Remember Charly B Shirts? Some ’80s Bremertonians Do

Sun file photo from 1982
Sun file photo from 1982

In the early 1980s, Bremerton child chic included acid-washed jeans, double slouched socks — and Charly B sweatshirts.

It was Bremerton’s hometown brand during a time of brand-logo mania and when there were department stores and lots of people downtown.

Local kids saved allowances and begged their parents for the shirts. An elementary school had a Charly B day. The shirts popped up in spots across the country, though they were sold only in Kitsap.

Maybe it’s because some things from the ’80s (I said some) are trendy again. Maybe Bremerton pride is back. Or maybe its because those ’80s kids are old enough to be nostalgic.

Whatever it is, Charly B shirts are back.

A few shirts are appearing around town and being shipped off to former Kitsap residents across the country.

But before we get into that, a little background on the shirts:

They are the creation of longtime businessman Chuck Bair, who sold them first at a clothing store he owned with his wife, Patty, on Pacific Avenue, across from JC Penny — when there still was a JC Penny.

Chuck had created the logo, a doodled script, for their retail store and eventually printed shirts that he sold there and later at stores in Redwood Plaza and the South Kitsap Mall.

Nearly 70,000 shirts sold in the four years the Charly B clothing stores were open.

But then the Kitsap Mall happened to downtown Bremerton.

“We were one of the first ones to leave because we saw the writing on the wall,” Patty said. And they didn’t have the capital to open a store in the mall, Chuck said.

And with the Charly B stores went the Charly B shirts.

Since that time, the couple focused on other businesses: their property management business; Patty ran franchise Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores; they briefly opened an Ivar’s in Redwood Plaza; and in 2006, they opened Kitsap Lake Storage.

All the while, people kept asking about the shirts. They’d regale the couple with memories of their shirts, remembering even the color.

So the Bairs started printing them again and as people asked for more, they printed more. They lined the shelves of an office room with shirts in multiple colors. They put out a sign in front of Kitsap Lake Storage, “and lo and behold it’s taken off again,” Chuck said.

Some thanks for recent demand goes to online social networks.

One fan created a “Charly B. Resurrection” group on Facebook and news of the shirts’ comeback was posted on the wall of the Facebook group “I Can’t Believe I grew up in Kitsap County in the 80’s”, which has 1,700 members. They’ve referred to it as “AWESOME,” with exclamation points and called it a “great blast from the past.” One person wrote, “are y’all for real? i’ve been wanting another one. to match my black w/ multi-colored lettering Esprit tote bag that i am STILL rockin’ after all these years ;)”

In April, the Bairs put up a web site to sell the shirts and post old photos and memories from customers.

About 400 to 500 have sold.

LeAnn Williams worked in the clothing stores as a young adult, and now works at the storage facility.

“Who’d have thought 30 years later I’d be folding Charly B sweatshirts (again)?” she exclaimed.

The shirts’ renewed success may not portend the return of Charly B clothing stores.

“I think it still has potential,” Chuck said, though he said he doesn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it. “Right now its a fun sideline.”

“We’ll just see where it goes. We’ve mad e a little investment in it again. Its not about making money, its about bringing something back that was important to a lot of people.”

—  Angela Dice

2 thoughts on “Remember Charly B Shirts? Some ’80s Bremertonians Do

  1. I’ve got mine! My parents couldn’t afford them in the 80’s. We’ve jested abouth them for years. My DH saw the sign at the storage facility, and knew he had to get me one for Christmas…it brought tears to my eyes!

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