The British Summer hosts numerous idiosyncratic events and traditions. One of my favourites is Henley Royal Regatta, a pageant of athletic bodies (male and female) and gaudy blazers. This rowing competition is the most esteemed by all clubs internationally and each club’s blazer is steeped in tradition and etiquette. If you are tickled like me by stories behind sartorial etiquette then get a copy of ‘Rowing Blazers’ by Jack Carlson (the author himself is a decorated rower). It contains images of handsome and accomplished rowing fops adorned in their club blazers accompanied by the stories behind them.
The Summers I have not been able to attend a day at this four day rowing festival at Henley have been ones of mourning. Fortunately, this year will not be one of those. If you are to spectate from the Stewards Enclosure you must be attired according to certain guidelines. For women, this includes skirts below the knee and I can tell you from experience this rule in particular is strictly monitored by the Stewards. Although not a rule, even rowers not competing will show club allegiance by wearing their affiliated club blazer.
The term blazer is now commonly used to describe any sports jacket but it was originally used exclusively to describe a rowing jacket. A number of authorities on the topic of garment origins believe the term was first used to specifically refer to the distinctive bright red sports jackets worn by the St John’s College Boat Club of Cambridge, England (now called the Lady Margaret Boat club). Gradually, this nomenclature was used for all rowing jackets and eventually all sports jackets.
Considering there are such expectations and traditions surrounding dress at Henley, what will I be wearing come this Saturday when I am in attendance? Well, I plan on paying homage to the blazer. Having never rowed I do not possess a club blazer. However, after working at Burberry, I acquired a number of black uniform blazers. Not needing so many of the same colour and cut and since leaving the company I have customised a couple of them. On this occasion, I will wear the more distinctive and playful one. This one is features lapels filled with pin badges I have randomly accumulated over the years. This I will wear over a simple dress so as not to be an overwhelming sight.
Having put such effort into my outfit I hope to be blessed with sunshine so I can show off my creation.
If you fancy creating your own pin badge masterpiece then check out my good friend Luke Fazakerley’s Etsy shop ‘Pipeline Pins’. Looking for something retro, he’s got it. Or perhaps something reminiscent of childhood? Yep, he’s got that covered too.
Please do share your own pin badge designs or Henley outfits with me on Twitter (@TamaraMcCombe) and if you will be at Henley on Saturday I would also love to know, perhaps we can meet!