Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Dress down day

Dress down day
It is Polonius in Hamlet who advises his son Laertes as he about to depart on his gap year that 'apparel oft doth make the man'. 

This is a photo of Dr N L Stevenson, Carlton stalwart and historian.  It was taken in 1911 and the apparel certainly doth make him.  
This photo may well be one of the last recorded outings of the blazer at Carlton.  The go ahead Edinburgh club has just announced this season's addition to its branded kit - a track suit top.  And very smart it is too - but it simply does not compare with the elegance of Dr Stevenson's blazer.  As French poet Francois Villon put it in the 15th Century 'Where are the blazers of yesteryear?'
Very smart - that's a very nice blazer
The origin of the word blazer seems to be the subject of some dispute.  It was either coined in 1825 to describe the bright red jacket worn by  the rowing club of St. John's College, Cambridge.   Or it refers to the uniform of the crew of HMS Blazer who in the 1840s were dressed by their Captain in jackets of blue and white stripes  from which the particular idea of the striped jacket derived.  Both sources may be right, for there are striped blazers and non striped blazers.  Whatever its origin, outside the school world, the blazer has had a long slow decline and these days is barely treated with respect.  Its wearers are despised as the blazeratti, the gin swilling sports administrators whose first thought on any proposal is that it wasn't like that in their day.  Can nothing save the blazer?

A couple of tossers
Perhaps there is hope.  The recent Ashes series saw the continuation of the honourable tradition of the skippers wearing blazers for the toss.  And very smart they looked too.  But elsewhere the signs are not so encouraging - the players have abandoned them even when the Queen visits Lords.  Time was they would be put in the Tower for such a casual approach to dress.   But now even the Queen's visit is a dress down day.

And you say you
all lost your blazers
at the same party?
But there is a sect of blazer worshippers and wearers - although there are no members in cricket clubs in Scotland.  A temple has opened for this sect - ion Gieves and Hawkes Savile Row shop there is the iconic blazer room.  FB felt a surge of excitement in discovering this, an iconic blazer would be just the thing to set him apart from all those track suited trolls.  He would be something as he marched out to do the toss.  The coin could not do other than bend to his blazered will. Yes, yes the spirit of NL Stevenson would walk again.  Savile Row here we come - until that is FB noticed that an iconic blazer would set him back £650-£2250.  Doh! Maybe track suits aren't so bad after all.


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  3. A pedant writes:

    Villon did not, of course, write "Where are the blazers of yesteryear?", on account of (a) the word "blazer" hadn't yet been invented and (b) him being French, so he wrote "Où sont les vestes d'anton?". It is well known that Rosetti, writing in the 19th century, invented the word "yesteryear" to translate "anton". It is less well-known that he also invented "blazer" as an alternative to "jacket". Rosetti may, indeed, have invented Villon.

  4. Many thanks FB embraces pedantry wherever it is found. He therefore thinks that your reference to Rosetti is in fact a reference to Rossetti. He has been unable to find any reference to either player in Wisden so has been unable to verify your theory.