Classic Yet Irreverent: Rowing Blazers Founder Jack Carlson
Rowing Blazers, classic yet irreverent, is at the forefront of a 'preppy' resurgence with a distinct streetwear twist. Founded in 2017, Jack Carlson set out to create a brand that collimates his unique history, love of culture, and sartorial eye.
Carlson is a three-time member of the United States national rowing team. He has earned a World Championships bronze medal, has won the Henley Royal Regatta and the Head of the Charles respectively making crew an integral part of his style.
Aside from his athletic past, Carlson has a doctorate in archaeology from Oxford University and has spent time as a field archaeologist in Italy. He earned his undergraduate degree in Classics and Chinese at Georgetown and has written on several topics such as Iron Age weapons.
In addition to his notable history and a wide array of interests, Carlson draws upon his love for sport, travel, cultural tropes of the '80s and '90s, rugby, tennis, prepdom, hip-hop, the ivy league, and much more for inspiration.
From the Rowing Blazers Mood Board:
In 2014 Carlson released Rowing Blazers, a book launched with Ralph Lauren about the storied blazers that are still worn today by oarsmen and women, the imposing culture, and fabled races of the sport. This led to his foray into the world of menswear, apparel, and the inception of his eponymous brand.
He began with the creation of a proper rowing blazer and classic rugby tees which then spiraled into a larger line of garments. Today, Rowing Blazers is particularly known for limited-run collaborations with notable brands such as Fila, Sperry, Harry’s Bar, Murray's Toggery, Seiko, and Warm & Wonderful, creators of the original Princess Diana sheep sweater.
This extraordinary combination makes for encapsulating a company that goes beyond the simple notion of a brand. His perspective makes for irony and discovery within classic pieces that may otherwise be simplistic. Jack Carlson has developed a phenomenon capable of conquering the current cultural zeitgeist.
I connected with Jack Carlson to discuss a bit about his creativity, style, and process as a designer.
How has your history as an author, archaeologist, former rowing champion informed your style?
I think all of my life experiences inform both my style, and also what we do at Rowing Blazers. Rowing Blazers is my creative outlet; it's my way of manifesting the things I'd like to see in the world. And that vision is influenced heavily by my time in the sport of rowing, racing at Henley and the Head of the Charles all those years, and the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, traveling the world with the national team; my time at Oxford and Georgetown -- especially the six years I spent in Oxford immersed in the history of that special place.
Growing up in London and New England in the '90s and early '00s; living and working as an archaeologist in Italy; all the traveling I did growing up -- France, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Latin America, Hong Kong, Japan; my love of sport, both European and American, especially basketball, soccer, rugby, baseball, cricket and the sports I "played" besides rowing as a kid: tennis, skiing, baseball; the zeitgeist within which I grew up: '90s pop culture, cartoons, the rise of hip hop, catalogue culture; my love of art, both ancient and modern -- I always look at ancient art for inspiration, from the steles of Qin Shi Huang to Aztec codices; but I also draw inspiration from Mondrian, Slim Aarons, and many other active artists and photographers, from Julian Pace, Duncan Hannah and Erika Lee Sears to Phil Donohue and Jake Inez.
Did you envision Rowing Blazers capturing such a cultural zeitgeist at the time of its inception?
No. I just started doing things I thought were cool and that resonated with me. I think the fact that what we're doing is so genuine and earnest helps it resonate with people more broadly.
How do you go about seeking brands or entities to collaborate with?
More often than not, the other brands reach out to us. We've been fortunate to have some brands I love to reach out to, and the results have been so good. The NBA, Barbour, Sperry, Lands' End, Seiko, Umbro, FILA and so many more -- these are dream collaborations. Of course, there are many more who reach out that are not such great fits, or I just am not feeling, and in those cases, we say no, sometimes turning down a lot of money. The collaborations that I actively seek out are the ones like Babar, Harry's New York Bar, Luke Edward Hall; I think they're the ones that are a little unexpected but about which I'm personally just very passionate.
Digital or analog?
Who dead or alive has made the greatest impact on your creative life and aesthetic?
A collected item you will never part with?
All of the blazers I've earned from different clubs during my rowing career.
What advice do you have for a young creative or designer just beginning their career?
Just have your own vision; do your own thing, and don't worry about what anyone else is doing.
Now we wait with restless hearts to see what Jack Carlson will come up with next.
Follow Natalie on Instagram: @natalieealdridge
Follow Jack Carlson and Rowing Blazers on Instagram: @jackcarlson @rowingblazers
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Images: Rowing Blazers via Jack Carlson