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Interview with Jack Carlson of Rowing Blazers


September 19, 2014 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?
JC: I’m 27 years old.  I’m an author, an archaeologist, and a member of the US national rowing team.

VR: Your educational background?
JC: I’m a doctoral student in archaeology currently; I did my undergraduate degree at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown in Washington, DC.


VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
JC: Neither at the moment.  But my girlfriend Victoria has her own collection of rowing blazers (and her own equestrian flair when it comes to style).

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of this area — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
JC: I first became interested in clothing when I picked up Alan Flusser’s book in high school.  In researching for Rowing Blazers specifically, the project has involved a lot of traditional library-based research, mostly in Oxford and Cambridge.  It’s also involved many on-site interviews to find out about the more obscure traditions and anecdotes and individual rowing clubs.

VR: How would you describe your own dress? Have you any particular style or cut philosophy?
JC: A mix of classic American and British style.


VR: Which tailors or RTW makers do you favour today?
JC: The Andover Shop (Cambridge, Massachusetts); Thom Sweeney (London); Walter’s (Oxford, England); Ralph Lauren (New York).

VR: Please describe how you came up with the idea for Rowing Blazers, and what goals did you set for yourself in the beginning.
JC: I first raced at the Henley Royal Regatta in 2004, and I was captivated by all of the brightly colored blazers and accoutrements.  I talked to some of the British and Dutch rowers about the stories behind their blazers, and I thought, “Someone should write a book about this.”  Eight years later, I was living in Oxford, the birthplace of the boating jacket, and I realized I was ideally situated to be that someone. I set out to create a book that is beautiful, well-researched, entertaining (for rowers and non-rowers alike) and expansive (though not exhaustive) in its scope.  The stories are as important as the images, and in many cases the stories are as colorful as the blazers themselves.

VR: How has the project been received so far?
JC: It’s been overwhelming.  I’m thrilled that so many people outside the rowing community are discovering the book and enjoying it so much.

VR: What was your criteria for the content of the book?
JC: I wanted the book to be highly authentic: none of the “models” in Rowing Blazers are models; they are all rowers who have earned their blazers, and they are all photographed entirely in their own clothes.  I didn’t want to try to include every rowing club in the world, but I wanted to hit the high points and to cover clubs not only in the U.S. and U.K., but also in the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Ireland and South Africa.  I wanted to cover blazers that were visually cool, and that had great stories behind them.

VR: Finally, what makes a great rowing blazer?

JC: The greatest rowing blazers in the book are the ones that are highly distinctive — after all, the rowing blazer’s original purpose was to help distant spectators tell which crew was which during races. From a tailoring perspective, the most traditional jackets are made from heavy flannel (though paradoxically they are usually worn during hot summer regattas nowadays); they are three-button jackets with fabric or metal buttons; no back vent; and a soft shoulder.

Photos: Jack Carlson

Brooks Brothers Centenary


September 19, 2014 by Ville Raivio

Around one hundred years ago, the venerable Brooks Brothers turned one hundred. The company that launched a thousand #1 Sack Suits celebrated with the publication of a true title monster, Brooks Brothers Centenary, 1818-1918 : Being a short History of the Founding of their Business together with an Account of its Different Locations in the City of New York during this period. It is now shared as part of University of Michigan’s Making of America series.

This centennial leaflet tells the story of BB, and its founding father and sons as well as a thing or two about the contemporary New York. For some moronic reason, the original scanner has decided to hide many pages from the lore-hungry reader or the virtual archives have lost them to bits. Likely a paid copy or online reading rights must be purchased before all is revealed.

