The Original Rugby Shirt (Jack Carlson on Bringing The Rugby Shirt Back to it's Roots)
As an archaeologist, I'm fascinated by the history of objects, and that is an important part of everything we do at Rowing Blazers. We started with the blazer, of course: I rediscovered the history of the blazer while writing my book; and the patterns, construction techniques, and details in our blazers are largely adopted - as rigorously as possible - from vintage rowing blazers, which were really more like sweatshirts, or casual jackets back then.
But I've also been fascinated with the rugby shirt for a long time. Since I was a little kid, the rugby shirt has been a key part of my uniform. It still is. So when I wanted to add rugbies to our assortment, I did a deep dive into the history of the shirt and the sport.
According to legend, the game of rugby originated at Rugby School in England in during a game of soccer (football) in 1823. The story goes that one of the boys, William Webb Ellis, caught the ball and simply ran with it in his arms to the opposing goal. (This was, of course, against the rules). This dubious achievement - a mix of myth and history - is commemorated with a plaque at Rugby School that reads:
The sport was institutionalized with a firm set of rules for the first time in 1845 under the auspices of the famous Thomas Arnold, then-headmaster of Rugby School, who believed that teamwork and rivalry were paramount. He also instituted the House system at Rugby, with "School House" and "Town" as the two main rugby sides (for boarders and day students) within the school.
The School House jersey featured an embroidered skull and bones motif, perhaps in reference to the more violent nature of the school's particular brand of football. The other houses also used solid and hoop-striped jerseys with oversized embroidered motifs (others badges included a double eagle; an anchor; and a Tudor rose).
We worked with the famous French jersey maker, Sports D'Epoque, to recreate the Rugby School House shirt with obsessive accuracy (the result is based on an 1860 jersey), down to the band collar, all white placket, and working cuff buttons (which is quite unusual on a knit shirt).