Hickey Freeman History
On a brisk autumn day in 1899, four young men talked quietly about starting their own business. Their idea was a simple one: Make ready-to-wear suits that compared favorably with custom tailoring.
Ready-to-wear clothing had been available for many years, but the man who wanted to dress well continued to have his clothes made by custom tailors. Somewhere between inexpensive off-the-rack garments and high-priced hand-tailoring existed an opportunity for a new enterprise.
In 1899, Jacob Freeman was 29 years old and Jeremiah Hickey was 32. They worked for a men's clothing company, Wile, Brickner & Wile in Rochester, New York. Mr. Hickey later recalled his early days in the clothing business at the age of 19: "My first salary was $4.00 a week. ...I made it a habit to always put something away, for I had ambitions to go into business for myself."
Hickey and Freeman became close friends. The decision to start their own business in 1899 was precipitated by an offer of a better job in Boston for Hickey and in Chicago for Freeman. Neither wanted to leave Rochester and both felt ready to test their abilities in a business of their own.
George A. Brayer was a Wile, Brickner & Wile accountant; Thomas Mahon was a businessman in the leather trade with a penchant for selling to large retailers. Together, the four men pooled $25,000 and opened the Hickey, Freeman & Mahon Company.
The young entrepreneurs occupied three stories of a building in the clothing district of Rochester. Within a year, Thomas Mahon returned to his original leather business and the firm was renamed Hickey & Freeman Company.
Business was brisk at the turn of the century. After purchasing two small clothing makers in Rochester - Michael Kolb & Son and the Beeckel-Baum Leopold Company - the founders once again renamed their organization. The year was 1908 and the Hickey Freeman Company was establishing a reputation as a producer of superior quality clothing for the modern businessman.
Tailoring Under One Roof
Within six years and several moves to larger quarters, Hickey Freeman constructed a three-story, 77,000 square foot factory where all manufacturing took place under one roof. The company officers selected a site in northeast Rochester because it was near the homes of many of its employees.
It was common practice in the early 1900s for clothing manufacturers to engage many small tailor shops. Garments were cut and assembled in different locations and then brought together for shipping. Hickey Freeman's single-factory idea was innovative for the times.
The new "open air" factory featured large work spaces lighted by floor-to-ceiling windows, natural ventilation, lunch rooms, an infirmary, sanitary rest rooms and pleasant working conditions for hundreds of tailors and seamstresses. It became known to its supporters as the "Temple to Fine Tailoring".
The benefits of manufacturing under one roof extended to the quality of the garments. Clothing production was set up in assembly-line fashion because an individual tailor might be especially proficient at setting a sleeve but not so adept at stitching the collar or rolling a lapel. By assigning specific tailoring functions to those who performed them best, the finished garment was far better than any one tailor could have achieved alone.
An Enduring Ideal
Superior quality in materials and workmanship was the foundation of Hickey Freeman's identity in the marketplace. The phrase, "Keep The Quality Up" was adopted as the company motto. It was carved into the oak entryway and painted in large block letters on the support beams throughout the factory as a constant reminder to employees and visitors that Hickey Freeman held this ideal as its constant focus.
A continuous supply of skilled tailors was another concern of company management. Men and women were recruited from large U.S. cities and from abroad. Hickey Freeman would help sponsor new immigrants to the States, provide them with job training, and offer American citizenship classes at the factory. Over the years, thousands of men and women have become naturalized American citizens as a direct result of Hickey Freeman's special employee programs.
Taking Charge of the Future
The year 1928 brought the label known as Walter-Morton to Hickey Freeman's offerings. It provided an expanded market for the same high-quality clothing without competing directly with the Hickey Freeman name.
