Smart Dressing

Top of the (Ivy) league: Here’s to 200 years of Brooks Brothers

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Brooks Brothers’ 200 year anniversary catwalk was a highlight at Pitti Uomo 93

2018 is set to be a special year for Brooks Brothers. After all, it’s not every day that one of the great pioneers of modern American style turns 200.

To celebrate this milestone, the American icon hosted a catwalk last night that was undoubtedly one of The Jackal’s highlights of Pitti Uomo 93. To acknowledge all that Brooks Brothers has achieved in its two centuries of outfitting, 51 models glided down the catwalk in the Salone dei Cinquecento (the great hall of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio) all sporting a special anniversary collection, coming this autumn.

In tribute to the brand’s eponymous founder, Henry Sands Brooks, the collection draws upon the best of the ‘200 years of American style’ that Brooks Brothers has championed from its inception. Founded in 1818, the brand is more or less responsible for the Ivy League look. It’s dressed the East Coast’s great and good for decades upon decades, (everyone from JFK to Wynton Marsalis) and lays claim to the introduction of ready-to-wear tailoring in America, the first seersucker suit, the popularisation of the straw boater and the college blazer among its many fashionable achievements.

All of which adds up to quite the legacy, so we entered the show space with some trepidation, hoping to find a collection that would acknowledge the brand’s rich heritage. Fortunately, we weren’t disappointed. Generous double-breasted blazers with brass buttons, preppy sports coats, the quintessential camel polo coat, shawl-collared cashmere knits and white Oxford button-downs (believe it or not, Brooks Brothers gave the world the humble button-down shirt in 1896) were present in abundance. Phew.

Even so, as these classics paced down the runway they were given a contemporary treatment, alluding to Brooks Brothers’ history of sartorial firsts. The models chosen were young and dynamic, wearing looks that played with just about every convention in the book.

Cable-knit sweaters were worn over suits, tailored jackets were tucked into trouser waistbands and some looks paired pleated shorts with long socks and burnished ankle boots. The collection’s preppy college striped ties were worn loosely around the neck with a rebellious air. Some were even styled as belts with high-rise, pleated trousers – a touch which echoes an idiosyncrasy of Fred Astaire, a long-time Brooks Brothers customer. It seems that when you make the rules, you get to break them, too.

Whether Brooks Brothers’ customers will fancy tucking their sports coats’ into their trousers remains to be seen, but as a creative celebration of all that the company has given to American style, the show was an impressive feat. We’re looking forward to seeing these reinvigorated American classics in store later this year.