A Tale Of Two Blazers

In Bedford today, it is supposed to reach 56 degrees.  We started out at 27 this morning, but by 11…

… blue blazer.

My first exposure to the respect – that’s not the word.  Esteem?  That’s not the word.  Recognition of iconic status?  Clunky phrase.  The first time I understood that the navy blazer was armor and colors was at a wedding I attended at the Apawamis Club in Rye, NY in 1989.   You have no reason to be familiar with the Apawamis Club, so a short primer.

 

This is the back of the Apawamis Club, which, in keeping, is certainly more impressive than the front. It overlooks the golf course and the deck is one of the northeast’s target coordinates for the finest summer cocktail hours.

 

This is one area where you might have a reception were you to wed here. This is the room where the rehearsal dinner was that I am referring to.

 

And this, from their web site, is a family that has enjoyed a 7 generation membership at Apawamis. Count the navy blazers, they become important in a minute.

 

I will spare you the names, except to say that the groom’s first name was Doug, and he was my age at the time.  26.  Every time he greeted me, he called me “old man.”  We golfed together quite a bit, smoked cigars together quite a bit, drank together quite a bit, and invented the first mobile phone on a commuter train concept together.  Because his wife and mine were best friends, and because of the golf and the cigars and the drinking, the idea got away from us and someone else did it.  But I am telling you, we got there first.  Doug had about 6 inches on me, blonde hair and blue eyes and an Ivy haircut.  Every single time he saw me, “Hello old man!” he would boom.   He did it to everyone.  We spent one evening at the bar at the Westchester Country Club –

 

One of the bars at the WCC. Literally a half a mile from Apawamis, but we went there because I had a membership and we knew we were gonna get a little sloppy.

… where he decided he was going to marry his bride (an AMAZING woman, love that lady).  We went through every boarding school story, every backseat story, every dream, every my-father-never story of his, and closed the bar.  We had rooms there, so we drank on the 3rd hole green in the pitch black for another hour where he got weepy under the stars because he knew he was choosing the direction of the rest of his life and he had some poet in him, then wobbled to our rooms.  Next morning I woke, showered, dressed and went down to Appowamis where Doug and I were to meet two others for a foursome.  I was in rough, rough shape.  Sitting in the dining room, 3rd cup of coffee, Doug crashes through the entryway like someone opened the gate to a rodeo, looked at me, and at opera-level boomed again,

“Hello Old Man!!!”

So we are at his rehearsal dinner at Apawamis, his family is hosting.  His father’s blood was more blue than his blazer.  It is late July now, and there is no air conditioning at Appowamis.   As with most club rules, as the evening progresses comfort concedes to conformity, and collars were loosened, ties pulled down.  One of Doug’s friends took off his navy blazer.  We were all required to wear navy blazers.  Doug’s father walks right up to him, “Son, please put your blazer back on.”  No other explanation needed, and no question about compliance.

He did.  Evening goes on, we are sweating.  It is in our eyes.  Our slacks are sticking to our legs, our glasses are fogging and sliding every which way, shirts adhered to our chests and backs, hair dripping.  But no blazers released.  Doug’s mother, his MOTHER, goes to his father, and asks, “Let the boys take off their jackets, dear.  It is searing in here.  No one will mind.”  He shook his head, no.  Evening goes on, she has another Old Fashioned, and approaches again, emboldened by the fact that she is sleeveless already and a few Old Fashions in and looking out at a room of young men who look like our plane crashed in a desert and we haven’t had shelter in a week.

This time, they go at it a little.  Nothing big, which is worse because it is that whispered intensity.  He still refuses.  She storms out.  Doug leans to his father.  “Dad, where’s mom going?”  He says, “She is heading home sport.  Angry about the blazers.”  He says, “Dad, it’s my rehearsal dinner, can we just make everybody comfortable?”  He says, “Your mother has a choice to stay at your rehearsal dinner or not, you have no choice but to wear your blazer.”

Which is a good story, but better because Doug’s dad wasn’t sweating.  They DO NOT make them like they used to.

There are three popular stories about the origin of the blue blazer.  No one knows for sure, so these are not in any order of credibility:

  1. In 1837, the then Captain of the HMS Blazer and his crew were to be visited aboard by Queen Victoria.   This Captain (unnamed insofar as I can tell) adorned his crew in navy jackets with gold buttons.
    This isn’t the Blazer but it is a rendering of Her Majesty’s Fleet in 1837.

     

  2. The second theory is that the blazer began as red at Oxford and Cambridge.  The word blazer is derivative of the word “ablaze” and was coined because these particular jackets were red.
    Oxford, 1931

    3.  And the third says that blazer comes from the jackets men used to wear playing cricket.  Which were emblazoned (see where this is going?) with the patch or seal of your club.

    Nothing emblazoned here (I am not a huge fan of this theory) BUT. Next person that tunes me up for wearing cuffs is gonna be referred hereto.

