclusive events. Intricately designed Brooks Brothers dressy footwear is made of patent leather.


Few off-the-rack brands are still selling overcoats made of natural materials and classic designs, and Brooks Brothers is one of the few. Costs range from $500 to $2,000, but the style is timeless; it should last many years if properly cared for, significantly lowering your overall cost per wear. Don’t go for the ultra-modern options like leather, bomber, waxed cotton, or down-filled jackets; stick with more traditional overcoats instead (as other brands do these styles better).

Superply Tuxedo Shirt

Super 100s 2-ply cotton broadcloth is used to make this tuxedo shirt, which features a bib front. The English wide collar is the perfect canvas for tie knots. The French cuffs reinforce the Brooks Brothers’ commitment to a well-made dress shirt with removable mother-of-pearl button strips. This shirt can be washed in the washing machine for convenience’s sake. The chest and sleeve openings on the Madison fit are slightly more generous than in other styles.

Final Thoughts

The earliest American clothing company, Brooks Brothers, was established in Manhattan, New York City, in 1818. Brooks Brothers started as a family business, making clothing for men, women, children, and home decor. Designer Zac Posen led the women’s line from June 2014 to June 2020. 

Michael Bastian has overseen men’s and women’s collections since December 2020. The COVID-19 epidemic forced the corporation to declare bankruptcy protection in July 2020 due to store closures and low internet sales. Simon Properties Authentic Retail Concepts Group LLC, an Authentic Brands Group and Simon Property Group joint venture, announced their intention to buy Brooks Brothers in August 2020.

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Brooks Brothers History Case Study Learn about Brooks Brothers history, including when and where it was founded and where the company is today.
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