03 May 2012

Clothes Make The Man (Or Woman) At The Show

Let's go back to the future.  Actually, let's go back to the time when the movie by that name was on the big screens.

Around 1984 or 1985, it seemed that there was another new brand of imported (usually German, Dutch or Belgian) beer being served every week in the bars and restaurants of Soho, Back Bay and the Mission District.  Likewise, it seemed that new brands of bike clothing were appearing in bike shops with the same frequency.  That meant, of course, that there were a number of new lines of  shorts, jerseys and such at the bike shows. 

After a while, though, they started to look the same.  Don't get me wrong:  I did develop some favorites, based on fit, looks and other features.  However, by that time, most bike clothing was being made from Lycra, and was meant for racers or wannabes.  And, save for a couple of domestic brands, most came from Italy. 

Now let's fast-forward to the present--to this year's New Amsterdam Bike Show, to be exact.  Given that the show was held in downtown Manhattan, it was all but inevitable that clothes would be featured.  (And, yes, there was a bicycle fashion show.) But the threads were not the kind you'll see in the pro peloton, or even in a local race.  Instead, they were made for "real" cyclists.

In other words, they were made for people who ride to and from work, or to shop, go to art openings and such--or for sport and recreation.  The makers of those vetements were also thinking of people who will ride regardless of the time of day or weather.

One of the most fascinating exhibits, to my eye, was that of Vespertine.  Designer (and company founder) Sarah Canner was showing vests and sashes that, in daylight, don't look anything like what construction workers and traffic patrol officers wear.  Most interesting of all were a vest with a feather boa and a sort of short trench jacket that one could wear to an office or art opening.  They have reflective threads sewn that are not noticeable in ordinary light but, when headlights shine on them at night, glow brighter than almost any other reflective material you've seen.

I have been told that reflective clothing that looks like ordinary street wear has been available in Portland and San Francisco for several years.  But Vespertine, based only a few blocks from the New Amsterdam show, might bring the shine to the Big Apple.

Until recently, rainwear was just about as hip and fashionable as reflective wear was before companies like Vespertine came along.  Now, it seems, Cleverhood ( in Providence, Rhode Island) is doing for rainwear what Vespertine is doing for reflective gear:  making outerwear that is practical for cycling and other outdoor activities, but can be worn when off the bike or trail. 

There were other clothing exhibitors, but I'll mention just one more:  Twin Six of Minneapolis.   Part of the reason I'm including them is that Twin Six's Mark Fischer is one of the more interesting people I met at the show.  But his products are also worth mentioning:  caps, cycling jerseys, T-shirts and other bike-related apparel.  The main reasons to consider Twin Six are that their stuff seems well-made and (more important to you, I'm sure!) that they have their own sense of style.  You won't find the "billboard" graphics that dominate the team kit of major (and many minor) races.  Their prints and colors are also found on their messenger bags and water bottles, which I did not see at the show but are shown on their website.


  1. Is the reflective stuff "illuminite" by another name?

  2. Felix--Thank you!

    Steve--I don't know. I'll look into that.

  3. thanks Justine for the nice words!

  4. I recently upgraded my cycling clothing , and the difference it made is remarkable! The moisture-wicking fabric keeps me dry and comfortable even during intense rides, while the padded shorts provide excellent support.