From its outpost in Manhattan’s Flatiron district, Dave’s New York has become an institution in the Big Apple by being what Adam Levy — the third generation of his family to work at the shop — describes as “a real store, for real people.”
Adam is sat in an office above the Dave’s store alongside his father, Bob Levy, the duo occasionally being called upon to pop outside or take a phone call to ensure that everything on the shop floor continues ticking.
The two are sat surrounded by stacks of hard-wearing workwear, a style that the shop has been renowned for since Bob’s father opened up in 1963. “The brands that we carried then are very similar, if not the same, as what we’re carrying now,” says Bob, sipping on a coffee that he describes as being surgically attached to his wrist. “It’s completely utilitarian, useful for everybody, it doesn’t matter what walk of life you’re from.”
Dave’s shelves are stocked with all the Carhartt, Dickies, Ben Davies, Levi’s, etc. that any blue-collar worker could need. That isn’t to say that everyone who buys from the shop needs clothes for manual labor, though. Its customer base is far-reaching.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re high fashion or whether you’re high function, you’re wearing the same Carhartt pants,” says Adam. As such, the shop has become popular amongst skaters, fashion industry insiders (designer and Highsnobiety collaborator Willy Chavarria is a noted fan), construction workers, and everyone in between — all searching for high-quality, durable clothing.
This is something we have honored in our collaboration with Dave’s New York, releasing on September 8, with a custom Dickies Eisenhower Jacket and co-branded essentials included in the collection.
Having started working at the shop after being kicked out of school, Bob has been there since it was at its original location, 10 blocks north of its current site. And while Dave’s inventory hasn’t changed much in that time, Manhatten certainly has.
“The area was really a working-class area, it wasn’t residential. There was no such thing as high rises or gyms or fashionable restaurants back then,” He says. “Over the years, it’s evolved.”
From being surrounded by factories and warehouses on the border of the old garment district to watching creatives move into the area in the ’90s and then the introduction of what Bob describes as “faceless high rises,” the shop has stood strong while many other family-owned businesses were forced to move out — and that’s partly thanks to none other than Marc Jacobs.
At the time a young designer at the helm of Perry Ellis, Jacobs hosted a show called Rough Guide for the BBC that aired to a British audience telling them where to go to discover the real New York, going beyond the typical tourist sites.
“The phones were ringing off the hook,” says Bob of the days following the airing of the show and it subsequently drew in tourists alongside their already established clientele. “Before that, there was no reason to come down to the area. It was just old buildings, old factories, empty storefronts, dust, and parking lots. We ended up moving down here [to the shop’s current location] and spruced it up a bit — but we’ve tried to stay true to our roots without chasing fads.”
Always focusing on rugged workwear (styles that Adam describes as being “the meat” of the shop) and not bending to trends is a big part of what Bob and Adam believe has made Dave’s successful for such a long period of time, along with staying a family-run business.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life when Adam was getting out of college and said he wants to work in the family business,” says Bob, who hopes to see Dave’s continue to be passed down to future generations. As long as their younger family members are interested in entering the business, he and Adam are confident that Dave’s will continue to exist long into the future because, to quote Levi’s advertising slogan, “quality never goes out of style.”
The Highsnobiety x Dave’s New York collection will be available to shop from September 8, online and in-store at our New York pop-up shop (located at 21 Greene Street, New York, 10013).