A Lesson In Style History: The Blazer
The sartorial term “blazer” originated with the red blazers of the Lady Margaret Boat Club (1825), the rowing club of St. John’s College, Cambridge (pictured). The Lady Margaret club jackets were termed blazers because of the bright red cloth from which they were made and which they still wear to this day. They were very loose-fitting jackets that were meant to keep rowers warm during chilly training sessions and early morning races. As other schools soon followed, you would often find these jackets embellished with very colorful patterns or stripes, in designs unique to each rowing club. In addition to keeping rowers warm, the earliest rowing blazers served another practical purpose: they allowed spectators on the distant river shores to identify which crew was which. Rowers soon started wearing their blazers on dry land and around their colleges, much in the same way you see a letterman or varsity jacket worn today. Soon, the croquet clubs, rugby clubs, soccer clubs, and other sports clubs wanted to get in on the act. These early blazers would also come to be known as sports jackets or sports coats as they now become identified through a specific school's sports club affiliation. At the turn of the century, the blazer crossed the Atlantic. Ivy League universities like Princeton, Cornell, Yale, and Harvard started to adopt these blazers themselves.
Ok, so how did the metallic buttons come into play? The reefer jacket was of naval origin, and described the short double breasted jacket worn by sailors in harsh weather. While wearing these jackets, they perform duties such as reefing the sails. Originally with black horn buttons, these jackets evolved to the modern dark navy blue blazer with metallic buttons. By the 1890s, all flannel, loose-fitting casual jackets began to become known as blazers...and there you have it, how the term blazers and sports jacket/sports coat came about.