Their vanity is greater than their misery


September 19, 2014 by Ville Raivio

“‘You’re a gentleman, Chevalley, and I consider it a privilege to have met you; you are right in all you say; your only mistake was saying “the Sicilians must want to improve.” I’ll tell you a personal anecdote. Two or three days before Garibaldi entered Palermo I was introduced to some British naval officers from one of the warships then in harbour to keep an eye on things. They had heard, I don’t know how, that I own a house down on the shore facing the sea, with a terrace on its roof from which can be seen the whole circle of hills around the city; they asked to visit this house of mine and look at the landscape where Garibaldini were said to be operating, as they could get no clear idea from their ships. In fact Garibaldi was already at Gibilrossa. They came to my house, I accompanied them up on to the roof; they were simple youths in spite of their reddish whiskers. They were ecstatic about the view, the vehemence of the light; they confessed, though, that they had been horrified at the squalor, decay, filth of the streets around. I didn’t explain to them that one thing was derived from the other, as I have tried to with you. Then one of them asked me what those Italian volunteers were really coming to do in Sicily. “They are coming to teach us good manners!” I replied in English. “But they won’t succeed, because we are gods.”

‘I don’t think they understood, but they laughed and went off.That is my answer to you too, my dear Chevalley; the Sicilians never want to improve for the simple reason that they think themselves perfect; their vanity is stronger than their misery; every invasion by outsiders, whether so by origin or, if Sicilian, by independence of spirit, upsets their illusion of achieved perfection, risks disturbing their satisfied waiting for nothing; having been trampled on by a dozen different peoples, they think they have an imperial past which gives them a right to a grand funeral.

‘Do you really think, Chevalley, that you are the first who has hoped to canalise Sicily into the flow of universal history? I wonder how many Moslem Imams, how many of King Roger’s knights, how many Swabian scribes, how many Angevin barons, how many jurists of the Most Catholic King have conceived the same fine folly; and how many Spanish viceroys too, how many of Charles III’s reforming functionaries! And who knows now what happened to them all! Sicily wanted to sleep in spite of their invocations; for why should she listen to them if she herself is rich, if she’s wise, if she’s civilized, if she’s honest, if she’s admired and envied by all, if, in a word, she is perfect?”

~ F. Corbera (Don Fabrizio) in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo

Interview with Szymon Jeziorko from Studencka Elegancja


September 14, 2014 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

SJ: I’m 23, and I do a lot of things. Among others, I study, do freelance web design, and, well, write a blog about menswear.


VR: Your educational background?

SJ: I’m a medical student.


VR: Have you any children or girlfriend (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?

SJ: My girlfriend is an amazing and incredibly supportive person. She often seems to have way more faith in what I’m doing than I. Though she sometimes gets a bit bored with me talking about a brilliant suit I saw somewhere, or a watch I might want to buy at some point, I can’t blame her – I tend to get a bit fixated on some things. Overall, though, she is very understanding of my hobby, and seems to enjoy having a well-dressed guy around.


VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?

SJ: My mum viewed this as a nice, but ultimately rather unimportant thing. “It’s fine if you want to look good, but you should really concentrate on more serious subjects” was the feeling I was getting from her. But as she saw how I am able to balance all things nicely, she was convinced that this is as valid a hobby as any. My dad was always enjoying the fact that I’m doing something I like.

My younger brother is into completely different style – more fashion-forward, less classic and formal. But we find common ground.


VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

SJ: Medicine and science, obviously. I am passionate about learning how the world around me works, how the human body works. I hope to one day specialize in neurology, and the brain is an astoundingly complex thing that we’ve just begun to unravel – but what is known thus far is fascinating.

I also love music, I find it difficult to function without it. My first serious musical love was Scandinavian jazz, but my tastes grew more eclectic, and I don’t limit myself to one genre. I play a bit of piano and bass guitar, though lately I find myself lacking time to devote to them.

Also, coffee. Though this might be less of a passion, and more of a physical dependence.


VR: How did you first become interested in clothes, and when did you turn your eyes towards the classics? Why these instead of fashion?

SJ: I don’t actually know what was my first impulse for getting interested in this stuff. It started in high school, though, when I bought my first jacket – a black one, of course, because I didn’t know any better. I tried to follow my gut feeling about what was “classy” – but with no real knowledge about these things. When I started med school, I decided it’s time to learn some more about dressing myself like an adult, and I gradually improved in many areas: fit, colours and patterns, the classics.

