In 1899, friends Jeremiah Hickey and Jacob Freeman left their posts at the men’s clothing manufacturer Wile, Brickner & Wile in Rochester, New York, to start their own little outfit in town. Ten years later, operating under the motto, “Keep the Quality Up,” then-president Emmett Baum committed Hickey Freeman to the novel idea of making the best ready-to-wear suiting in America, no matter the price—it’s a commitment they’ve upheld to this day. Toiling away in “the Temple,” a 77,000 square foot factory on Clinton Street in Rochester, built in 1912 to house their 1700 some employees, they’ve kept the quality up. Never advertising, and never wavering from their immaculately cut, fully canvased suiting, the company prospered through the Great Depression and into the booming mid-century, when Hickey Freeman and other Rochester-based factories Kodak, Bausch and Lomb, and Xerox made their hometown the center of manufacturing in America.
In ‘63 Hickey-Freeman Co. merged with Chicago clothier Hart Shaffner & Marx to become Hartmarx, resigning family ownership of the label. But, with Jeremiah’s son Walter Hickey at the reins, the brand maintained both their autonomy and Rochester base. A little brother brand, “Hickey,” was born in 2005 to provide a youthful down-market spin on menswear staples and sportswear. It sadly fell off the grid a few years later, but in 2010, a collaboration between Hickey Freeman and supercool retailer Opening Ceremony confirmed that big brother’s quality has lasting appeal for traditionalists and modernists alike. Now, the brand, presided over by Jeremiah’s grandson Duffy Hickey, is still American-made, still laboring away in the Temple, still keeping the quality up, and still making the best ready-to-wear suiting stateside.