I have a confession to make. When I first heard that we’d be working with and selling Brooks Brothers apparel at SanMar, I wasn’t all that into it.
Don’t get me wrong — even someone like me, with a day-to-day wardrobe consisting mostly of varying shades of jeans and geek-themed t-shirts, knew the name. And I was excited that SanMar got to develop the professional end of its clothing line with such a well-known and loved brand. But I’m not “preppy” and I didn’t really see how Brooks Brothers would apply to me.
And yet I got the sense that many of my co-workers were very excited about it, and that feeling only grew as our launch date approached. So I did what any curious writer does: I did the research.
My first discovery was that Brooks Brothers has been around a lot longer than I initially thought. They were founded in 1818 in New York City, which means that they come with more than two centuries of history. I do love me some history, so that’s where I started.
We were very fortunate have an early discussion with the Brooks Brothers historian (an actual job title) and his passion for the brand was infectious. It was during that meeting that I learned that Brooks Brothers has provided clothing for most of the Presidents of the United States, including Abraham Lincoln. And even though I mostly knew Brooks Brothers as a men’s clothing brand, one of my favorite photos of Audrey Hepburn features her wearing a pink Brooks Brothers Oxford cloth shirt.
The more I learned, the more intrigued I got. And it got me wondering, how has Brooks Brothers maintained a strong brand and following for such a long time?
SanMar’s trend expert Vicki Ostrom helped me here. She points to the resilience of preppy style over the years and calls its recent resurgence the Club House trend. One of the key tenets of this comeback is that it carries the feeling of belonging to a special group.
Brooks Brothers is known for its adherence to and influence on prep style. But today that can mean a lot of things — Vicki points out several modern takes on prep that make it more accessible and meaningful to a wider audience than ever. Not to play favorites, but with looks I’ve seen in the Netflix series Wednesday and (one of my all-time faves) the movie Dead Poets Society, the Dark Academia microtrend speaks to something I didn’t even know was in my soul.
Then I saw the work our team was producing for Brooks Brothers, and I think my transformation was complete.
Our art director Christine started sharing the photography she was getting, and it was simply beautiful. She focused on emphasizing a sense of place and texture, and the images she’s captured practically pulse with history. When I saw the video (set to a very cool jazzy tune) I felt exactly what Vicki was talking about — I was welcomed into a club where classic cars, moodily-lit libraries and chess games in the parlor were things that happened on the daily. And I wanted to be there.
At last, I took a closer look at the actual Brooks Brothers apparel we were offering, and I finally got it. I could connect that pink shirt Audrey Hepburn was wearing because today’s Casual Oxford Cloth Shirt looks largely the same now as it did then. I saw how Brooks Brothers’ heritage is still alive and well in the clothing today.
All the wovens convey that same crisp, professional feeling that says that details matter. The Pima Cotton Pique Polo is beautifully yet simply crafted. The sweatshirts and fleece combine comfort and polish, and even the outerwear and bags speak to an iconic sense of timelessness that can complete many different looks.
My new appreciation for Brooks Brothers doesn’t mean everything has changed. My daily outfits are still mostly t-shirts and jeans, and I still don’t consider myself a preppy by any measure. But then I think of that history, and those familiar looks from the classic movies and shows I love. I think that v-neck sweater could be just the thing to get me started on a Dark Academia outfit someday.
I think maybe Brooks Brothers could be for me after all. And if it can be for me, it can be for just about anyone.