Rowing Blazers: selling the club’s stuff to members and non-members alike

Most of us live in Ralph Lauren’s world, the one where we are a Lifshitz, which should be just fine, but in hopes of becoming something else, something we see as more, we put on the trappings of that more, portraying ourselves as belonging to, or being of, that other thing.

In Mr. Lauren’s case, he did it so well that he has not only gained admission to so much of that imitated world, but he has created a whole new universe built right over the top of that old one to the point that most of us are completely unaware of this past.

But this past still exists. As in it isn’t gone but is still alive; it just usually isn’t ours.

With an eye on this old world, I have watched this little brand, which grew out of a book, that sort of sprung from an old blog, up till just now, when I was able to go check it out in person.

Rowing Blazers has been written up by GQ and Esquire, all sorts of style or fashion folks that know much more than I, so I will stick with what I got myself from them directly.

Jack is doing the work. At the Los Angeles pop-up I found him glad handing in a way that appeared surprisingly invested. LA normally lives up to its reputation of shallow fixation on the who’s who brand of social climbing, and here we have a clothing style rooted in emblems and icons communicating very specific memberships, and here was Jack paying authentic attention to all sorts of nobodies. Like me.

I have a lot of experience with nobodies and a now solid set of associations with somebodies, and way to much intimacy with wannabees. I have learned that a defining characteristic of actual somebodies is that they do not, or no longer, need to try to act or project their somebodieness. Wannabees on the other hand must constantly police and buffer themselves against the nobodies lest such association put their charade in jeopardy.

Jack showed no interest in sleuthing my pedigree before paying me attention. I watched him act the same with others.

That works for me.

Now I have never met Ralph, and maybe he acts the same, and for all I know all of this is just an act, I know how that works, but this sort of access versus authenticity matters in the realm of tradition and clubs.

And that is most definitely the world Ralph, Jack, and any other trad, prep, ivy, or otherwise institutional representative style of clothing are engaging. But while Ralph once sued the American body governing the sport of rugby for infringing on his presumed ownership of the word “rugby” (I will never let that go), Jack sells a line of rugby shorts that celebrate the rebelliousness of that sport’s roots. While tried, and tries, to pass traditional emblems off as his own creation, Jack has published books explaining the history and meaning of sartorial emblems.

In the end they are both selling things originally meant to denote in group to those who are most decidedly not in, Rowing Blazers is at least being up front about it. I should also note that Rowing Blazers is also the official outfitter for USA Rugby, USA Rowing, and a whole bunch of other actual clubs or teams. It isn’t all for the masses.

 

What I Want: books. Ya know, to read and stuff.

I am not overly literary but I like books. I like to read them, but I also like the books themselves. Pages, covers, stacks on shelves, it is a Chipp Kidd sort of graphic designer bibliophile appreciation.kavabowl (2)

I like the ideas contained in books, so I do really read them, but I also stare at them. I stare at them a lot, especially if they have pictures. I got a first generation Kindle back when those things were new and downloaded about two tons of books by dead people. I’m still working my way through Bancroft’s History of the United States. I used to amuse myself on long flights thinking about how I had just brought all 10 volumes on board without going over my luggage weight limit. But this amusement aside, I still wish I had all 10 of those volumes on my shelf so I could stare at them.booksandbooks

So in the spirit of the holiday, here is a list of books I do not have, but would love to stare at:

Try for the Gold by Mark Ryan

The Ivy League by Daniel Cappello

Rowing Blazers by Jack Carlson and F.E. Castleberry

The Blanket: an Illustrated History of the Hudson Bay Point Blanket by Harold Tichenor

As to books I have, and have read, I suggest you pick up Religion of a Different Color by W. Paul Reeve.IMG_4860