To celebrate its 200th anniversary, Brooks Brothers held a special exhibition in Grand Central Terminal, New York. Being an active connoisseur of men’s fashion, naturally, I wanted to experience the show for myself before it closed on September 5th. Don’t worry if you missed it: my Sales Chap, Eric Westerdale at the Brooks Brothers shop in Westport will be your personal guide to building your own collection!
There’s something about a classic design that resonates with who I am. Call me old-fashioned! For as long as I can remember, being a gentleman of quality is the look to which I aspire.
Simple lines, elegant shapes and traditional pieces that last the test of time are not just articles of clothing, but memories of times and places. Truth be told, my closet holds a virtual time capsule of ageless sportcoats, outerwear and tailored shirts that range from new to a decade old, and all are still relevant today.
The fascinating exhibit featured some lovely examples of the history of the brand and explored the evolution of the Brooks Brothers’ style. It’s interesting to note that while women’s fashions can be radically different from one decade to the next, the silhouette of men’s suits and coats from 100 years ago basically holds steady. I also discovered some interesting fashion facts; for example, Brooks Brothers has dressed 40 of 45 U.S. presidents, including President Lincoln. So, I’m in good company with my suitings!
While Brooks Brothers’ is now seen as the authority on traditional off-the-rack clothing for the discerning man, many of these now timeless styles, patterns and fabrics were once wildly new, unheard of and absolutely cutting edge. The archetypical Preppy look started with an 1849 innovation: the Ready-to-Wear Suit. Buying a long-lasting jacket and trousers off the rack was not possible before this – everything was custom made, and at a much higher cost, in both time and money. Also, the now ubiquitous button-down collar came to the US in 1896, via Brooks Brothers. The original “Polo shirt” was inspired by the vigorous game of Polo, when gentlemen would gallop across the field during play, and not want their cloth collar points smacking them in the face during a heated ride-off. The pink dress shirt – introduced in 1900 – became all the rage when shown with a charcoal grey suit. This was a radical innovation in style for the day, when most men’s shirts were plain white or striped in grey or blue.
Brooks Brothers also brought the US heretofore unknown International splendors such as shorts from Bermuda, Madras fabric from India, seersucker fabric from England-by-way-of-Persia, Argyle socks based on 17th-century Scottish designs and the ancient French fabric, “foulard”, for brightly colored ties and pocket squares.
I have a carefully curated collection of pocket squares, to add a pop of color and a practical touch – you never know when you need to polish those glasses! SMARt tip: Step up your look with a pocket square, which acts as an alternative to the tie.
I love the understated details on my Brooks Brothers’ sport coats, such as the working cuff buttons, with contrasting stitching. This masterly touch elevates a simple sportcoat to a textbook example of understated elegance.
Truth be told, and you would never know it by the top photo, I enjoy being the poster boy for Brooks Brothers. Anyone who knows me and my taste will tell you that! In this picture, the shirt, the trousers, and the shoes are all Brooks Brothers. For me, my style of dress is an extension of my style of life – Casual Luxury, to be embraced and enjoyed every day. A great pair of jeans and a well-tailored jacket, with all those definitive details, make me look and feel great; just remember, save the sneakers for the gym!
The now classy, classic, elegant gentleman’s style in which we find comfort and pleasure are only possible due to the innovative vision of Elisha, Daniel, Edward, and John, collectively known as The Brooks Brothers. As I dress for work or play, I feel as if I am donning a piece of history, as well as solidifying my relationship with the family – and this suits me, so well.