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


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