Unless you are reading Ivy Style under the impression that you will learn something about the various species of the evergreen climbing plants that include Hedera helix and Parthenocissus quinquefolia, you probably do not need telling that, sartorially, the world is in a race to the bottom. Ivy Style readers and their fellow travelers are fighting a valiant rearguard action but they are not, alas, statistically significant when counted against those others whose income allows them choice in the clothes that they wear. The wardrobe adopted by most of the First World (ironically, often made in the Third) is a variation on the unholy trinity of jeans, T-shirt and hoodie. To add to the anti-style, these garments are frequently dirty and ill-fitting, with much of the material they are made from likely to be a product of chemistry rather than biology.
A proportion of those who wear this ubiquitous uniform simply do not care; they wear clothes because nudity is mostly impractical and anti-social (despite its popularity on the Internet). Perhaps we should not criticise those with this mindset, they may have more sense than those of us who are fascinated by collar rolls, cuff depths and necktie dimples. More depressing are those who profess an interest in what they wear but whose dress still appears as aesthetically displeasing as the “don’t care’’ group. For them, shopping is an obsession but they seem to confuse quality with quantity, taste with fashion, and style with celebrity.
Gentlemen (possibly Officers and Gentlemen) from the Royal Military College of Canada viewing the boat racing at Henley Royal Regatta.
As I indicated at the beginning, I am “preaching to the converted”. Two years ago, I wrote a piece for both Ivy converts and for those actually born into the faith about a time and place where “a man can dress elegantly without arousing glances, curiosity, derision or scorn from those around him”. This is the so-called Stewards’ Enclosure of the annual rowing event known as Henley Royal Regatta. In Delightful While It Lasts: Inside Henley’s Stewards’ Enclosure, I noted that:
It is very telling that, from its start in 1839 until the 1970s, Henley Regatta did not have a dress code. In times now gone forever, people of all social classes could be relied upon to dress appropriately for any occasion without being prompted, directed or forced….
Perhaps the most interesting and, indeed, heartening aspect of (Henley) is the reaction of many of the high school and college rowers and their supporters from Europe and North America; they actually enjoy “dressing up” and putting on a blazer, shirt and tie. The occasion gives them licence to dress smartly without fear of being mocked by their contemporaries.
Nowadays formal rules are required to maintain standards of dress even though the Stewards’ Enclosure is a private club that should only attract as members people who wish to enter into the spirit of the occasion. However, Henley rules state:
Gentlemen are required to wear lounge suits, or jackets or blazers with flannels, together with a tie or cravat (US: ascot). Ladies are required to wear dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee. Ladies will not be admitted wearing divided skirts, culottes or trousers of any kind.
Several people were kind enough to say how much they enjoyed my 2017 article, so here are pictures from this year’s regatta, all confirming that standards have been maintained. Enjoy!
A most chapish of chaps sporting the cap and blazer of Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club.
A spectator wearing the blazer of Westminster School Boat Club (founded 1813) and the pants of Goldie, the second boat of the Cambridge University Boat Club.
Pic 5. Abingdon School’s distinctive blazers are rarely spotted singularly.
Pic 6. My choice of pictures may give the impression that the colourful blazer is dominant at Henley. In fact, the classic blue blazer (often double-breasted) is favoured by the majority of men attending the regatta.
Pic 7. A very Henley scene.
Pic 8. A Harvard Man in, appropriately, what Americans call “a Henley” but which Brits tend to call a zephyr. They originate from the days when there was little or no specialist sports clothing and men rowed in their undershirts.
Pic 9. Two generations with one aim – to be appropriately dressed.
Pic 10. Four-times Olympic Gold Medalist, Sir Matthew Pinsent, in what the author of “Rowing Blazers,” Jack Carlson, has called “the original blue blazer.” The dark blue jackets with the dark blue grosgrain trim and discreet club buttons are awarded to those who row for Oxford University against Cambridge University in the annual boat race founded in 1829.
Pic 11. Green Lake Crew, a public rowing club from Seattle, Washington.
Pic 12. A boat as elegant as the spectators that it carries.
Pic 13. A blue blazer goes well with the cerise cap (and tie and socks) of the prestigious Leander Club. Leander does not have “Rowing” in its title as, having been around since 1818, it feels that everyone should know what sort of an institution it is.
Pic 14. In an exciting heat of the student coxed fours event, Harvard trailed Oxford Brookes University from the start until the last few strokes when the Damn Yankees took the lead, the Crimsons leading the crew in maroon home.
Pic 15. The cap is Trinity Hall, a college of Cambridge University, the blazer is of Cambridge’s Goldie crew.
Pic 16. One of the race umpires sports a Cambridge University Boat Club blazer, a Thames Rowing Club cap and the tie of Remenham, a rowers’ social club.
Pic 17. On the left, the green blazer with gold trim of the Australian Defence Force crew. The boys are from Scots College, Sydney, Australia. Henley dress rules are waived in the case of “recognised national dress”, hence kilts can be worn in place of “flannels” (interpreted as any pants that are not jeans).
Pic 18. A crew from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, won a one-off event for armed forces crews, the King’s Cup. https://heartheboatsing.com/2019/08/02/images-of-henley-2019-the-kings-cup/ It was a well-deserved win but a close-up view of their “Service Dress White” uniforms was disappointing. They seem to be made from polyester but worse was the avoidable “puddling” of the men’s pants around their ankles. In particular, I would Court-Martial the midshipman on the right for crimes against tailoring.
Pic 19. Me wearing the cap and blazer of Auriol Kensington Rowing Club. When Kensington (1872) and Auriol (1896) amalgamated in 1981, they took the green from the green and blue colours of Auriol and the pink from the pink and black of Kensington. I am sure that those responsible for this choice were completely unaware that The Official Preppy Handbook had been published a year earlier and that it had proclaimed The Virtues of Pink and Green.
Apologies to my fellow Britons. In deference to my host, I have used American English terms when they differ from those from that Her Majesty would choose (though I have used British English spelling, there are limits to courtesy). — TIM KOCH