     

    My blazer education continues.  I did not know, for example, that Sean Connery (the third best Bond) wore blazers, such as this one in Dr. No:

  3. Dr. No. Blazer Yes.

    The other thing I was not aware of is that it is possible to order a Blue Blazer in a Blue Blazer.  From Liquor.com:

    Ingredients

    • 4 ounces cask-strength Scotch whisky
    • 2 teaspoons demerara or raw sugar
    • 3 ounces boiling water (plus more boiling water to heat mugs)
    • Garnish: 2 lemon twists

    Steps

    Serves 2.

    1. Preheat 2 glass mugs with boiling water, discarding water before adding the cocktail.

    2. Clear all flammable materials from mixing area. Lay down a damp towel or two to soak up potential spills. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.

    3. Add the scotch, sugar and boiling water into one of the mugs, and carefully ignite with a match.

    4. Very carefully, pour the flaming liquid back and forth from mug to mug, about 5 times.

    5. Divide the drink evenly between the two mugs and extinguish the flames by covering one mug with the other and vice versa.

    6. Garnish each mug with a lemon twist.

    Have a wonderful weekend.  I am not going to insult you by telling you to be careful if you are going to drink flaming liquor.  On Monday, the review of the J. Press White OCBD.

    JB

23 Comments on "A Tale Of Two Blazers"

  1. FYI,
    The J. Press OCBD is made either by New England Shirt Co. (stock?) or Gambert (custom, I think). The latter specializes in custom, so this arrangement makes sense.

    There remain only a very few American shirt manufacturers, including these two. Once upon a time, there was Skip Gambert. Skip and his team made terrific shirts — what a loss. Along with Southwick, reason to suspect that Trad is now a thoroughly minority report. Like .5% of the population minority. On well. The Heyday wasn’t all it was cracked up to be (Weejuns were not comfortable, a lot of cheap cloth and shoddy tailoring, and overly tapered pants).

    Back to shirts: JB will review either a Gambert or a New England Shirt Co. shirt. For the sake of clarity.

    As for blazers: The best cloth for blazers is being woven by Fox Bros. (England); the best natural shoulder that won’t break the bank is Hickey Freeman’s MTM. Does Fox offer a steeply ribbed serge that calls to mind Naval victories galore? Hell Yes they do.

    Cheers.

  2. Frederick J Johnson | February 11, 2022 at 11:13 am | Reply

    “… third best Bond”? I think not.

  3. Personally, I’d leave out the the mug, water, sugar, match, garnish and fire. Instead pour the scotch into a proper cocktail glass and add a couple cubes of ice. Do NOT share. Drink like a champion. Repeat. Oh what the heck, repeat. You are now ablaze and thus The Blazer.

    (Oh come on, you knew somebody would do it.)

  4. I can’t vouch for the the veracity of this claim, but legend has it that brass buttons were added to the sleeves of naval jackets because British sailors used to wipe their noses on their sleeves.

  5. Connery. Hands down. And I think, while the cocktail sounds interesting, I’ll enjoy some single malt (neat) this evening once the Grand Duchess and I polish off our usual Friday evening bottle of wine by the hearth. Unfortunately, sans navy blazer by that point in the day.

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

  6. I am surprised to learn that, even at cask strength, 4 ounces of whisky diluted with 3 ounces of water will ignite. Maybe I need to modify my practice of drinking straight whiskey while charcoaling ribeyes. Nah. Bond lives dangerously.

  7. Jesse Livermore | February 11, 2022 at 2:52 pm | Reply

    Mitchell, I believe it was Frederick the Great, King of Prussia who came up with buttons on the sleeve.

    Napolean Bonaparte came up with the idea of french cuffs so noses could be wiped and then hidden from view.

  8. Bond preferences, as with all things repeated for consumption, is a generational thing. As an example, the best Star Wars is the first one which is appropriately #4 in the series. Why appropriate? It’s proof of my assertion, which is not a hypothesis as I will not be conducting experiments or doing research to find out if my assertion is true, because it’s an assertion, not a hypothesis. Back to Star Wars. #4 was the first in theaters, it is therefore the best. It started the Saga, it’s my assertion.

    Also, best is a personal observation. Most is likely a better adjective for comparison of preference. If you add quantity or duration with most then we can get back to factual testing of a hypothesis. I.e. Sean Connery is the best Bond, because he had Kim Bassinger as one of his Bond Girls. Also, he had the best BG name ( Dr Goodh**** from Moonraker is 2nd, but not nearly as much a First as PG). Pierce was the most anticipated, the last guy earned the most $$. So, maybe he’s the best.

    Never ever set your alcohol on fire, unless you’re making a dessert.

    Bananas Foster anyone?

  9. It’s remarkable how many mainstays of menswear are named after military leaders or the countries for which they waged campaigns. Yet, when it comes to the blazer, the possible origin stories strike me as apocryphal. My favorite for some reason is the Queen’s visit aboard the HMS Blazer.
    The story about your friend’s father at the country club wedding reminded me of something I once read about George W. Bush. Now, I’m no fan of either Bush presidency for even a moment, but for all the mockery George W. received for his perceived entitlement as the wayward, idle son of a previous president, he had sufficient appreciation for the magnitude of his position that he insisted that suit jackets be worn at all times in the Oval Office. No shirtsleeves allowed.
    Agreed with Chris re: James Bond. I can’t pick a best, but generationally it makes sense that I have a preference for Pierce Brosnan’s Bond. I was too young to appreciate Moore’s last outings or Timothy Dalton’s. Pierce Brosnan’s Remington Steele was, like Roger Moore’s The Saint, basically a James Bond training course. Unlike most any of the others who’ve had the role, they were both seemingly destined to be Bond. Not sure who was the best, but Pierce is a favorite of mine.

