Most of us know Brooks Brothers for the company’s ability to maintain classic looks and style well into the modern age. What you might not know, however, is that this dedication to “classics” might go back further than you think–try the 15th Century.
One of the most distinctive aspects of the company (at least in their branding) is their hanging sheep logo. This is by far one of the better logos still around, and it blows the cool guy brands out of the water. Not only is it memorable, but the logo has a huge and interesting history.
The earliest-known usage of the drooping sheep was in 1430 when Phillip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, founded the Order of the Golden Fleece. At the time, the Order of the Golden Fleece was controversial because Phillip chose to identify with the myth of Jason and the Argonauts to retrieve the golden fleece, despite also identifying as a Christian order. Over time, this symbol of the golden fleece took on many forms as the Order grew to more and more countries and kingdoms.
Eventually, European merchants began to use the symbol on the side of their boats in order to identify themselves as wool traders. It wasn’t until the mid 19th Century that Brooks Brothers got a hold of it, in order to spice up their simple text logo. Over time, this once European-dominated symbol began to seep into the American consciousness as the Brooks Brothers logo, despite the fact that the Order still exists today, and in fact hosts notable members like Nicolas Sarkozy.
If you show someone the dangling sheep, and ask what they associate it with, it’s very possible they will claim its the Brooks Brothers logo–which is certainly is. However, if you ever find yourself in a game of Trivia Pursuit, and you’re asked who used it first, you’ll know… and Phillip the Good won’t roll over in his grave.