Friday, 17 September 2021

Jackets that set rowers ablaze on the water

AN exhibition charting the history of the rowing blazer has opened at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.

AN exhibition charting the history of the rowing blazer has opened at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.

The exhibits include a number of interesting items, including a bright red jacket from a club said to have coined the word “blazer”.

Assistant curator Lindsay Moreton said: “There are a few different theories about where the word blazer comes from, but members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club, at St John’s College in Cambridge, wore bright red blazers which were said to set the water ablaze.”

Ms Moreton and her colleagues came up with the idea of capturing the different colours and patterns of blazers in an exhibition two years ago, and set off to the Henley Royal Regatta armed with a camera. The curators now have around 200 photos of different rowing blazers, many of which are on a video display as part of the exhibition.

She said: “If anyone remembers having their photo taken by us at the regatta, they may want to come and have a look. They might see themselves on screen.”

Other exhibits include Oxford and Cambridge blue blazers, and a sample of blazers from Dutch university rowing clubs where there is a tradition of passing on the garments from one generation of sportsmen to another after students graduate. Ms Moreton said: “The Dutch tend to embroider their names or the details of races they’ve won. The older and tattier, the better.”

A special “curtain” blazer tells the story of 1992 Olympic gold medallist Jonny Searle. On a visit to his old alma mater, Hampton School, he and some friends heard the great hall curtains were to be pulled down and replaced. One of the old boys suggested they should not go to waste — so they made them into “curtain” blazers.

The exhibition continues until May 2014.

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