There are men all over the place reminiscing and telling stories about Charlie Davidson. Everyone either knew him or knew of him. Charlie ran The Andover Shop in Cambridge for more than a half century, and saw to the sartorial needs of professors and politicians, students, jazz musicians, and mere male mortals who wanted to look decently attired. He helped them all and made them better for it.
He was undoubtedly a good businessman and salesman, a tastemaker with the eye of a cosmetic surgeon and the insight of a psychiatrist combined. Hundreds of well-dressed men depended on Charlie for advice on their wardrobes. But above it all, as one Ivy Style reader said, he had a talent for friendship. His interests were wide, his knowledge deep, and his mind’s eye a sparkle. His wit quick and memorable, Charlie was a raconteur supreme, an urbane gentleman who could make you smile just to be in his company. Wonderful people have a way of making us feel wonderful.
Of the times I’ve spent with Charlie, I remember a particular evening that sums up for me what Charlie was. It was the opening night of Bobby Short’s last engagement at The Carlyle. Charlie invited my wife and me, Charlie Bourgeois, and Catherine Uy to the event. Of course Short knew Charlie well, as did all the other musicians in the group. Almost every jazz musician who played The Newport Jazz Festival over the years stopped at The Andover Shop to see him. When Charlie led us into the room, the band stood up in recognition. It was the beginning of a glittering evening full of wonderful music and champagne. After the music ended and the band left after midnight, Bobby Short came to our table and we sat and talked for another hour or so. Charlie was in his element, the rest of us were in Heaven.
After that I talked with Charlie over the phone, but didn’t see him until several years later when Patricia Mears, Deputy Director of The Museum at FIT, and I went to Cambridge to try and lure Charlie to our exhibition of Ivy styled clothing. “I can’t come to Manhattan any more,” he said, “all my New York friends are gone and it’s too painful.” And now Charlie’s gone, too.
It really does seem like the end of an era, a time when jazz musicians were heroes, and men dressed with an easy elegance. A time when substance had style. — G. BRUCE BOYER