In 1923, Barney Pressman pawned his wife’s engagement ring for five hundred dollars and opened a five-hundred-square-foot clothing store on West Seventeenth Street and Seventh Avenue, in downtown Manhattan, where he sold well-tailored menswear at steep discounts. He hung a sign over the doorway: No Bunk, No Junk, No Imitations. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
By the time Barney retired, in 1975, the store was doing $35 million per year in business. Barney’s son, Fred, added women’s wear, expanding the store into a row of town houses across the street. Under Fred’s leadership, Barney’s adopted a cool, upscale, whimsical vibe. Barney’s scaled up—it was the first place in America where you could buy Armani suits—yet maintained a patina of accessibility through its legendary warehouse sales, where you could find Norma Kamali sleeping-bag coats in wacky colors at whacked-down prices. In 1981 Barney’s became Barneys, discarding the apostrophe, becoming plural instead of possessive—the royal we. Read more at The Paris Review.