Fashionable cycling... Iris Slappendel
Fashionable cycling: Less is more
As a professional cyclist, clothing is one of my biggest annoyances. I’m in the women’s peloton for ten years now and our sport has developed a lot. The level of riders has increased, teams have become more professional and media attention is (although too slowly) growing. But when it comes to clothing our kits are still very ‘conventional’. Yes, luckily we have a women’s fit, and sometimes a women’s specific chamois, but the designs are mostly not women’s specific at al. A few years ago, marketers suddenly realized that womenscycling is a growing market and they jumped into that by putting women’s specific bikes and accessories in their collections. Which meant that they gave everything a touch of bling, pink, florals and frills. This trend also found its way to professional cycling. Led by former champion Leontien Zijlaard- van Moorsel, women’s cycling had to be suddenly more ‘girly’. Do you remember the apparel of her Leontien.nl team? It was bright pink with flowers all over. A kit I wouldn’t be found dead in! But anyway, a lot of brands and also cycling teams were in the same ‘flow’, so in every catalogue or bike store you could find bikes, clothing and accessories with flowers, hearts and butterfly’s in pearlescent, pink and purple.
Of course, it’s all a matter of taste. I don’t actually have a problem with pink. It can be a very cool colour. But I don’t like the idea that women’s specific automatically means that it has to look like it is made for ten year old girls. Luckily brands now seem to understand that women who love to ride a bike are tough and stylish women and have left there Barbie’s a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, if you love to wear pink, wear it! But if I don’t have any pink item in my wardrobe, I also don’t want to wear pink on my bike. Your sport-outfit is just as important as your daily outfit, it has to suit your personality and therefor there has to be a choice! Some brands see this and are becoming more influenced by fashion trends, such as pastel colours, minimalistic designs and high quality fabrics. Consumer apparel is becoming a lot more refined now and is less about what is added than about how much has been subtracted. The new minimalistic aesthetic whittles away everything but the essentials of performance and comfort. When you take for example brands as Pearl Izumi, Rapha, Velocio or Cafe du Cycliste you’ll see fine knits, muted solids and subtle touches. These pure designs speak out louder then logos!
Sponsors and thus logos are in professional teams often the base of a design. For sponsors conspicuousness is more important then aesthetics. But on the other hand a team like Specialized Lululemon shows that it is possible to stand out without big logos and bright colours. In my opinion this is the best example of a fashionable, bold but still very female professional bike kit. One of the worst examples is the kit of Fassa Bortolo. Although the combination of purple and orange can be quite cool, a big bear on your belly isn’t! Also the lining and use of colours gives every woman the look of an elephant, no wonder it looks like half of the team has stopped eating… I also can’t say that I love the look of the design from my Rabobank-Liv team. It’s definitely not speaking out, so I’m happy to wear the Dutch Champion jersey that is never out of fashion! A kit that is speaking out is the one of the Cippolini girls. Also a very good example of how a sponsor is totally in control over the looks of the clothing. Neon-yellow is definitely not fashionable if you ask me, but it does has the effect that it always looks they are with twice as many as they actually are.
It’s great to see that as a consumer you have nowadays a good choice of apparel. There are high quality, fashionable kits available in different styles. It will probably take a bit longer before the conventional professional cycling world will adopt this. I hope more teams and sponsors will follow the good example set by Specialized-Lululemon.
About Iris Slappendel
Iris is a 29 years old professional cyclist at Rabobank-Liv and National Champion. When she is not on her bike she spends time behind her drawing table, MacBook or sewing machine. As a freelance designer at IRIS Concept & Design she takes care of the product- and graphic design. She loves fashion, solo breakaways, travelling and dreaming with her eyes open.
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