Fashion Is All Ablaze – How The Rowing Blazer Has Made Its Mark By Hannah Norman

Taurus Boat Club (image courtesy of Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by F.E. Castleberry)

Taurus Boat Club (image courtesy of Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by F.E. Castleberry)

“The blazer is both ineffably cool and deeply traditional, equally at ease on a boat or in the boardroom, in the classroom or the club….”

As far as the British Summer Social Season goes, one of the places ‘‘to be seen’’ is at Henley Royal Regatta, known not only for the very high standards of international rowing, but also for one of the most colourful and social events of the year. Of course, as with any British tradition, the rowing scene is prone to the many eccentricities that characterise a good day out, and the most sartorially iconic of these is the rowing blazer. Even five time Olympic gold medallist and next year’s Vice President of the Henley Regatta Sir Steve Redgrave refers to the blazer as “an eccentric but wonderful tradition.”

Sir Steve Redgrave in a Marlow Rowing Club blazer (image courtesy of Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by F.E. Castleberry)

Sir Steve Redgrave in a Marlow Rowing Club blazer (image courtesy of Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by F.E. Castleberry)

One man who would know more than most is Jack Carlson, who not only raced for Oxford in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Races, but who has also represented the United States at the World Rowing Championships. In 2013, he won all three of the traditional international rowing regattas – the Henley Royal Regatta, the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, and the Head of the Charles Regatta. In short, he knows his stuff. Carlson’s new book Rowing Blazers is something of a celebration of the striped, piped and badged blazers that have dominated the world’s clubs and boathouses, as well as the elaborate rituals and legendary races associated with them.

Cambridge University Boat Club (image courtesy of Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by F.E. Castleberry)

Cambridge University Boat Club (image courtesy of Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by F.E. Castleberry)

Accompanied by F. E. Castleberry’s gorgeous portraits of statement blazers, the stories and anecdotes behind them (such as beer-soaked blazer rituals in the Netherlands) are interspersed with thrilling action shots from the Henley Royal Regatta, the Boat Race and of course, the Olympic Games.

Lady Margaret Boat Club (image courtesy of Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by F.E. Castleberry)

Lady Margaret Boat Club (image courtesy of Carlson Media Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by F.E. Castleberry)

Whether you’re a rowing enthusiast, a Henley resident, or simply a lover of a good coffee table tome, Rowing Blazers is a wonderful keepsake of the jacket that fashion forgot about.

Rowing Blazers by Jack Carlson is published by Thames & Hudson at £34.95.