Due to the scarcity of images about Andover Shop co-owner Virgil Marson, this post from last month is being reposted with a new report from the memorial service, submitted by contributor ANV. The original news announcement can be found at the bottom of the page.
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“Hi. My name is Nina Marson Roche, and I’m Virgil Marson’s daughter,” said the tall, bearded man at the podium. Then he paused and grinned. “Nina asked me to read her memorial to Virgil. I’m her husband, John.” It set a perfect, playful tone for the memorial to one of the two co-founders of the Andover Shop. The memorial was held at the Andover Country Club, where the picture windows overlooked the expansive greens and the protected woodlands beyond it.
Fr. Ian MacLellan offered another perspective: “Virgil’s very name suggests classical antiquity, from the author of the Aeneid to Dante’s guide in Divine Comedy.” He emphasized that Virgil was “not just from Andover, but of Andover. He was rugged, rough-hewn and refined, much like Andover itself.” Indeed, the photos of Virgil throughout the room showed a tall, lean, vigorous man – active and alert well past the age of 90, much like his co-founder, Charlie Davidson.
The memorials – and especially the humor – reflected the Andover Shop’s distinct aesthetic sensibility: dignified but not stuffy, correct without being too formal. It is the boarding school insouciance of Phineas in A Separate Peace, subverting the dress code while still technically meeting the dress code. The assembled crowd of men in their 60s, 70s, and 80s – clients of the firm who have long since become part of its extended family – was a lot like who you imagined Phin to have grown up to be.
One gentleman noted, “The Andover Shop’s style was traditional but never stuffy, equal parts patrician and bohemian. The jazz guys, we owe a tremendous debt to them, especially Miles Davis, Chet Baker. They brought this look to a broader audience, and helped all the retailers for decades.”
Another noted, “It wasn’t a specific set of clothes or colors, it was the eye for how to combine classic items that were slightly different, year after year. Looking back, some of the old catalogs from 30 or 40 years ago still feel timeless and current, while other aspects of the canon cycle in and out of patrician taste.”
Virgil’s family mentioned one other bit of sartorial lore that we hadn’t heard before. Virgil wore his watch like Gianni Agnelli, on the outside of his shirt cuff. But there was a good reason for this – he often had an allergic reaction to the metal and leather of a watch and band, when it sat against his skin for a long time. (So perhaps Agnelli wasn’t trying to break the rules as much as not break out with a rash?)
One other fellow shared a story of a bespoke commission gone somewhat awry. He was a tall (but not too tall) fellow who felt that the existing trench coats were too short and stopped too high on his leg. Virgil assured him that he could make one that solved the issue. When the coat arrived, it looked like the perfect length, breaking about six inches below the knee. The perfect shoulders and the perfect sleeve length. There was only one problem: the pockets were almost down at the knees. Rather than a longer coat made for a 6′ tall man, the firm had made a coat scaled to a 6’7″ fellow. (The gentleman mentioned that the second attempt was successful). — ANV
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In my various chats with Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop, he occasionally would drop the name of his business partner. I never met the man and know nothing about him, but as mentioned here recently, Virgil Marson died at the age of 94, making him about as Old Guard Ivy as you can get. While Charlie ran the Harvard Square shop, Mr. Marson ran the original, which served the Phillips Andover Academy.
The local paper in Andover, MA ran a lengthy remembrance the other day, which will be of interest to all buffs of Ivy League Look history:
“Let’s just say there are no Levi’s sold at the Shop. It’s always been a men’s clothing store for Phillips Academy students and their parents. Jack Lemon worked there, two presidents shopped there. It was a specialized store,” said Nina Marson Roche of Naples, Fla., whose father, Virgil Marson, owned and operated The Andover Shop for nearly 70 years. He died in Naples Oct. 2, just six days shy of his 95th birthday. He once lived on Argilla Road in Andover, moved to North Hampton, N.H., about eight years ago and most recently moved to Naples.
Known for his impeccable taste in unusual tweeds, he began his annual pilgrimages to the United Kingdom in the late 1960s to work with weavers in Ireland and Scotland’s Shetland Islands to produce tweeds of his own design. He has dressed presidents, sons of presidents, members of the Supreme Court and high-profile celebrities as great men depended on his eye for fashion, according to his obituary. He was known as “The Prince of Tweeds.”