The Other Brooks

Our last post on the Brooks exhibit at Grand Central inspired this submission from a reader. 

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If one looks closely at the crest on the historic blazer in the recent Brooks Brothers exhibit, it has the embroidered crest and motto — victuri te salutamus or “victory, we salute you” — of Brooks School, one of the iconic New England boarding schools located in North Andover, just a frisbee toss away from Phillips Academy. While the school has had a jacket-and-tie dress code since it was founded in 1926, students tended not to receive the crest until the graduation ceremony. In recent decades, the crest, along with green piping, is used to modify regular blazers into rowing blazers for Head of the Charles and Henley.

The picturesque Brooks School was founded by Endicott Peabody, the headmaster of Groton who was the inspiration for the fictional schoolmaster in Louis Auchincloss’ The Rector of Justin. Peabody chose the young Frank Ashburn — an alum of Groton, Yale (Skull & Bones), and Columbia Law School — as the first headmaster. They modeled Brooks’ colors of black, white and green after the Groton colors of black, red and white.

Meanwhile, just down the road, a young man named Charlie Davidson opened the Andover Shop in 1948. The now fortysomething Ashburn took a liking to Davidson, and began bringing vanloads of students to the shop each week in order to get the properly outfitted. To this day, the shop supplies the school crests, like the one seen in the Brooks Brothers exhibit. Davidson related how Ashburn’s support was critical to the survival of his own young company. Over the years, Davidson and The Andover Shop designed and created a number of iconic Brooks items (as in the school), including scarves and rep ties modeled after the English public school kit.

Coming full circle, Brooks School recently worked with The Andover Shop to reissue its 1936 school tie (originally made by J. Press) from the archives. Archivist Deanna Stuart of Brooks worked with James Toomey and Charlie Davidson to determine the original colors (because of fading of dyes over time), and to widen the reissued tie slightly so that it would look appropriate to wear today, rather than like some sort of Jazz Age lawn party costume.

Frank Ashburn and Charlie Davidson’s influence remains strong on the Brooks School culture, and the school is known for a number of stylish alumni, including actors Anthony Perkins, James Spader (see Ivy Style’s “neurotic WASPs” post) and Parker Stevenson (A Separate Peace, Mission: Impossible), and the musician Lang Phipps (according to the NYT wedding announcement, his father gardens in a jacket and tie). Perhaps a new motto is in order: Davidson te salutamus, or “Andover Shop, we salute you.” — ANV

15 Comments on "The Other Brooks"

  1. Richard E. Press | August 14, 2018 at 9:57 pm | Reply

    Jazz Age through Heyday Brooksies sporting their original J. Press narrow width club classic would have considered a wider version Not For Our Kind Of People.

  2. I Love this article for its fascinating window into an obscure but engaging slice of stylistic amd cultural history.

    @ Mr. Press

    RE: yr comment on the ties; I must admit that I rather agree.

  3. This is a lovely piece. One quibble: the translation of the Latin motto. *Victuri* is a future active participle of one of two verbs: *vinco* (to conquer) or *vivo* (to live). So, the motto translates to “We, about to conquer, salute you,” or, “We, about to live, salute you.” A Google search suggests that the school intends the latter. As to making “Davidson” accusative, I suppose one could do this, if one presumes that *Davidson* is a loan word from Greek!

  4. Charlottesville | August 15, 2018 at 10:14 am | Reply

    Delightful piece, ANV. And very nice tie. I wish I had the right to wear it.

  5. @Charlottesville, @Eric, and @EvanEverhart: thank you for the kind words. This was a lot of fun to write, and I am glad that it’s being enjoyed.

    @Eric: You are entirely correct on the Latin translation. Perhaps we need some variation of “Sartori, te salutamus?” (‘We, who are about to put some serious damage on our credit cards, salute you.’)

    @RichardPress: You are entirely correct; when did these knit ties begin to get wider? And might you have any back story on the school ties, as they were originally from J. Press in the 1930s. (And there seems to be a period when black was a more acceptable color for associative ties?) Help me, Obi-Wan …

  6. @ANV:

    Hardly Sir! The words of appreciation are well warranted! A thoroughly engrossing piece! I hope that we will perhaps see more in the future!

    In support of your above comment to Richard Press; I would also be very interested to learn more about the history of these school/club ties as purveyed by your family’s firm.

    As to knit tie width; I have 2 black label BB knit ties, both woven in England, and made up in America at the BB workshops (Makers), and one is much narrower than the other. If I recall correctly, one has slanted lettering, and the other has straight up and up lettering, and it is the narrower that has the straight lettering, though, they are identical in nearly all other respects (with the exception of the placement of the rear label/keeper, which is higher up, on the narrower tie.

    My guess as to width, might be that knit ties grew wider or narrower in much the same way, and at much the same time as their woven brethren did.

    -I still hope that Richard Press will chime in on this as the definitive word, as he actually lived this clothing, as a business and a family affair.

  7. *your; Richard Press’

    apologies for the bad/confusing grammar!

  8. Richard E. Press | August 15, 2018 at 11:50 am | Reply

    On board regarding club tie research. Have to fine-tune my memory which is getting less dependable and furthermore sift through few depleted brochure remnants in the basement trunk.

  9. Eric is right about the Latin. Note that this is an inversion of a gladiatorial salute, made famous because it was quoted in a work by the historian Suetonius. The original is “morituri te salutant” – those who are about to die salute you. But the first person variation “morituri te salutamus” – we who are about to die salute you – is widespread, and would appear to have inspired this school motto.

  10. Somewhat off topic, but is there an update in the sale of the Andover Shop?

  11. Old School Tie | August 15, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Reply

    @Charlottesville – Bravo!

  12. Simplex Munditiis | August 16, 2018 at 4:38 am | Reply

    @whiskeydent:
    Thanks to CC’s tolerant attitude, nothing is off-topic here, since everything is in some way interrelated.

  13. Great piece.
    I’m a member of the Andover Squash Club, a public club that uses the Phillips courts in the winter and the Brooks courts in the summer (best of both worlds). Both great campuses but I’d say Phillips is a bit more classic with its brick buildings and expansive greens, however, it is in the middle of a small downtown. Brooks, on the other hand, is a little more picturesque, more rural with better scenery (overlooking a large pond). Both tremendous institutions though!

  14. I too remain curious about the future of The Andover Shop. I can’t imagine there’s a large (read: profitable) market for Classic Ivy clothing. Davidson was smart (from a business perspective) to prefer a more updated traditional vibe, including the two button jacket and pleats option. I am guessing I’m not alone in wondering how O’ Connell’s stays afloat.

  15. @S.E., some of us of a certain age don’t want an “updated traditional vibe”. We want authentic heyday trad which O’Connell’s offers. I’ve been shopping with them online for probably ten years or more as I live in Texas. Every purchase I’ve made ships within one day. Customer service is off the chart. Example: last March I was in the market for a poplin suit for Spring/Summer. Found one online at O’Connell’s. Made the purchase. The next day I received an email from one of the owners advising that he noticed a faded area on the jacket as a result to sun exposure while on window display. Only one in my size. He advised me not to purchase. Now I’m in Texas. He could have just sent it to me and let it become my problem. But he didn’t. That’s how they manage to “stay afloat”. Btw, I just purchased a sportcoat from them for Fall. The price of the sportcoat was roughly twice that of the suit.

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