There’s a reason “classic” and “classy” sound so similar – and I was never really drawn to the flashy world of the newest fashion trends. I also noticed that a nice jacket and a shirt just make me look better – they add some seriousness as well as giving me a bit more confidence. I’m an exact opposite of an extrovert, but going out in white or pink trousers – a sight not very common in Poland – is not a problem for me; it gives me a nice boost to how I feel about myself.


VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of clothing — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

SJ: The Internet, mostly. I started with Polish blogs, like MrVintage, and Macaroni Tomato. The latter was about bespoke tailoring, but the author had a really good, subtle but modern taste I really, really liked. Now he has moved on to open a boutique in Warsaw and the blog is no longer updated, but I learned a lot from it – about fit, mostly, as well as general stuff about classic menswear.

I then broadened my scope of interest to include less strictly classic stuff, I started reading blogs in English. Forums have become a nice source of information, though I rarely post – I’m rather a lurker.

I still learn – my journey has by no means ended. I can spend hours reading various articles on a subject that caught my attention, or forum threads, and it’s always enlightening.


VR: When was your site  founded and what goals did you have in mind back then? How has the site been received?

SJ: I started my blog in December 2012. I didn’t really have many friends who shared my enthusiasm for nice clothes – and I was learning a lot that I wanted to share. My friends would get bored with me talking about the subject they were not really interested in, so I decided to give them a break, and started a blog.

It was not very good in the beginning, though there were people reading it, for reasons I haven’t yet understood. But over time I got better – both with my writing and with my style – so now it’s way better than it used to be. Not that I’m really satisfied with it – I never really am with stuff I do – but I do get nice comments, and the traffic keeps increasing, which probably means I’m doing something right. Or at least not terribly wrong.

VR: How would you describe your own dress? Which RTW makers or tailors do you favour?

SJ: Currently I’m in a transitional period, during which  I try to swap cheaper and lower-quality stuff I bought when I wanted to have some basic items quickly, as well as to experiment, with better-quality garments. It takes time, sure, and money, but I like the direction I’m going.

I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten more subtle with colours and patterns recently. I prefer interesting textures – though a windowpane flannel suit is still on my mind.

Some things remain unchanged, though – I try to stick to classics rather than fashion-forward variations of them, but I don’t limit myself only to things you can find in old Apparel Arts illustrations. I like those detours from the well-established classic route – bracelets, denim, mixing more and less formal things – they give me some comfort, help me claim this style as my own.

There’s one tailor here in Kraków who does all the alterations for me, but can also make a bespoke garment for an affordable price – I’ve recently gotten my first bespoke suit from him. I like it a lot, and I hope to eventually get myself more – in less formal, seasonal fabrics – but it’ll take time.


VR: Who or what inspires you?

SJ: I don’t have one style icon or guru – I look around, I browse the Internet, I try to pick up stuff I like and implement them in my style.

I think that in the everlasting battle of Italian vs. British style, I’m on the side of the Mediterraneans. I really like how they wear their clothes – beautiful and colourful – as if it were nothing; how they can play with the rules and break them in a way that looks effortless and great. I find softer tailoring – less structure, lining, and so on – more comfortable.

I will never be able to replicate it, of course – I don’t really look Italian anyway, pale and skinny as I am, but that’s beside the point. I don’t aim at replicating any one particular style, I like to build my own from inspirational bits and pieces found all over the place, and integrate them into something that is one whole.


VR: What is your definition of style?

SJ: Style is one’s own and individual – what makes one feel comfortable and look good in their own eyes. If the clothes are chosen deliberately, but once selected, one can forget what they’re currently wearing – that’s their style.


VR: Finally, how would you describe the style of Polish men and business men in general?

SJ: Polish men still have problems with the basics – getting the size and fit right. Suits a size or two too large are a common sight, black is the dominating colour. And the shoes, my God, the shoes!

But it’s gotten better recently, and the improvement will not stop here, I believe. Many young people actually care about what they wear and try their best to look good. Some of them are into a more classic style, and they very often get it right – which is a great sight. That makes me optimistic about the future of Polish menswear.

