A World Class Competitor

A World Class Competitor

Constantine A. Valhouli’s career (which he self-deprecatingly refers to as a ‘career’) began at The Washington Post and continued in leaps and bounds working for a former White House Press Secretary, directing two documentary films segueing as editor of his new treatise, “Miles, Chet, Ralph & Charlie,” @amazon.com, a fitting tribute to a long friendship that began when he was fitted at ten years old for a navy blazer required for his school dress code.

The book’s subtitle provides an appropriate synopsis: How Charlie Davidson (pictured above) turned a tiny store in Harvard Square into an unlikely literary salon, dressed jazz legends and presidents, helped Ivy Style to the mainstream, and occasionally sold clothing.

The book is an “oral history,” sort of a documentary without film, featuring interviews with me, G. Bruce Boyer and Alan Flusser, as well as a number of other people involved in the Andover Shop. It’s a storytelling format made famous by George Plimpton (a customer of both the Andover Shop and J. Press) and by Nelson Aldrich, Jr. (ditto), with whom Valhouli has another book forthcoming.

Among one of my quotes, “The magic wasn’t just the shop; it was Charlie himself. And I say this as a former competitor, an almost collaborator, and above all else as a longtime friend. I put Charlie on a par with some of the retailing greats such as Cliff Grodd at Paul Stuart, or Ralph Lauren …the store was an extension of him.”

More historical perspective from yours truly, “After the Air Force, Charlie worked at J. Press for both my father and my grandfather. When Charlie worked for the flagship J. Press just off the Yale campus, he sold a hat to the actor Gregory Peck. Now Peck would sometimes wear his own clothes in his films and wore that hat in Gentlemen’s Agreement…When he takes it off in one scene you can see the J. Press logo, my father and grandfather loved that.”

The saga of Charlie Davidson transcends the culture of Harvard Square, his epicenter of the universe. The chapter Storyville Nights  details his insinuation in the world of Jazz illuminated by his irreverential comment, “I dressed Miles Davis before he went pimp.”

Charlie was an iconoclast often tied together with his Esquire/Boston Globe writer pal George Frazier. Frazier was set upon by the hospital nurses who patronized him on his death bed speaking to him as if he were a child, insisting he take a blood test because we’re sick. “No,” he replied, “we’re here for the Yale game.” He died shortly thereafter knowing he had the last word.

Mor Sène, former Andover Shop tailor, recalled his long friendship with Charlie, “The world we live in doesn’t produce many people like him. Which is why it’s so remarkable when one of them enters the orbit of your life.”

The Boston Globe December 11, 2019 obit headlined “Charlie Davidson, the Andover Shop’s ‘Baron of Bespoke,’ dies at 93.” Get the whole story in this entertaining portrait of a man who never suffered fools lightly.

Thank you Constantine A. Valhouli for compiling his vast sphere of influence.






How long has the Andover Shop been gone? It seems like at least 20 years.

Warrington Faust

@Ben Gerson: Hi Ben – A very good guess, although Charlie and George each had come to love jazz independently, and had met at one of Boston’s jazz clubs. (There’s an anecdote about how they met in the book). The wonderful “Harvard Blues” make an appearance in there as well!

The e-book was scheduled to be released in December, but given the recent surge of awareness for it, it looks like we will be moving up the release date. And the softcover and hardback editions are currently for sale here: https://www.theandovershop.com/products/untitled-sep14_11-29

The forthcoming book with Nelson Aldrich was a tremendously fun collaboration on the legendary master of Eliot House, John Finley –– and it was an honor to work alongside Mr. Aldrich and learn from him. As you mention, he died in 2022, so this will be a posthumous publication for him.

Constantine Valhouli

Mr. Davidson was one of The Greatest Generation to whom much is owed. In your article you mention his military service, from a photo he kept posted prominently that would appear to be USArmy Air Corps.
Believe Charlie was one of the crew photographed with their B24 Consolidated Liberator Bomber, 4 engine heavy bomber.

Eddie Roach

Hi Gerald — The paperback and hardcover can be found here: https://www.theandovershop.com/products/untitled-sep14_11-29


Without seeing what Mr. Valhouli’s book, which won’t be published until December, has to say about it, I’d guess that it was George Frazier who introduced Charlie Davidson to the world of jazz musicians. Before George was a fashion writer, among other things, he was a jazz critic, possibly the first in the U.S., and the composer of “Harvard Blues” for Count Basie. (George was also a Harvard classmate of my father, class of ’32.) Incidentally, Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr., like George a wonderful guy, who the above column says is a co-author with Mr. Valhouli of a forthcoming book, left this Earth in 2022.

Ben Gerson