Henley Royal Regatta fashion

The 1829 boat clubThe 1829 boat club. All photographs: FE Castleberry/Rowing Blazers/Carlson Media Ltd FE Castleberry/Rowing Blazers

Jack Carlson's new book Rowing Blazers is dedicated to an oddity of British style – one that is now nearly 200 years old. As a professional rower taking part in the Henley Royal Regatta this week, rowing apparel is a subject that the American knows a lot about, and his access to this privileged, preppy world, provides stories from clubs all over the country. Here is Carlson's crib sheet on the history of the rowing blazer.

Cambridge University boat club. FE Castleberry/Rowing Blazers

Cambridge University boat club• "The Oxford and Cambridge boat race started in 1829, while Henley is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. Although rowers wore blazers from the beginning, they weren't originally called blazers. Clubs in Oxford and Cambridge would compete against each other and they wore brightly coloured jackets so those watching on the bank could distinguish between teams."

Oxford University boat club. FE Castleberry/Rowing Blazers

• "The bright red jacket of the Lady Margaret boat club in Cambridge was the first to be called a blazer, because of the 'blazing' red colour.Oxford University boat club We found the first mention of it in the Cambridge University Almanac of 1852, where the word blazer is in inverted commas; you see its usage evolve over the next 10 years. By the 1890s, people talk about the cricket blazer, for example."

Wallingford girls boat club. FE Castleberry/Rowing Blazers

• "The blazer crossed the Atlantic in the 1910s. Universities such as Cornell and Princeton began to have blazers on their campuses in the mid-1910s. It is part of the Ivy League look, based on the Oxford and Cambridge blazers. It has been part of the preppy style vocabulary for the past 100 years – brands such as Ralph Lauren, Hackett and Gant use it.Wallingford girls boat club There is a huge market for vintage rowing blazers in the US and Japan – they can fetch thousands of pounds, even when they're riddled with moth holes."

Taurus boat club. FE Castleberry/Rowing Blazers

• "New clubs in Australia, America and Japan often have blazers. It's all about looking the part and fitting in. Oklahoma City is racing this year and it has a blazer. It's a horrible thing – cream with turquoise binding."

University of London boat club. FE Castleberry/Rowing Blazers

Taurus boat club• "The Dutch have interesting traditions. No one owns their own blazer there – they're handed down to the next generation. The result is that they're often terribly fitting – you'll see a little coxswain in a huge jacket or a massive guy in a tiny jacket from 100 years ago. They're not allowed to clean them unless they win the varsity race, which doesn't happen very often. That means most blazers aren't cleaned in decades – they're covered in sweat, beer and river water."

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