Long before fashion logos such as the alligator, the polo player, the double C’s, and the double G’s were around, there was the first Brooks Brothers in 1818 in lower Manhattan. With the symbol of the golden fleece, this preppy retailer has been the leader in classic new world styling in ready-to-wear since before James Monroe became the last U.S. president to wear a powdered wig and breeches.
A new American look
As the nation’s oldest clothing brand, Brooks Brothers pre-dates the typewriter, the steam locomotive, baseball, and the Gold Rush. This is the brand that first imported Scotland’s shetland sweaters, France’s foulard tie, and introduced gentlemen to the quintessentially American Ivy League sack suit as an alternative to more fitted continental and drape cuts.
From the debonair Fred Astaire to George H.W. Bush, celebrities and presidents have been outfitted by the brand. Even Union officers reporting to Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War had Brooks Brothers uniforms. Lincoln wore his Brooks Brothers coat to Ford Theater on the night he was assassinated and Franklin D. Roosevelt kept warm under a Brooks Brothers great cape in the famous photo from the 1945 Yalta Conference.
The vibrant colors of a diagonally striped repp tie is a key accessory to the preppy look in menswear. With British origins in representing a military regiment, a college, or a private club, have you ever noticed which way the stripes go? In Britain, the stripes went from left to right, that is, from the heart to the sword. The stripes were, in fact, reversed from right to left for the mass American market by Brooks Brothers in 1902.
While the narrow definition of preppy revolves around the oxford button down shirt, cable knit sweater, navy blazer, and loafers, some take the concept much further as a lifestyle. The real estate blog, Movoto, published a guide to the nation’s most preppy cities, weighing in on a range of criteria from yacht clubs to private schools. The result placed San Francisco in lead position over East Coast mainstays such as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
San Francisco expands
The newly expanded Brooks Brothers store at 240 Post Street off Union Square in San Francisco reported an extremely busy re-launch in late summer 2013. “We’ve added 14,000 square feet, which means we can carry our full line,” said an upbeat general manager, Alonzo Williams. “We’re the second largest Brooks Brothers store in North American now, with a great mix of visitors and locals coming in to call.”
Also from this author’s preppy files:
Lilly Pulitzer Launched the Preppy Look From Her Orange Juice Stand
Kate Spade’s Beau Bag With Bows Must Have Wings
Go Retro in a Shirtwaist Dress Splashed WIth Summer Flowers