Henry Bucks is one of the world’s great menswear stores and perhaps one of the last of the great menswear retail specialists to remain in family hands in an age where globalisation, rationalisation and the expediency of mass marketing and poor levels of service are what we are led to expect.
Henry Bucks is also the Australian member of the International Menswear Group, a prestigious club of the world’s very best menswear specialists, and on three occasions has been elected president of this exclusive group who meet three times a year to share valuable information and ideas.
The world’s finest and most wearable men’s clothes are carefully and selectively bought for Henry Buck’s customers. There is a sense of purpose and knowledge in our purchasing of men’s clothing and a whimsical flamboyance and innate style in our collection of luxurious accessories.
Henry Buck was born in 1860 in Clerkenwell, London, the second child of Thomas, a master electro-plater and later a corn factor. He moved to Yorkshire and was brought up in Danby. Henry learnt the soft goods trade at the age of 13 and suffering from tuberculosis, migrated to New South Wales in 1887 finding a job as a grazier’s farm hand at ‘Manfred’ owned by the Tailor family near Euston. His fiancée Laura Jane Rose joined him but was repelled by life on a sheep station, and being a strong Yorkshire personality, persuaded Henry to move to Melbourne.
On June 25 1887 at Armadale the couple married with Presbyterian forms. Henry worked as a bookbinder’s assistant, losing his job in 1890 after having the temerity to ask for a pay rise, probably a shilling a week. He went into a business with a friend and found to his dismay that he had been duped. Rather than take legal action against his erstwhile friend, Henry took over the shirting fabric shop, the fabrics and equipment and with Laura as bookkeeper, and 2 machinists, he learned the trade of shirt cutting, opening a shop on August 25th 1890 in the fashionable Queen’s Walk off Swanston Street and Collins Street.
By the turn of the century Henry had built a big factory on the outskirts of Melbourne to manufacture shirts, pyjamas and ties, and had leased a warehouse in the city, Wallace, Buck and Goodes. King George V appointed Henry Buck an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1920 for services to the community and business. As well as managing a business involved in retail, manufacturing and wholesaling, HB had become famous for administering to thousands of returned troops, ferrying them around and providing food and shelter throughout the 1914-1918 war.
In 1919, Fred Dennett, a dashing young touring concert pianist visited Melbourne during a tour of the Empire, met, wooed and married Henry’s only daughter Elsie, much to her parent’s disapproval. Fred eloped with his young bride to India and, soon after, Henry’s famous telegram “All is forgiven. Come Home. Love, Dad” changed the course of the firm’s future and ensured its succession. Fred joined Henry Bucks, produced a daughter, Suzanne and a son, Peter who later at the age of 21 was shot down and killed in his Lancaster bomber over France in 1944.
When HB died on a visit to England in 1933, Fred became Governing Director. Suzanne Cecil married another Englishman, Barclay James Amherst Cecil and they had two sons, Timothy and Jonathan. Tim joined the business in 1963 and retired after 40 years as CEO to make way for his nephew Timothy who took over from him in 2012.
There are now 3 stores in Melbourne and 1 in Sydney, a thriving catalogue and online shopping business. The company has strengthened its position in the market place over the years through expansion and consolidation, entrepreneurial initiatives and focusing on its 35-65 age group of affluent, corporate and professional, smartly dressed clients. And Henry Bucks still proudly remains one of the last wholly owned and managed family companies left to fly the flag of private enterprise.