'WHAT HE FAMOUSLY DIDN'T DO WAS ALTER HIS "LOOK" OR LOSE HIS POSITION AS THE BEST-DRESSED STONE'
He liked to patronise the very best clothing and accessory companies, which is why his shoe cupboard contained mainly hand-made George Cleverlys. He did step out of his comfort zone occasionally, admitting to owning several Prada raincoats and some Ralph Lauren, but mostly he stayed with venerable British brands and tailors. In his later years, he embraced the waisted jackets, tight jodhpurs and polished boots of a country gentleman, donned when riding out at the Arabian horse stud he owned with Shirley, his wife of 57 years, in Devon.
What he famously didn't do was alter his "look" or lose his position as the best-dressed Stone. He managed to resist spending much time elaborate clothing like his band mates, in the ’60s – ‘I thought the clothes were horrendous,’ he later admitted. When he grew a modish beard in the ’70s, he declared the process ‘exhausting’.
‘I MOSTLY WEAR SHORT-SLEEVED SHIRTS OR T-SHIRTS [WHEN I AM ON STAGE]. I USED TO PLAY IN JACKETS WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG’
Equally tiring was playing in the sort of clothes he loved to wear off-stage, especially the three-piece suits, of which he had dozens. He found it hard to emulate legendary drummer Art Blakey and his collar-and-tie approach for two hours at a stretch, especially on tour to places such as South America. As he told GQ magazine: ‘I mostly wear short-sleeved shirts or T-shirts [when I am on stage]. I used to play in jackets when I was very young.’
Charlie had a problem, though, because traditional T-shirt cuts are quite constricting. The Rolling Stone's beatmaster found he wasn't getting the freedom of movement he was seeking. It transpired that fashion designer Oliver Spencer, whose clothes Charlie often wore, is a big fan of Sunspel and suggested to the band’s long-serving stylist William Gilchrist that we might be able to help. And of course, traditionalist Watts would have been happy to use a UK enterprise that could trace its roots back to 1860.
‘DESIGNER OLIVER SPENCER, WHOSE CLOTHES CHARLIE OFTEN WORE, IS A FAN OF SUNSPEL AND SUGGESTED THAT WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO HELP ADDRESS THE DRUMMER’S PERFORMANCE T-SHIRT NEEDS’
Under Gilchrist's guidance, we designed a performance T-shirt for the Rolling Stone, based on a medium size (Charlie was quite a slight figure, so even that would have been quite loose). Debbie Smith, one of our garment technologists who was involved in creating the item, says: ‘The main difference to our standard triple-zero block was that we inserted an extra side-panel. So instead of one seam down the side, there were two, making it much roomier. He also liked his T-shirts to be shorter than the standard ones.’ Probably so he didn't end up sitting on them, again restricting his ability to lean forward while playing.
Although famous for our Sea Island cotton, we used Supima cotton, with its extra-long staple fibres that give it a super-silky feel, for these T-shirts. It’s also very durable, a must for rock 'n' roll. ‘It’s a high quality yarn,’ says Debbie. ‘The cotton is grown in America, spun in India and at the time it was knitted and dyed in the UK.' Charlie, by all accounts, was delighted with the results and the whole band wore Sunspel for Glastonbury in 2013 and the South American tour of 2016.
‘CHARLIE, BY ALL ACCOUNTS, WAS DELIGHTED WITH THE RESULTS AND THE WHOLE BAND WORE SUNSPEL FOR GLASTONBURY IN 2013 AND THE SOUTH AMERICAN TOUR OF 2016’
The last order we received was for 18 of Charlie's drumming T-shirts, two each in nine colours ranging from "Intense Red" and "Clear Night Blue" to vibrant "Yellow"
On the Rolling Stones’ live album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, Mick Jagger famously says to the audience: 'Charlie's good tonight, isn't 'e?' With a little help from Sunspel, Charlie was sure he could be good every night.
Charlie Watts, 1941–2021