It was the clothier that dressed 40 presidents, brought us the button-down polo shirt and survived not only the Great Depression and two world wars but also casual Fridays. But like so many other traditional retailers, Brooks Brothers was no match for the coronavirus.
The 202-year-old company – considered America's oldest apparel seller -- on Wednesday filed for bankruptcy protection while announcing that 38 stores that it closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic weren't reopening.
The shuttered stores in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut include:
- The Shops at Riverside, Hackensack;
- 2381 Broadway (87th Street), Manhattan;
- 901 Broadway (20th Street), Manhattan;
- Waterloo Premium Outlets, NY;
- Stamford Town Center, CT;
- Boston Post Road, Darien, CT.
Even more closures are coming – an additional dozen or so of Brook Brothers’ 250 North American stores, court papers show.
Founded in New York City in 1818, Brooks Brothers made the crisp suit, shirt and tie a must-have in just about every businessman’s wardrobe.
No fewer than 40 American presidents wore the brand. Abraham Lincoln even sported a Brooks Brothers coat the night that John Wilkes Booth assassinated him at the Ford's Theater in Washington, DC on April 14, 1865.
Thirty years later, Brooks Brothers introduced the button-down polo shirt.
The international clothier dressed celebs, as well -- all the way from Clark Gable in 1946 to Jennifer Aniston, who made her own bit of cultural history in 2008 wearing nothing but a red, white and blue Brooks Brothers tie on a GQ cover.
Once Goldman Sachs announced last year that its employees could start dressing down for the office, the hourglass sands began to run out for high-class clothiers.
Then came the coronavirus.
While millions of Americans were forced into unemployment, many more who kept jobs ended up working more comfortably at home.
Tailored suits? Try PJs.
Already teetering, Brooks Brothers succumbed to the spread of COVID-19, which threw gasoline on the already flaming online shopping market – making Amazon, Walmart and Target even more appealing – while leaving traditional retailers in ruins.
Brooks Brothers quickly followed Barneys New York, J. Crew, Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney, among others, into oblivion, cutting nearly 75% of its worldwide workforce as COVID-19 flooded the globe.
Entrusting faith in the brand, Brooks Brothers’ officials said they’ll continue to operate and hopefully reopen some stores. Yet while their upper lips might remain as stiff as their famed blue-striped button-down shirt collars, the starch has all but gone out.
ALSO SEE: It was the store that boasted Madison Avenue swagger, an international magnet for dapper men and distinguished women who dressed like characters from “Mad Men” and “Sex & the City.” But Barneys New York is be no more.
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