Photos: Studencka Elegancja

Knit tie semantics


September 12, 2014 by Ville Raivio

As the very name implies, the knit tie is a tube-like tie made from knitted material. Most of the ties available is stores  – and likely hanging in the reader’s wardrobe — are either woven or printed. On the whole, these acessories have a smooth, uniform and otherwise presentable surface, while the face of knitted ties is porous, ridgelike, uneven. On closer inspection, the yarn loops resemble those used in knitwear. Most knit ties have no lining, and neither are they cut and sewn from several pieces like regular ties. The reference-friendly Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashions tells us that the first knit ties were born in the 1920s.


In The United States, knit ties were very popular on Wall Street and among the league of Ivy universities. Thanks to its casual air, this tie is still an essential sight on the necks of Ivy addicts, particularly in black. The tie can be created with a very dense knit, leading to smoother and smarter garments, or loosely with rough knit, always a sporty choice. Colours and materials for knitted ties have no restrictions, though cotton versions are cooler around the neck in summer, while a thicker silk or wool-silk blend brings a layer of warmth in winter. The best-known knit tie man is no other than James Bond, whose neck has worn these accessories most always in navy blue or black, unpatterned.

The greater part of knit ties are either horisontally striped or single-coloured, and the latter raise texture or the shape of the knit in leading role. Unlike the average tie, knit ties usually have straight tips, as if cut with a knife. The tips are also narrower than those on knitted or printed ties, usually just 6 cm wide. This great narrowness looks odd on the heavy-set man, but the problem is solved by hiding the tie under a jacket. Woven and printed ties are discreet and formal, but any knit tie is always more casual due to its texture and narrow form. It is doubtably in best use in stock company board meetings, funerals or ceremonial occasions, but in all other places it bridges the gap between formal and informal. Quite the devil.

Undergrad style


September 10, 2014 by Ville Raivio

“University undergraduates dress like normal people, only more so.”

~ Esquire’s September 1940 issue

A bit of rowing blazers


September 8, 2014 by Ville Raivio

The Jalou archives


September 8, 2014 by Ville Raivio

The French publishing house of Jalou has kindly shared dozens of full scanned copies of their selected magazines, ranging from the 1880s to this day. The archive offers stylish lifestyle magazines for men and women, mostly in French, as well as several international prints from around the world. The whole is one rich vein to mine if the reader has sufficient lingual aptitudes.

French magazines in the archives:

International prints:

BBC: The Perfect Suit


September 7, 2014 by Ville Raivio

Ivy Leaguer Casts Wary Eye at Fads


September 1, 2014 by Ville Raivio

Ivy Leaguer Casts Wary Eye at Fads

In which a product of Princeton explodes the theory that 1957′s male children are blue-blooded Ivy Leaguers.

By J. B. Underhill

If there’s anything that gets bigger laughs in the Ivy League than Ivy League fashions it’s a dunning notice from Brooks Brothers. For like that famous New York clothing store which put its first suit together in 1818 and hasn’t changed the cut since, Ivy League dress is the product of age, tradition, studied casualness and the economic effects of a couple of wars and depression.

Fashion a la Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell or even Columbia just “growed” like Topsy. And all the attempts at imitation put out by the Grand Rapids type of clothing manufacturers can’t fake it. Take the “pear shape,” for example. That’s the no-padding, no-pleats effect that makes any Ivy Leaguer (he’d never be caught dead using the term) look like a bag of potatoes. He’s gathered on top like a barley sack, flares at the waist, then narrows at the ankle like an Edwardian dude.


Distinctive shape

The distinctive Ivy shape, of course, is accented by a tweed jacket and gray flannel trousers. The shirt, of course, is Oxford cloth, with a button-down collar. They have been worn by Ivy idlers since Scott Fitzgerald’s campus hey-day. The button-down stemmed from the polo shirt. Kept the points from slapping the rider’s eye, the fashion tradition says. For a while such prominent clothing establishments as Brooks in New York, J. Press, Chipp, Langrock and Fenn-Feinstein, which are scattered in the Ivy metropolises, put a button in the back. But this decoration atrophied during World War II. Hasn’t come back either, except in imitation shirts.

