Here are a few things that are popular among the more advanced consumers of contemporary men’s wear: Gucci horse-bit Birkenstocks, tie-dyed denim, Patagonia shorts, tactical vests, hooded sweatshirts distended to absurdist proportions, $90 logo socks, Guy Fieri-esque short-sleeve shirts in hyper-real prints.
Which is to say, there is no centrist narrative anymore, just a set of microstyles jostling up against one another — not competing for the same turf, necessarily, but finding ways to coexist. More than at any time in the last decade, loyalty to an aesthetic is withering.
Instead, men’s wear has turned into a pachinko game. Where the ball lands, who can say? Or control?
But one place it most assuredly is not landing is in the prep arena. Prep is proper. Prep is polished. Prep is a rigid framework. It feels like a relic, not just of the 1980s, or the 1950s, but also of the 2000s, when men on the internet were first gathering around ideas about how to present themselves.
Prep provided an easy entry point with ample historical references and guidelines. For many, it was a fashion gateway drug.
Walk into the new Rowing Blazers store in SoHo, and it’s like the last decade never happened. Rugby shirts and polo shirts and many, many blazers. Handsome ones, too. On the walls, there is ephemera from the history of rowing, including some vintage oars.
When I visited one recent afternoon, the clerks were playing Ping-Pong on a table in the center of the store. It all has the feeling of an impressive men’s wear store opening in 2009.
Before there was Rowing Blazers the brand, there was “Rowing Blazers” the book — by Jack Carlson, published in 2014 — which lovingly archived the clothes worn by rowing clubs in England (and beyond). There is panache to these styles, a sense of joy that transcends the sometimes stiff heritage they refer to.
Mr. Carlson named his brand Rowing Blazers and built it using that history as inspiration. The clothes are charming: blazers with a lean cut and cream trim ($550 to $1,050), and one blazer in a circus-tent stripe ($995). The polo shirts ($135) all feature one long satin diagonal stripe across the chest.
There are rigorous long-sleeved T-shirts made in partnerships with British student rowing clubs, Imperial and Oxford Brookes ($42). The salesclerk who helped me was a rower himself, knowledgeable and well coifed.
The rugby shirts are ambitiously thick, and many are versions of ones worn by national teams. I particularly liked the navy England one, which was more like a cardigan, with an embroidered rose on the chest ($185). Among the shirts, the detail varied. Some cuffs weren’t ribbed, some collars were smaller, and some of the necklines varied, in keeping with traditional styles.
So far, so good for these impressively detailed clothes. And yet in this moment, that isn’t quite enough. You sense that Rowing Blazers understands this. Mixed in with the university-chic design are magazines like Kennedy and Free & Easy, and “Bury Me With the Lo On,” the lavish book about the Polo-boosting Lo-Lifes.
On the walls, there is a poster for an old Eazy-E and N.W.A concert at the Skateland roller rink in Compton, Calif., and also an Employee of the Month flyer for Akeem, from “Coming to America.”
Also, at every turn, the brand is embracing collaboration. There have been T-shirts with Joe’s Pizza, John’s Pizza and the men’s wear mensch Mister Mort; rugbys, ties and more featuring illustrations by Luke Edward Hall, a British artist; and a capsule collection with the sportswear customizer Eric Emanuel.
Mr. Emanuel also took over the space in the rear of the store for the first month it was open, the first in a series of retail collaborations. The retail landscape is as dire as it has been in the time I’ve been writing this column, the rate of new store openings snail slow.
The only advantage is it creates unexpected circumstances like this. Rowing Blazers is a pop-up — open since June and scheduled to remain open for just a few months — and in order to sustain excitement, it has been rotating pop-ups within its pop-up.
The rear space is now occupied by the sneakily minimalist label Death to Tennis. In addition to the clothes, there are two sets of turntables, one for vinyl and one for CDs, and stickers for the community radio site Balamii. On the back wall is vinyl from King Krule, Sampha and Ka.
The clothes are a contrast to Rowing Blazers. Death to Tennis emphasizes a modish, spacious silhouette. I bought a work shirt with exaggerated pockets that ran around each side at the stomach ($190, on sale from $380) made of Japanese cotton canvas.
The two stores within a store had an easy coexistence, even if they were at cross purposes aesthetically. But for Rowing Blazers, a brand out of time, the juxtaposition, along with all the others, lent a sense of urgency. If you can’t join them, make them join you.
Rowing Blazers 161 Grand Street; rowingblazers.com
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