During the 1950s, clothing retailers in the US were beginning to consolidate and thereby alter the established relationships and loyalties with clothing manufacturers. In an effort to safeguard the Hickey Freeman manufacturing business from unpredictable alliances at the retail level, the firm's president and chief executive officer, Walter B. D. Hickey, Sr. (son of the original founder, Jeremiah Hickey) began to consider merging with a larger, publicly held firm. Mr. Hickey initiated discussions with an organization which enjoyed the security of a solid base of retail holdings. That organization was Hart, Schaffner & Marx. On July 21, 1964, Hickey Freeman became a subsidiary of Hart, Schaffner & Marx (now Hartmarx Corporation).
In 1988, Hickey Freeman created and introduced an exclusive luxury sportswear collection named after the twentieth century sports legend, Robert Tyre Jones. The accomplishments of Jones' short golf career include the "Grand Slam" of 1930, designing the Augusta National Golf Club course in 1931 and founding the Masters Tournament. The Bobby Jones Sportswear Collection offers exquisite fabrications, refined styling, and ultimate sporting comfort.
Hickey Freeman's Sportswear Collection is another example of the company's efforts to keep pace with the changing lifestyle of the American man. Introduced in 1996, the Sportswear Collection retains the company's heritage of quality and craftsmanship with relaxed styling contours and choice fabrics in rich colors and textures from Italy and Great Britain. Hickey Freeman's Sportswear Collection meets the needs of casual dressing for men who demand the best in comfort, fit and appearance.
Despite the dramatic changes in fashion, merchandising and manufacturing during the past one hundred years, Hickey Freeman remains the one clothing maker men rely upon for business wear, formal wear and sportswear of the highest caliber.
It is the fabric, the fit, the finish, and the feeling that distinguishes Hickey Freeman as truly unique. A balance of skilled hand work and technological innovation combined with silhouettes of contemporary style and elegance make the Hickey Freeman name synonymous with superior quality
How To Judge The Fit Of A Suit
The first key to superior clothing is balance - the points at which a man's coat rests on the shoulders and neck.
The Hickey Freeman coat is designed to rest its weight on the area between the shoulders. In this way, the coat rests comfortably without pressure at the neck or shoulders. For the same reason, the coat drapes naturally and gracefully.
The Hickey Freeman shoulder seams are cut with a gentle forward curve to conform to the natural curve of the shoulders. In this way, Hickey Freeman's tailors ensure superior balance and the resulting comfort, fit and appearance that balance affords.
The Hickey Freeman coat collar hugs the natural curve of the neck and gently traces the line of the shirt collar. It never creates an unsightly and uncomfortable gaping at the neck.
The coat collar design requires more precise cutting and tailoring. It is constructed of two halves which allow the cloth to conform more easily to the natural shape of the neck.
A coat collar that hugs the neck also keeps the coat from kicking up in front.
Hickey Freeman lapels and coat front lie close and follow the contours of the body without "popping".
Using an exclusive lightweight canvas interlining and expert tailoring, Hickey Freeman creates a coat-front construction that adds lasting shape and body without heaviness or stiffness.
Armholes and Sleeves
The coat sleeves are cut on a graceful curve that mimics the curved line of the arm from shoulder to wrist. The coat sleeve is positioned in the armhole to match the natural angle of the arm to the body. Consequently, the Hickey Freeman coat sleeve hangs smoothly and follows the natural curve of the arm. A well-set armhole determines how comfortable the coat will feel.
Hickey Freeman craftsmen hand fit the shoulder pad to the armhole to ensure a perfect shape of the shoulder. The sleeve head is then positioned by hand in exactly the right orientation to yield a sleeve that hangs properly without wrinkling or twisting.
Craftsmanship and Technology
At Hickey Freeman, modern tools sometimes share in the artistry of traditional hand tailoring. The benefits are consistency in shape, accuracy in size and pattern matching, and excellent fit.
High technology and fine hand tailoring ensure soft comfort and an elegant appearance which men have come to expect from Hickey Freeman.
Hickey Freeman crafts people perform dozens of inspections of each and every garment throughout the entire manufacturing process. From the moment fabrics and trimmings are delivered to the factory, to the final pressing of every garment... quality inspections are an essential part of ensuring the very best in fit, comfort and appearance.