Want to tell an authentic Ivy League Oxford button-down? Look at the breast pocket. It won’t have one. The well-dressed casual Yalie caries (a) his father’s cigarette case (b) a crushed pack in his hip pocket (c) a pipe.


Three buttons

The jacket must have three buttons, setting up a constant war between the Ivy dresser and the pressing establishment which irons his clothes. Pressers think all sports jackets should have that be-bop, two-button drape effect. They press them that way. Joe Ivy takes most of this press out by buttoning up three button and hanging the garment in a steamy bathroom. Mildew sometimes sets in, but the purity of the three-button line is preserved.

Jackets skirts are cut long out of deference to the horsey set from Baltimore, Philadelphia, a few Connecticut provinces and the Myopia Hunt near Boston which each year assimilates any number of “Yoicks” -shouting Harvards. The swirl also conceals the hip flask needed for dry weekends at Vassar.

“Look, Jack, if i wanted pleats in my trousers I’d wear a double-breasted suit, too.” With this rapier-sharp jab, a classmate of mine pinioned a “boldlook” men’s store salesman in Dubuque, Iowa, several years ago. He since has bought all his clothes by mail from New York, adding inches to his carefully calculated measurements in the Manhattan store’s files as the years go by.


Pleats banned

For by their pleats ye shall know them. A pleat at the belt is to the Ivy Leaguer like the wrong shade of lipstick to the high fashion model. If caught at the Yale, Harvard or Princeton clubs in such attire, he would probably lose seat privileges at a Big Three football game. Shoes: If he’s out of college, cordovans shined – but not too shined – are musts. On the campus white buck shoes still are popular – if they are properly dirtied.

There is a special pit in the Harvard Yard where undergraduates (usually in the dark of the moon, because it would mean automatic disbarment to be caught) rough up their bucks to a proper dullness. White bucks so caught on in the Ivy League, that “white shoes” or simply “shoe,” became a common adjective for “fashionable,” or “up-to-date.” But the anti-white buck faction is making spectacular inroads. The group was spearheaded by a group of members of Princeton’s most exclusive Ivy club who took to wearing dirty white sneakers with their traditional dark gray flannel slacks.

The ultimate was struck in 1955 by a DKE at Yale named F. Peter Ffost, 3d, who had summered at Cap d’Antibe, soaking up a miraculous Mediterranean tan. He appeared in the fall at New Haven in a gray flannel suit and bare feet which he had protected from the sun with liberal applications of fuel oil. The contrast between his fish-belly-white feet and his Bond Street flannels ended the white shoe madness. Those in the know turned to black shoes, once thought to be extinct except in the cow colleges west of Philadelphia.

“Ties are to be striped; write it 100 times on the blackboard.” In the fashionable Eastern prep schools from St. Paul’s to Lawrenceville, young men are taught to hold up their places in the Ivy world. By freshmen year, scarcely a purchaser of ties at the Yale Co-op fails to know what British regiment he is joining when he tucks his rep stripe through his button-down collar points. “I always go over to the public library before buying a regimental striped tie,” one of the youths said the other day at the tie counter. “Make sure that way that it’s one of the really good regiments.”

When you care that much, brother, you can wear your Ivy League imitations with enough flare to make that Harvard man repeat his classic about Ivy fashions and the way they’ve taken the hinterlands by storm.

“You know, it’s awfully difficult these days,” the youth declared while sampling the Amontillado at Locke Ober’s in Boston. “There was a time when no one would wear a tweed coat and gray flannels unless he knew he was SUPPOSED to wear a tweed coat and flannels. Now you can’t be sure whether he’s supposed to, or is just wearing them.”

First published in St. Petersburg Times, 21.3.1957.

Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio

Only a beautiful life is worth living.

"If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed; but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable".
~ Beau Brummell