*CHARVET, 28 Place Vendôme, Cap-Toe Oxford: 45D
Size: 45-45.5 [US.11.5] [UK 10.5]
Styles: Brogues, Collectors Shoes/Object d'Art, Oxfords
28, Place Vendôme
Medallion Cap-toe Oxford
Charvet Place Vendôme, is a French luxury bespoke shirt maker, tailor and haberdasher located at 28 Place Vendôme in Paris. Built to their own needs, this building has a Jules Hardouin Mansart facade, behind which Charvet occupies seven floors. Know to be the world’s first shirt shop, Charvet was founded in 1838 by Joseph-Christophe Charvet, the son of the “curator of the wardrobe” for Napoleon Bonaparte. Since that time, Charvet has supplied bespoke shirts and haberdashery to royals, aristocrats and the privileged, the world over. It is known for the peerless quality of its products and the wide range of its designs and spectacular self-produced fabrics.
Louise Caroline Catherine Charvet (1791–1861), Christofle’s first cousin, married Napoleon’s head valet, in a marriage that was arranged by Napoleon himself, who signed the marriage contract. She became in 1813 a linen keeper at the Château de Saint Cloud, thus Napoleon’s shirtmaker.
Christofle Charvet created the first shirtmaker store in Paris, for which the new term, “chemisier”(shirtmaker) was coined. Previously, shirts were generally made by linen keepers cut entirely of rectangles and squares. There were no shaping seams and no need for shirt patterns. The new interest for a closer fitting shirt led to curving the armhole and neckline or adding a shoulder yoke, by application to the shirt of tailoring techniques. The new kind of shirt was called chemise à pièce (yoked shirt). Alan Flusser credits Christofle Charvet with the original design of a collar that could be turned down or folded, and the concept of the detachable collar, the inception of the modern shirt known to us today.
In 1839, Charvet held the title of official shirtmaker to the Jockey Club, a very exclusive Parisian circle, then headed by Prince Napoléon Joseph Ney and inspired by Count Alfred d’Orsay, a famous French dandy. It had about 250 members, mostly aristocrats, who, despite the name of their club, were more interested in elegance than horses. Being a member was a necessary step in order to become a lion, the term used then for a dandy. Joseph-Édouard Charvet, known as Édouard Charvet, (1842–1928), succeeded his father Christofle in 1868. He in turn was joined in the early 20th century by his three sons, Étienne, Raymond and Paul.
Charvet remains the oldest shop on place Vendôme and was and is an “must” destination for visitor from abroad. For the remarkable list of Charvet patrons, past and present see: List of Charvet customers, just two of many were fashion designer Coco Chanel and the Maharadjah of Patiala who once placed a single order of 86 dozen shirts, obviously a chap who disdained shopping and wanted to get it over with, once and for all.
Some charming if apocryphal stories attach themselves to the firm. Paul Verlaine had himself photographed wearing a Charvet scarf. The result, allegedly, of a 100,000 francs bet to have been a gift of to “the greatest poet of our time”, between Edmond de Polignac and Robert de Montesquiou. Having lost the bet, Montesquiou “naturally kept the 100,000 francs but gave Verlaine a very beautiful scarf. Upon hearing the story, Polignac cut all relations with Montesquiou, evidently better know for the cut of his tailoring than for his integrity.
A more credible bit of history: When in 1965 the Charvet heirs sought to sell the firm to an American buyer, the French government, knowing Charvet to have been General de Gaulle’s long-time shirtmaker, grew concerned and instructed Denis Colban, Charvet’s main supplier, to locate a French buyer. Colban declined to approach investors and, instead, bought the company himself. Charvet conservative traditions changed when Baron
Rothschild came into the store and asked to see some shirting fabrics, one of which was pink. When M. Colban, following previous Charvet practice, advised against the color, the Baron retorted, “If not for me, who is it for?”
Colban refused numerous offers to sell the company, maintaining the single store in Paris and continuing the house as a family business. After his death in 1994, the company has been managed by his two children, Anne-Marie and Jean-Claude.
To complement their bespoke shirts, suits and wide variety of haberdashery, ties, scarves, cuff-links and other accoutrement, Charvet presents a very limited but supremely fine array of footwear made in France especially for them. Sold only in their Place Vendome store at prices commensurate with their luxurious standing, these few models, all in strictly traditional styles, disappear into private collections and are almost never seen on the after-market. This is the first pair I myself have encountered in more than a decade; a “find” for the gentleman taking this size.
Size Details:45 (US 11.5) (UK 10.5), medium width.
Very lightly worn.