19 September, 2007

Velo Fashionista


I think the fashion business is one of mankind's sillier creations. A massive industry is based on consumers (not customers) throwing out perfectly good clothes just so they can look like the anorexic models, both male and female, featured in the latest fashion shows and magazine ads.

The New York, Paris, Milan, etc, designers have created a paradigm of absurdity, yet cyclists have managed to exceed even their silliness. Not only do many cyclists strive to dress like Tour de France riders, but they pay absurd amounts for kit plastered with advertising. Think about it, the advertisers pay the pros to wear jersey's advertising plastic flooring (Quickstep), hearing aids (Phonak), early pregnancy tests and lotteries (Predictor Lotto), and TV channels (Discovery). Most riders, however, actually pay big bucks to buy the same clothes; in other words they pay for the privilege of advertising for these companies. Is this all in hope that they might be mistaken for Lance?

Beyond the obviously ludicrous, there is the question of stomping about in road racing shoes when stopping for lunch because MTB or touring shoes you can walk in aren't deemed cool on a road bike. Plus, many of us no longer look our best in tight fitting Lycra.

As usual, the Japanese are a bit ahead of the curve in this. As this International Herald Tribune article explains how bicycle fashion is being recreated by some Japanese designers.

Also in Nakameguro is a shop called Hosu, where the doorway is flanked by a beautifully assembled Italian bicycle and a heavy-duty, multitiered tool box. Like PedAL.E.D., Hosu's clothes are all originals and geared toward the fashion-conscious, urban bicyclist. Hosu designs are marked by an understated edginess, like tweed or wool-like pants that are, in fact, made from polyester (for fast drying and easy wearing). They come with small slap-on coils that go around the left hem of the pant leg. This is so the pant hem will not get tangled in or soiled by the gear chain. The coils attach to the belt loops with an attractive metal ring, also good for hanging keys and other paraphernalia.

There are also jackets that come with small, detachable buttons that glow in the dark and alert drivers that a cyclist is on the road.

Jun Kurokawa, 34, a Hosu fan and rookie cyclist, said: "Just because I'm into bicycles doesn't necessarily mean that I have to dress the part. I like Hosu stuff because you can't really tell they were designed for bike lovers. It's a little bit like being part of a secret society."

The PedAL. E.D. shop also creates clothes that work both around town and on a bike. But more importantly their clothes are made of organic cotton, hemp, and other "responsible" fabrics. If you watched the talk by Yvon Chouinard that I linked to a few posts back, you know that non-organic cotton may be the most environmentally destructive crop in the world. And most plastic clothes, Lycra, pile, polyester, are made from oil, yet recycled polyester is one of the least harmful fabrics. Even wool raised on non-organic industrial ranches is questionable.

By the way, some of the best advice I ever received was: "Don't date women who wear gold shoes or say their hobby is shopping." And, "Style is not the same as fashion."

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you have toe clips that fit those gold shoes?

Perry said...

I've always wondered if aliens' wardrobes (uniforms, usually) in sci-fi movies was a commentary on human fashion (i.e., advanced beings don't waste brain power matching shoes to belts--therefore, humans who do so are not very advanced). I'm probably over-analyzing.

Michael S said...

I assume this post is warming us up to the impending debut of the VO bicycle clothing line...

Annette said...

Michael,
Never, never, never, ever, ever, ever. We have no style.
AN

Chris Kulczycki said...

Annette, Speak for yourself ;<)

Michael, Perhaps someday there will be a line of VO clothing, but not anytime soon. It's all we can do to develop our new products as it is. But if you put SPD cleats on those gold shoes.... Hmmm?

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I kinda like the gold pair, but do you think I'll have toeclip overlap issues?

Alan said...

If you install the VO leather toe clip covers the gold shoes will work just fine.

Monday night I made the time to listen the Chouinard's talk via the web and I have to say it is well worth the effort. Chouinard made some very interesting points (non-organic cotton pollution for one) as well as being very entertaining to listen to.

Doug said...

Howdy. I am an iBOB and commute to work in my normal clothes. That said, when I am riding to ride I wear cycling clothes. If I decide to ride one of my Look pedaled bikes to work, I stick some Birkenstocks or whatever in my messenger bag and wear my Sidis. I am a roady so I have no issue with wearing them. I wouldn't choose them to walk a few miles, but I have no qualms with popping on the Kool Kovers and wearing them into a convenience store or coffee shop. No shame in being a cyclist IMHO.

