Today Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop turns 90, and a young acolyte recounts how the legendary clothier continues to inspire.
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When I was in high school I read Christian Chensvold’s article for The Rake on Charlie Davidson and The Andover Shop and knew I needed to visit the legendary haberdashery as soon as I could.
Days after I arrived in Boston for college, I set foot in the store for the first time. Initially I was intimidated by what I had read on forums about Charlie’s sometimes indifferent attitude towards customers. Little did I know that within a year’s time I’d build a strong relationship with him. After buying a $10 watchband from the shop one afternoon during my freshman year, I finally summed up the courage to talk to Charlie and he couldn’t have been nicer. He was thrilled to see that a young guy like myself had a passion for clothing and tailoring. From then on, I would never hesitate to pop into the store just to shoot the breeze and hear Charlie’s colorful stories about jazz legends such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Roy Haynes, and celebrities as random as Rodney Dangerfield.
Over the past few years I’ve learned a lot about dressing from Charlie, and largely credit him and the guys at The Andover Shop for helping shape my personal style. While I have been dressing relatively the same since the age of 14, Charlie helped give my traditional American or “preppy” sense of dress a bit of English flair. Think buttondown collars with hacking jackets, or cutaway collars worn with rep and club ties and Alden tassel loafers. He got me to start putting cuffs on my flat-front trousers, and his fine taste guided me to dress in a way that is modern but still timeless.
Charlie even got me to start wearing beltless trousers with side tabs, which he wears exclusively. These days I rarely even wear belts, often opting for braces under a suit or sportcoat for dressier occasions. While he may not necessarily dress in the Ivy League style these days, Charlie still has a great appreciation for the look, as he was the one who pioneered it during the heyday. These days he prefers two-button, side-vented jackets, always with a ticket pocket, worn with spread collar shirts and forward-pleated grey trousers. He also never fails to wear a pair of unpolished Aldens that he purchased in the 1970s, which are literally peeling apart from age, a testament to the Boston Cracked Shoe look.
When I decided to commission my first sportcoat from The Andover Shop, I had it made with Charlie’s sartorial details as a tribute to the master: two-button front, three-button surgeon’s cuffs, flap pockets with a ticket pocket, and side vents. I’ve since recommended Charlie to my father, and now he’s had several suits made for him, the reverse of how the patronage to The Andover Shop usually goes through the generations.
Maybe I’m just starstruck, but it’s truly incredible to have the same guy who fitted Miles Davis for his clothing fit me for mine. Charlie is a living legend. Whether he’s giving me advice on life, asking how I’m doing in school, or I’m teaching him how to use an iPhone camera, it’s always a great time. Here’s to 90 years young, Charlie, and hopefully many more. — AL CASTIEL III