  10. Wonderful story, the navy blazer has always been my favorite jacket. Phenomenally timeless. Always been a fan of Westchester CC. I believe it’s spelled Apawamis, however. Played squash there with a prep school friend last week.

    You are right, I have no idea why that does that. I will fix. I also corrected the spelling of your last name. 🙂 – JB

  11. I grew up with Brosnan and Xenia Onatopp.

    I just got a new Tropical Wool Blazer for Spring/Summer from J. Press. The fit is superb. My only gripe is that it came with the right interior label upside down. I returned for an exchange but it looks like a child sewed it back on. Really it doesn’t matter because the fit is perfect. I only regret not having it in my life for those 2 weeks after I sent it back.

  12. Love the story about the blazer and about the dad, somehow, not perspiring. I can recall many occasions, in the tropical London tube temperatures of summer, myself (from a more permissive generation) stripping faster than an generously tipped ecdysiast and the old City gents wearing 14 Oz. suit, tie, etc. and looking as cool as long drink of water.

  13. “…Stripping faster than a generously tipped ecdysiast” is a hoot. Thanks for that one JJ Katz. I’ll be stealing it. How people used to wear heavy wool tailoring in sweltering summer heat remains a mystery to me.

  14. There are those moments– when it becomes abundantly clear why Ivy should shed any/all connections with wealth, ‘upper class’ culture generally, and, more generally yet somehow to the point, modern-day incarnations of American preppiness. If the look has a future, it probably lies with cool. This was CC’s genius, as I reflect– returning us repeatedly to cool. I can easily imagine Charlie Davidsion and Bruce Boyer, among others, insisting likewise. Let the moneyed, investor class, whether Westchester or Greenwich or Westfield, have Updated Traditional in all of its Canali-ness and Brioni-ness. And the Vineyard Vines ties.

    The navy blazer can be either really interesting, or not. Most are not. Most are boring, like a lot of the people who wear them.

  15. * For more of the Brioni-and-Canali-ish vibe, see latest copy of Town & Country. That crowd– how they love the “I travel abroad and favor France” look. Spread collars and bit loafers and “Italian fabrics.” They probably keep Paul Stuart in business.

  16. Henry Contestwinner | February 14, 2022 at 5:12 pm | Reply

    Note that many of the young men in the Oxford 1931 picture are wearing Oxford bags—outlandishly baggy trousers, first worn at Oxford.

    Consider also that these young men look much more mature than modern college students. Even so, back in the day, they would have been called “boys” because they were single.

  17. Minimalist Trad | February 15, 2022 at 5:43 am | Reply

    S.E.,
    One of the charms of the navy blazer is that it
    looks boring to those who think of themselves
    as being “cool”. I assume they also find tweed jackets boring. Or am I mistaken?

  18. The curse of postmodernism is the eternal “beauty’s in the eye of the beholder.” The same goes for cool, I guess. But if we’re stuck with eye-of-the-beholder in a world of opinions but no objective truth (and we are–thanks a lot, Enlightenment), then “you know when you see it” rules the day. Some blazers, because of fabric and cut, are cool; some aren’t. Same for tweeds.

  19. This, it occurs to me, is the role that the retailers of old served for us– arbiters of good taste. Whether Bill King or Myles Thurston or Charlie Davidson or Maurice Krawcheck or Paul Winston. or Alan Frank, they had good (impeccable) taste and taught their customers. So, once upon a time, men were educated in the luggage of worsteds, woolens, cheviot, challis, and burnished calf.

    These days, without an educated, edified clientele, the parade of designers, with their financial attachments to certain companies (brands), reign. This is regression.

  20. * ‘language’

  21. S.E.,

    Yep. Dumming down for the sake of imported RTW.

  22. * ‘Dumbing’ (Case in point)

  23. Charlottesville | February 15, 2022 at 2:06 pm | Reply

    I believe that the Blue Blazer cocktail was created by “Professor” Jerry Thomas in the mid 1800s and was originally theatrically tossed, flaming, back and forth between the two mugs, which I would not recommend. Here is a picture: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/07/29/417457445/the-golden-age-of-cocktails-when-americans-learned-to-love-mixed-drinks .

    As for the cloth version, I happen to be wearing one today (Brooks Brothers 3/2 sack that I bought sometime around 1990). It is the most versatile of “odd jackets”, and if a man has only one, the navy blazer is the one to have.

    Finally, Heinz-Ulrich, as usual, is correct. Connery was the best Bond, with Craig coming in second, but others are entitled to their own opinions, no matter how risible. All were at least pretty good, and each was to some degree a product of the era in which the film was made.

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