A new book reveals the history of the rowing blazer – and explains why Dutch rowers have to wear blazers covered in sweat, beer and river water
Friday 4 July 2014
Jack Carlson's new book Rowing Blazers is dedicated to an oddity of British style – one that is now nearly 200 years old. As a professional rower taking part in the Henley Royal Regatta this week, rowing apparel is a subject that the American knows a lot about, and his access to this privileged, preppy world, provides stories from clubs all over the country. Here is Carlson's crib sheet on the history of the rowing blazer.
• "The blazer crossed the
Atlantic in the 1910s. Universities such as Cornell and Princeton began to have blazers on their campuses in the
mid-1910s. It is part of the Ivy League look, based on the Oxford
blazers. It has been part of the preppy style vocabulary for the past 100 years
– brands such as Ralph Lauren, Hackett and Gant use it. There is a huge market
for vintage rowing blazers in the Cambridge US
– they can fetch thousands of pounds, even when they're riddled with moth
• "New clubs in
often have blazers. It's all about looking the part and fitting in. Japan is racing
this year and it has a blazer. It's a horrible thing – cream with turquoise
binding." Oklahoma City
• "The Dutch have interesting traditions. No one owns their own blazer there – they're handed down to the next generation. The result is that they're often terribly fitting – you'll see a little coxswain in a huge jacket or a massive guy in a tiny jacket from 100 years ago. They're not allowed to clean them unless they win the varsity race, which doesn't happen very often. That means most blazers aren't cleaned in decades – they're covered in sweat, beer and river water."
• Rowing Blazers by Jack Carlson is out on July 7.