Rowing Blazers Founder Jack Carlson’s Favorite Picks from His SS'20 Collection
Rowing Blazers founder Jack Carlson owns hundreds of vintage pieces in his personal archive, dating as far back as 100 years. "There’s something special about vintage pieces because they are from a different time. They have a different visual vocabulary that feels otherworldly, which is what I love."
In many ways, Rowing Blazers is a direct reflection of Carlson himself, whose background is just as eclectic as his personal taste. The Boston native began rowing at age 11, continuing the sport through college and participating in the World Championships as part of the US National Team. An archeologist by training, Carlson spent two summers in Italy excavating an Etruscan temple before studying at Oxford and writing Rowing Blazers the book. He took a different path from his fellow rowing teammates, who mostly went onto work in finance, technology or medicine, and continued on with fashion by founding Rowing Blazers the brand.
His collections are directly influenced by vintage, pieces he either handpicked from his trips to London and Japan or simply held onto since childhood. For Rowing Blazers, vintage not only serves as design inspirations, but also acts as references for pattern-making and construction that allow the brand to stay true to traditional production methods.
In between prepping for the second edition of Rowing Blazers and a new book about ties, Carlson spoke with us about his favorite pieces at COMPLEX SHOP and some vintage grails he offers on sale through his brand.
"We are the only company in the world that can really, truly lay claim to making the original blazer. Not many people realize that the blazer originated in the sport of rowing, as a warm-up jacket for college oarsmen at Cambridge and Oxford. Lady Margaret Boat Club at Cambridge University gave us the word 'blazer,' which came from a nickname for its 'blazing red' rowing jackets. Today, we’re the official supplier of blazers for that club and a wide range of others, in addition to making our own. I have a large collection of vintage blazers to use as teaching tools."
"I’ve always loved the work of Slim Aarons. His work lets all of us become the proverbial fly-on-the-wall in some incredibly privileged places, and often there’s a slight sense of subversion or parody. He refused to shoot two things: T-shirts and sneakers. I revel in this juxtaposition, the idea of putting his most iconic works and printing them on streetwear-style T-shirts and hoodies."
"I used to work at the College of Arms in London, which is part of the British government. It’s a very esoteric institution that designs coats-of-arms for brands and people. I’ve been interested in heraldry, which is the study of coats-of-arms, for a long time. The pattern of the six eagles on this rugby shirt comes from the coat-of-arms of Piers Gaveston, the First Earl of Cornwall. There’s a dining club at Oxford named after him, actually; I recommend Googling it along with Hugh Grant’s name.
This rugby is super heavyweight, and it's based on jerseys that players wore 60, 70 years ago. The way the cloth is knitted is very specific, all on vintage knitting machines, which we could only find in France. It’s unlike any other modern rugby shirt you would find elsewhere."
"I am always on the lookout for stripes. We design and make our own stripe, which is a signature pattern for us, but sometimes you just come across a great striped cloth that speaks to the vibe at Rowing Blazers. You can use it in a respectful way without knocking off other rowing clubs. This stripe is a beautiful cashmere blend, and we make blazers and trousers with it as well."
"I love vintage Rolex, Seiko, Heuer and Waltham. I also love anything unusual that speaks to the Rowing Blazers ethos. I have my own very modest collection of watches, but the couple of fancy watches I do have -- and most of the nice ones on our site -- are curated by Eric Wind. He’s a good friend of mine and a living legend in the watch world."
"Our collaborations with Lands’ End have often featured color-block rugbies. The inspiration is vintage Lands’ End and all-American ‘80s catalogue rugbies -- but also some from my archive. One of my favorites is the mid-90s Harlequins team jersey. We have two online right now."
Shop more from the Rowing Blazers collection here.