While the United States was building out the greatest military and peacekeeping force in history, Brooks Brothers was weaving the fabric of that proud tradition. Quite simply, wherever the U.S. military trained and traveled, Brooks Brothers went with them. We began creating uniforms for the U.S. military as early as 1818 for veterans of the War of 1812, but not until 1846 did Brooks Brothers make uniforms that would be worn into battle—by soldiers fighting in the Mexican-American War. From that point through World War II, Brooks Brothers uniforms would be worn in combat.
In the Brooks Brothers archives sit the Articles of Agreement from 1861, which detailed the involvement in making uniforms for New York’s regiments during the United States Civil War.
Signed by Governor of New York Edwin D. Morgan and the four brothers—John, Elisha, Daniel and
Edward—the contracts even contain the fabric samples of what the uniforms would be changed to, a clear reminder of the enduring relationship between Brooks Brothers and the military.
For nearly 200 years, Brooks Brothers has been servicing and adapting to the needs and wants of the customer, so it is no surprise that the company archives contain a handwritten order from then Quartermaster of the Army Chester A. Arthur (later to become the nation’s 21st president) for 300 overcoats for a Union regiment. And when Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, who would also go on to become president, left New York City in 1898 to join the U.S. Volunteer Calvary, he ordered a custom Brooks Brothers uniform to match his exact specifications.
Even beyond manufacturing uniforms for the military, Brooks was sure to take care of those coming home from the war. Most notably, in 1918, a few weeks after the armistice that ended fighting on the Western front during the World War I, Brooks Brothers received a telegram from officers in Plattsburg, New York, who had recently arrived home. It read: “PLEASE ARRANGE TO OPEN STORE TOMORROW AT EIGHT-THIRTY WHEN WE ARRIVE GRAND CENTRAL.” Brooks Brothers happily obliged.
Images from top: A Brooks Brothers advertisement for military uniforms from 1944; a page from a 1920s catalog advertising the style of those serving in the military up until that time; New York’s Brilliant Squadron A escorted U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt during his second inauguration in 1905 in these bright uniforms made by Brooks Brothers.