U.S. national team coxswain Jack Carlson first raced at the Henley Royal Regatta in 2004 as a high school junior. His boat, unfortunately, was eliminated in the first round. Yet the free time Carlson found himself with afterward led to a fascination with one of rowing’s most stylish and visible traditions: the blazer.
Carlson spoke with rowers from all over the world about the traditions behind their blazers; he published a book on the subject back in 2014. Now he has launched a company that will try to bring the blazer into the mainstream in the United States.
“I think there’s a little bit of misunderstanding in America about the role of the blazer in the sport,” he says. “Some people say, ‘I don’t want to get a blazer because I’ve never been to Henley.’ But in Britain, where the blazer originated, if you’re a rower in a rowing club, you have a blazer.”
Throughout his research for his book, Carlson found that different teams have their own traditions surrounding their blazers. His company, Rowing Blazers, will manufacture blazers in the traditional fashion—and its products will be made entirely in the United States.
“A big part of the idea was to take the blazer back to its origins, to look at originals, how they fit and hang and replicate that, and with a modern fit.”
Carlson’s book and his fledgling company have attracted the attention of major style publications like GQ and manufacturers such as Tommy Hilfiger. He’s been able to tell the story about the blazer—“the hoodie of its time”—serving as a practical way to keep rowers warm and sport their team colors. Although they were meant for use at practices, rowers liked them so much that they were worn for all occasions. The rest is history.
Today, Carlson and his partners are bringing rowing blazers and accessories to crews of all stripes. While they work on a project with the nonprofit Row New York, they also manufacture the coats for Deerfield Academy. www.rowingblazers.com.