Cycling is fashionable: should we be worried?

In the 1980s, cycle clobber had its fifteen minutes of fame. Lycra skin shorts – sans padded inserts – were considered cool. The BBC’s I Love…1987 programme said: “Some regarded cycling shorts as a huge turn-on, as they revealed even more than the hotpants of the Seventies. But that was until even the hugest, most cellulite-riddled backside was squeezed into neon-coloured skin tight Lycra.”

Being fashionable is good for selling hot cakes but stock goes stale quickly because fickle fashionistas need to be surfing the next wave not waddling around in past-its-sell-by-date Spandex.

Hardcore cyclists are in it for the long term and don’t particularly want cycling to become fashionable again. Cycle fashion shows such as last year’s Pret a Rouleur and tomorrow’s Heels and Wheels show in Hackney would be anathema to them.

Fashion designers seem to be disproportionately attracted to cycling.

Jeff Banks and Sir Paul Smith are avid roadies. Smith’s company has sponsored cycle teams.

Vivienne Westwood co-created Punk and she cuts a dash on her daily cycle commute in south London. Because of her extravagant dress sense she’s pretty much unmissable but the giveaway is the wire-haired fox terrier in the basket.

Wayne Hemingway, the co-founder of 1980s label Red or Dead, famous for its recycled denims, is so pro-cycling his new company even markets a bike shed and a folding bike. The Shack-up bike shed can hold four bikes. Want a Hemingway bike to put in the shed? Cough up a deposit on a flat in a social housing scheme, the Road Runner folding bike is only available in quantities of 250 and is targeted at housing developers. At fifty eight quid a pop the Road Runner is light on innovation, but it’s all part and parcel of Hemingway’s desire to get more people on bikes.

He helped to design a new housing development in Gateshead, the pro-bike Staiths South Bank. It’s Britain’s biggest HomeZone and has a bike pool facility for residents.



Another fashion designer with his head screwed on right is Giles Deacon, the British Fashion Designer of the Year for 2007. He has expensive tastes (favourite hotels: Hôtel Costes in Paris, the Principe di Savoia in Milan and the Chateau Marmont in LA) but he’s still a down-to-earth Cumbrian lad who knows bikes are best. On Sunday he told The Observer:

“I adore London and, if I have time off, I’ll just explore the city – visiting exhibitions. I like cycling everywhere. I have done so since I moved here 20 years ago.”

One of the most influential fashionistas of the moment is GQ columnist Scott Schuman. His massively popular and worryingly addictive blog – The Sartorialist – is dripping with good taste. It features smartly dressed folks from cities around the world, all photographed by Schuman.

Click on the ‘bicycle’ tag and you fall into a world of beautiful people on bikes, from “All Cute Girls in Europe Ride Bikes Everywhere, Wearing Cute Clothes, All Day!” to The Very Personification Of A Sexy Summer.

Oh, and there are some pix of men, too.

I think Schuman’s personalised approach to what’s truly fashionable is eye-opening. And his liking for bicycles is welcome.

As a bunch – and I know you’ll say ‘speak for yourself, mate’ – cyclists are not always the best looking clan out on the streets. Fluoro yellow isn’t terribly becoming and polystyrene prophylactics give you helmet hair.

The Sartorialist shows it’s possible to ride a bike and look classy doing it.

Like me. Er, never.