Stories / September 2019

The True Story of the Blazer

Archaeologist Dr. Jack Carlson finally settles the argument over which sort of boat the blazer takes its name from.

There exist certain incontestable truths. The earth revolves around the sun. What lives will eventually die. The Stones are cooler than The Beatles. A well-dressed man’s wardrobe must contain at least one classic navy blazer. These are Facts (with a capital F). Irrefutable. No correspondence will be entered into. 

However, while the blazer’s necessity is unquestionable, there are two divergent schools of thought on the origins of this essential garment. Between them, battle has raged too long. Let the conflict cease. The Rake is here to once and for all put an end to the argument over the provenance and etymology of the blazer. 

For a century or more, some have asserted that the blazer is named for the colourful flannel jackets originally worn by members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club of St John’s College, Cambridge. In the opposing camp, others have held to the belief that the blazer takes its name from a 19th century warship. 

Of the latter theory, the great menswear bard G. Bruce Boyer once wrote in this publication, “Everyone knows the story of the enterprising captain of the HMS Blazer, a frigate in the British Navy, who dressed his crew in smart, dark blue double-breasted jackets with brass buttons to impress Queen Victoria. The story has been told so many times, it almost deserves to be true.”

But it is NOT true, dear reader! We now know as much thanks to the toil of a doctor of archaeology who, much like his fictional colleague Indiana Jones, set out on an international adventure in search of the truth. (Fortunately, unlike Indy, he was not forced to face snakes, fascists, booby-traps or poisoned blowpipes in the process.)

Contributor

Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.

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