As the doyen of mens bicycling fashion it is beholden upon me to explain the rise of the road as a colour in mens fashion this season. Mission Workshop is an uncompromisingly thoughtful (and expensive) fitter of middle class urban guerrillas. They sell direct from their sewing room in San Francisco. From this screen capture I just took from their website, you can see what their market research is saying we all want to be wearing:
Architects could fill cities with edifices of marble and lapis, or make every building bright pink, but the colour filling 60% of our fields of vision will still be the one engineers keep serving up, again and again,and that is the colour of asphalt. You may know it as the colour of grit, or the colour taken on by your beautiful bike chain after just a few minutes riding on a wet road.
I suspect riders of horses in the late 1800s preferred to wear brown because that was the colour of the horse shit they would be caked in by the end of the day. Something similar applies to the modern man whose preference is to ride bicycles between his office, the pub, and city hall, while the fat dandies in their pale blue cotton check shirts skulk into cars for such journeys.
So what’s hot and what’s not in asphalt this season? I can recommend Parker Dusseau’s Merino/Cotton shirt over Outlier’s similar offering. Both are great shirts. Parker Dusseau’s is just a lot softer. Be aware that both have extra fabric gathered behind your shoulder ready for when you stretch your arms and lean forward as you might if you were Clark Kent but didn’t have time to get changed.
Outlier are the ones to see for your asphalt pants. Of the climbers and slim dungarees, I’d recommend the slim dungarees. During my first few trips on a plane in the climbers I was so taken by their stretchiness that I couldn’t stop putting my hand in and adjusting my tackle. They are quite unbreathable though. After some time I felt I was dipping my hand into a terrarium crawling with hallucinogenic fungi—if any scientists reading are able to send me an agar plate, we could find out for sure. In the meantime, I would recommend Outlier’s slim dungarees for a pair of pants, the colour of asphalt, that will dry in 5 minutes, feel fine while you’re riding out in the rain, and outlast the fashion for asphalt by at least 20 years. They seem nigh on indestructible.
Outlier also have the only woollen T-shirt or base layer I have ever worn that didn’t itch like a bitch. The average marino shirt is fine for racing a bike in, but the second you get in the door you’re reefing it off faster than a blue bottle.
My advice is to buy one, just one, 17.5 micron wool T-shirt (asphalt colour, of course) and throw all your other T-shirts away, unless there are some you want to keep as pyjamas. Once you own one of these 17.5 micron numbers, you will wear it every day, sweat as much as you like, and still only have to wash it once every couple of weeks. The same goes for wool socks.
The only other recent addition to Dr. Behooving’s sartorial collection or fine mens attire that I should note in this context, is my black—not asphalt—De Marchi 3-season jacket that I ended up getting for under $200 on chainreaction. Regular readers will know I’m as dismayed as you all that supposedly breathable jackets trap sweat, that waterproof jackets all leak, and that makers of jackets who claim theirs do both are bald faced lying blaggards. I’m not afraid of getting wet, if it’s in a race. And I’m not afraid of sweating inside a clear plastic sauna if I only have to ride a Dutch/Danish Distance (“D/DD”). The dream though, the dream we all share, is to do our 10 or 15km constitutional commutes on any foul day, yet arrive looking like an apparition of the arch angel Gabriel in the eyes of our female workmates. We’ll whip off our jackets, reveal our dry shirts, and they will audibly gasp: “My god, the rain has fallen to his left and his right but nowhere that he was riding!” Every non-cycling man will be single while you and I, my dear friends, will have all the world’s women catatonic in our cycling-god spells. That is why I am trialling this jacket, to let you all know if this Schroller c-change fabric is all it’s cracked up to be, and worth paying US$845 for one the colour of asphalt, or US$255 (+20 p&h) for what may be a slightly nicer cut version in black.
The irony of dark colours is that not long ago, they were the norm for work-issue clothing. Then workers were all forced to wear fluro, for everything from coal mining to driving an ambulance. That has left grey and black as the colour most chosen by cyclists, who used to wear fluro, before fluro came to be synonymous with manual labour for drivers, while for us it symbolises the taboo of ever cow-tailing to victim-blaming drivers, whose bosses make them wear fluro to drive a truck. Tony, I know, it’s all too confusing.
p.s. As promised: