Russian Trade Agreement – The Untold Story Of How The Stevenson Jacket Arrived In America

If imitation is the best form of flattery, we’re honored that so many in the team sports business have tried to emulate (but never replicate) our trademark Orbital Shoulder Gussets. This feature is synonymous with the Boathouse brand because of its prevalence in our most popular outerwear styles like the Mission Pullover, Victory Jacket, and the iconic Stevenson rowing jacket. But do you know the full story behind the Gusset? Do you know how the iconic Stevenson Jacket made its way to the states to become a signature Boathouse trademark? That story is far more unusual.

The Birth of the Stevenson Jacket

While competing in Lucerne, Switzerland, for the USA in 1974, World Champion Hugh Stevenson watched in awe as Soviet rowers trained, on the lake, with ease in the nastiest, coldest, wettest, most miserable weather. Watching them, he wondered how they were able to move with such ease wearing required layers. Then Hugh noticed the jackets the Russian athletes were wearing. They seemed to move with their bodies, making it much easier to extend and contract. The US team either wore heavy sweats which got soaked or protective (somewhat) jackets that restricted movement.

Back in those days, for a Soviet person, jeans, which first appeared in the country in the 1950s, were not just clothes. They were a symbol of freedom and success. People saved money to buy jeans, went to great lengths to alter them in imitation of Western brands, and even went to prison for trafficking jeans. Knowing this, Hugh approached one of the Russian athletes to propose a trade – his pair of Levi’s for the athlete’s jacket. The Russian athlete agreed immediately – DEAL!  

Hugh brought the experimental jacket back to the US and for two years worked to perfect the design and introduce it to American athletes. Hugh received his first order from the United States Olympic Team competing in 1976 Montreal.


How The Stevenson Became A Boathouse Staple

After 8 years on the market, Boathouse Founder and CEO, John Strotbeck, was provided the Stevenson Jacket in his 1984 Olympic Team kit. It was unlike anything John had seen before…very different. Understanding the value of its unique design and enhanced performance features, John designed and made the Boathouse version of jacket. About two years later Boathouse purchased the Stevenson Company along with their Philadelphia-based factory. Boathouse continues to design and manufactures all of our products in Philadelphia, USA.

The Stevenson jacket embodies what we do every day. We make athletic rowing apparel that functions for the athlete, performs for the athlete and protects the athlete, enhancing their pursuit of excellence every day.