Doug

patrick said...

hi chris and friends,

you might enjoy this

http://www.henwaller.com/?p=131

and this

http://www.flickr.com/groups/velocouture/

best

patrick

neil b. said...

Soooo An, can we take that for a "maybe"?

Annette said...

Neil,

If Chris decides to sell clothes, then he can pack the orders and worry about if we have enough XS/S/M/L/XL/XXL in orange red, blue, teal, sunset pink, sunrise pink, puce, VO orange, yellow, chartreuse, french mustard yellow, dijon mustard yellow, and 2CV French blu.

Yes, that's my final answer!
AN

C said...

I think Annette is right on this. Clothing is a nightmare in terms of SKU management. Footwear is even worse. You also have much higher return rates than with hardgoods.

neil b. said...

"Yes, that's my final answer!"
I knew you'd come around.

Anonymous said...

It's like anything else...there are gearheads, casual participants, utilitarians, and everything in between. That said, I hope and pray that at least major U.S. cities get to a point where we can safely cycle to work in regular clothes and without helmets.

I very much appreciate all this attention that "cycling chic" is getting in the fashion press. Who cares if the bloggers are taking photos of attractive women pedaling with stylish ease in Dior and Manolo's? Yes, bikes are becoming a status symbol, but in at least trying them we are slowly building an alternative, and normal bicycling culture. As a man that rides every day yet can't really stand jeans, shorts, sneakers nor cycling shoes, I have to say I'm quite pleased with the direction.

Alan said...

I'll take something in chartreuse. I don't know what color that is, I just like saying chartreuse.

Anonymous said...

Here in Vancouver there is a new shop that opened up called On The Rivet, and it is all cycling clothes. It is a mix of Swobo and the like, cycling-inspired t shirts, as well as the odd skin suit and racing helmet. The buyers have quite a sense of style (no "No Fear', freeride types of clothes and no 'commuter sensible' safety vests) that befits the Main St neighbourhood it is in. (Main is a hipsters paradise) I hope they do well, and it is a nice change from the regular dork racks at regular bike shops.
M Burdge
Also, it doesn't hurt that the female sales person was quite pretty.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who was a top CAT 1 road racer who wears MTB shoes (and has MTB pedals) on his road bike. Its just his preference. No one I know thinks that he is "uncool".

Anonymous said...

I think bike "fashion" is one of the major road blocks to large scale bike commuting. The preponderance of bike clothing now only reinforces the notion that bikes are playthings for weekend warriors, kids or hipsters. If people found out that they could ride and look like adults with clothing and bicycles that were understated and maybe even elegant, they might be able to start overlooking the downsides of commuting (sweat, weather, etc.)

peter b said...

Glad to see this topic get so many responses! My friends and I, all active cyclists, are working on a clothing company that combines fashion with features.

BUT, am I the only one that noticed the pant-clip is on the left leg? and the mistake is repeated further on in the text as well!?

peter b said...

Glad to see this subject get so much response! My friends and I, all active cyclists, are creating a clothing line that is half function and half fashion for the devout cyclist.

BUT, am I the only one to notice the pant-clip is on the left leg? and the mistake is repeated in the text as well; are Japanese bikes that different?

Anonymous said...

The Japanese ride on the left side of the road.

david_nj said...

Good thread. I increasingly drive my former racing comrades crazy by flatly refusing to wear Lycra clothes. The problem is that when you wear sneakers and a windbreaker that balloons out, you go reallllly slow and that drives everyone else crazy. But a nice wool sweater that was conceived and executed with no regard for bike riding wins over some plastic thing every time.

Besides, while Lycra looks fine at 155 lbs. which was my race weight, it looks a bit like a sausage casing at 185.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I really like the shade of orange used on the VO frame you posted on September 17th. Would you mind sharing the paint color name/manufacturer? (Or is that a trade secret!) Thanks. Also, in keeping with the spirit of this post, are you going to be getting any more of those wool VO jerseys?

Sean F said...

I was just in Tokyo and happened across the PedAL.E.D. shop. Didn't know about it, funny to see this post. They had some nice stuff, especially their shants. You find your size then the custom tailor the length for you.

There was an even more curious shop a few door down. Clothing (had nothing to do with cycling), then a few Keirin bikes (one of which was an amazing Gan Well in my size) and a couple Rolls saddles.