Thursday, October 17, 2013

Off the Rack, On Your Back

Buster Keaton exhibits proper dandy cycling form.

Myself and a few cycling designer colleagues often like to bemoan the fact that there is very little fashionable clothing you could wear cycling. Of course there is plenty of high-performance gear but, the argument goes, nothing you could wear to work. Something that allowed movement, breathability, water resistance and practical, well-placed pockets.

That was then, this is now. Our new complaint is more likely that there is no fashionable cycling clothing you can afford. As that much maligned urban creature, the Hipster, has taken to cycling (especially cycling on bikes without fenders or chain guards), there are an increasing number of clothing options from casual to, well, not so casual. There are doubts about the financial viability of a dinner jacket or tuxedo made for cycling.

In fact, there are so many options, mostly expensive ones, that it would be impractical to tackle them all in one post. When a company like Levi's dedicates an entire line of jeans and jackets to cycle commuters you realize the days of this as a niche market are numbered.

For myself, I contend that it's really more about the bike than having high-performance kit designed to look like street fashion. A commuting-friendly bike equipped with baskets, racks, fenders and a chain guard would most likely accommodate any clothing. Yet, there is something really great about having clothing that deals with sweat and rain that you can wear anywhere. I admit to having a minor jacket fetish (I own more stupid looking Gore-Tex jackets than one man should admit). I can't explain it other than to say for years I wore ill-fitting, poorly cut clothing from outdoor outfitters because they were lightweight and water resistant and I didn't even commute by bike. The only problem was I looked like a German tourist reading to hike the highest peaks. No offense to German tourists, but, you know, fanny packs… really?

To that end I'm going to opine about the following companies and their wares. I'm sure there are more, and this list may be expanded but if you're looking for such clothing and accessories and don't want to bother with my bullshit, here's the list. There is a North American bias and I know there are European and Japanese brands not shown here, but difficulty in availability means they would be impracticable to show here.

Levi's Commuter Line
Aether Apparel
Arc'teryx Veilance
Chrome Industries
Mission Workshop