“Brooks Brothers is the most iconic American brand,” said William Susman, managing director at Threadstone Advisors. “While in a different form, I am confident the brand will survive and continue for years to come. This is a case of a failed company, not a failed brand.”
Brooks Brothers, known for its suits and preppy clothes, has been hit especially hard by the virus crisis. It is an era of remote work and job interviews through Zoom, and the postponement of celebrations like weddings, bar mitzvahs, and graduations.
The company, which is the oldest apparel brand in continuous operation in the United States, said that it had decided to close 51 U.S. stores out of its roughly 250 locations in North America. Earlier this year, Brooks Brothers said it would close its three factories in the U.S., which are in Queens; Haverhill, Mass.; and Garland, N.C., spurring concern around the future of the brand and its identity as a “Made in America” name.
Brooks Brothers has a unique and rich connection to American heritage and culture. It has dressed all but four U.S. presidents and its overcoats have been worn for the inaugurations of Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump, among others. It has outfitted Clark Gable, Andy Warhol and Stephen Colbert. Even Ralph Lauren started out as a salesman at Brooks Brothers in New York.
For decades, the brand was synonymous with professional American men’s wear, its somewhat boxy suits framed as a less fashion-centric riposte to the more structured English tailoring and the more showy Italian style. Preppy, pinstriped, and red, white and blue, its clothes, for both men and women, were symbols of East Coast success in the Kennedy vein. Its Madison Avenue flagship, a limestone Italian renaissance building, became a pit stop for commuters hopping the train from Grand Central to family life in the suburbs.
By Sapna Maheshwari and Vanessa Friedman