Crew is incredibly white. And wealthy. It’s right there in the image your mind conjures when you think “rowing.” It’s also right there when you Google eitherterm. Row New York, a rowing and academic program founded in 2002 that now serves more than 4,000 NYC kids, is seeking to change that. With their first collaboration, NOAH and Rowing Blazers are seeking to raise awareness for the organization and help fund their noble endeavors.
“Take a kid that has less opportunity than others, give them a little bit of a shot, and they become fucking superstars,” NOAH founder Brendon Babenzien says. “One kid who went through their program didn’t know how to swim for the first two years, so he had to row in a life vest. He finally passed a swim test and the kid went on to the Naval Academy.”
The new capsule—consisting of blazers, rugby sweaters, hoodies, sweatpants, and tote bags—drops Thursday and pays homage two New York City’s five boroughs, in addition to the rich history of rowing that’s at the core of Rowing Blazers’ ethos. Each borough is represented with each of the five new pieces, complete with a new emblem designed by Jack Carlson, the RB founder and World Rowing Championship bronze medalist who also worked for the College of Arms, the UK government institution responsible for designing coats of arms, crests, and badges.
Manhattan’s badge features a windmill, which nods to the Dutch origins of the city once known as New Amsterdam. Brooklyn is represented by a goddess with a motto that represents strength. Bronx’s seal has a rising sun that was pulled straight its own official shield. And Staten Island is personified as a seagull, an animal has always played a part in the borough’s shield throughout history. Despite their own ties to the city (Babenzien is from East Islip and helped make Supreme an institution of Manhattan skate culture; Carlson is a Boston transplant who lives in Battery Park and works in SoHo) both say the Staten Island shield is their favorite.
Neither NOAH nor Rowing Blazers have ever taken shortcuts when it comes to the details of their products, but the focal point of the capsule is still the actual kids of Row New York, and 15 percent of all sales will go to the organization.
The statistics for Row New York are eye-opening. 100 percent of the participants graduate high school and 99 percent go on to college, with 51 percent of them becoming their family’s first generation of college students. Compare that to the city as a whole, where in 2017 the graduation rate was just 74 percent, with only 57 percent of students going on to college.
Carlson has been working with Row New York since he was a part of the US National Rowing team and for the past two years has provided all high school seniors in the program with rowing blazers hand tailored for them in New York City with patches for their corresponding borough. Blazers literally originate from the sport, and Carlson doesn’t believe the kids should miss out on a crucial piece of the crew culture.
“When they pull up to a regatta, when they pull up to a starting line, people will look at them because the team looks different from everyone else who’s out there on the water,” Carlson says. “That is a huge thing. It’s a sick program for the kids who are in it; it’s also a great thing for the sport as a whole.”
If you want to see what this looks like, look no further than the capsule’s lookbook. All the models are actual kids from the program. One of them told NOAH exactly what it means to him: “Rowing for me has been a gateway into a completely different world,” Richie Ofori, who’s from the Bronx, said. “I’ve experimented with many sports, but none of those sports ever gave me the same sentimental value crew gave to me. There’s just something about being with a team that feels like family, where you depend on each other for motivation, support, and success. In this sport there aren’t any MVPs or elite players. We all laugh together, toil together, pull together, lose together, and even better, win together.”
Here’s to the new jawnz helping to make even more of those wins possible.
For more on Rowing Blazers be sure to watch our interview with brand founder Jack Carlson.