Salut, monsieur et mademoiselle. Je Suis Vincent. Aujourd’hui, je vais parler de vêtements.
Good Day, men and women. My name is Vincent. Today, I will be speaking about clothing;
Specifically about the fashion and contemporary culture of cyclists.
History of Cycling Fashion
To begin, let me enlighten you on the roots of cycling fashion.
At the dawn to cycling as sport, most clothing was made of wool. For the time, it was the best fabric available. It was more comfortable than cotton, wicked moisture away (at least to an extent). The benefit of wool is that it absorbed perspiration very well, the problem with wool is it absorbed perspiration very well and often could get soggy and heavy.
Then in the 1940s, Italian tailor Armando Castelli introduced silk jerseys to the cycling fashion. It was lighter and much more effective for racing cyclists.
Post WW2 we have the chemical fabrics introduced like Polyester, Nylon, and Spandex.
In the 1970s Lycra became the best fabric, a combination of spandex and elastics.
And today, the majority of the athletic cycling fashions are made with Lycra and Spandex, however there is still a large supply or wool and cotton cycling wares.
Racing/Athletic Cycling Fashion
For many heavily active cyclist, professional and athletic cyclists, their choice of clothing tend to fall into the form-fitting, Lycra and Spandex garments.
These include cycling shorts, Bib Shorts, and Baggy Shorts (Shy Shorts).
However, there is one British designer who has been constantly shaping the athletic cycling fashion world. He is world-renowned fashion icon Paul Smith.
To provide some background, Paul Smith as a teenager dropped out of school in his teens to pursue a career as a professional cyclist. It was cut short when he got into a car accident at the age of 17 where he was hospitalized for 3 months. During his recovery, his friends whom were attending an arts college in Nottingham introduced Smith to clothing and fashion, the rest is history.
His collections have reintegrated the artificial with natural fabrics with clothing made with both Lycra and wool. And in Cyclist Racing fashion he has changed it. In the Giro D’Italia, a cycling race around Italy, Smith unveiled a new set of cycling jerseys. They were made with wool and Lycra and they weren’t too form fitting. But they had bright colors or at least highly reflective fabrics and textures.
A perfect garment for when you are on the final stretch of a race and your bright, reflective clothing draws the attention of the viewers when you cross that finish line.
Now, let us not forget the most important aspect of Cycling fashion and that is the Bike itself. For many of the active, athletic riders there is a certain design I have noticed in their cycles. They tend to be taller, with a larger triangular frame in the middle and often it is designed where the rider must lean forward and down. The wheels tend to always have exclusively metal spokes for the tires. And often many look similar to each other in design and color scheme.
Now if we take a look at the casual city cyclists, we see that they tend to have more diversely designed bikes. They don’t necessarily have a triangular frame, or the rider must be leaning forward at a large degree and the wheels, they can speak for themselves not thin multiple spokes but sometimes larger pieces and the bikes have vibrant or neutral color schemes. Unique for how the rider makes their fashion.
The casual, city cyclists constitutes a large majority of cyclists in general. I would think if most of us rode bikes we would fall into this category.
Unlike athletic and racing cyclists, casual city cyclists focus more on aesthetics than the physical activity. There are countless sub-fashions on these cyclists such as minimalism and enterprising fashions.
With Minimalism, you don’t have the bright colors or necessarily the brand logos as seen in athletic cycling clothes, but rather neutral solid colors.
Or with Enterprising style, there is the look of business with suits and dress shirts designed to relieve perspiration or in some cases protect your business wear.
You can find some of these styles at Raphas, a specialty cyclist clothing Boutique with a location here in San Francisco in the Marina District. Or BetaBrand’s Bike to Work Collection.
To conclude this talk, I must admit that I cannot go into more details on the complexities of fashion and cycling like sustainability with fast-fashions vs. slow/eco fashions or the importance of accessories like hats, scarfs, shades or bike helmets.
However, I do hope I have sparked your curiosity. Perhaps you will begin to view cyclists in a different lens or perhaps you’ve become motivated to explore and mend your own fashion style.
Whether you are active, an athlete, a casual or city cyclists, I think that we all should look and feel fabulous while riding the street.
I thank you for your time.