New recession "trend": Riding a bike to work can be stylish.
Well, yeah. This is because many people who ride a bike to work do so in their normal clothes, which also happen to be stylish. It's a common misconception of biking that you need all sorts of un-hip Lance Armstrong gear, like spandex, before you're able to become a bike commuter. For those who are making a leisurely trip to work during daylight hours (not training for an upcoming triathlon), a few adjustments to your normal wardrobe are all that's needed to arrive at work unrumpled. There are really only three things you need to do:
- Roll up your pant leg so it won't get caught in the gears (or fasten it back with a cuff).
- Wear layers, in case you get hot.
- Wear a helmet.
I must emphasize number three, because the New York Times story today is quite cavalier about it. Interviewee James Vicente, a court attorney at the Kings County Criminal Court in Brooklyn, says he's just not that into helmets after witnessing bike culture on a trip to Amsterdam:
“I liked the perversity of it,” he said. “I liked saying: ‘Anyone can do this. It’s normal.’ I never ride with a helmet either, even when people are telling me I’m an idiot. Riding a bike should be normal, and you shouldn’t have to wear a funny Styrofoam hat.”
It deserves capslock: THIS IS DUMB. The reason many people in Europe do not wear helmets when they ride is that drivers are used to bicyclists on the road, making it a safer place to ride. Studies have found that when a critical mass of bikers shares the road with drivers, the drivers become safer, and more mindful of cyclists. Not the case here in America - biking isn't popular enough yet. Until then, get over your vanity, do your hair in the office bathroom, and wear a helmet. Oh, and read this article in the Washington City Paper, which should make you think twice about going without.
Anyway, the Times story focused on a particular brand of status bike - the Dutch Bike, sold in Club Monaco stores and costing nearly $2,000 - and also on men's fashion. Women who bike have it both easier and harder: Easier because we can wear sleeveless shirts in the summer and loose, flowy skirts that will never get caught in the chain; and harder because we can wear loose, flowy skirts that billow up embarrasingly when you pick up any speed at all.
Women who bike to work in a skirt should opt for one that's stretchy or loose, and of course, not too short. If there's a chance the wind could lift your skirt up, wear leggings or shorts underneath, and just slip them off when you get to your destination. Some fashion statements are perfect for bikers - skinny jeans or pants don't even need to be cuffed. A nice pair of flats will do. Put a basket or panniers on your bike to hold your heels and purse.
There are numerous blogs devoted to bike fashion with editors who have devoted themselves to becoming the Sartorialist of the two-wheeled set. I enjoy The Chic Cyclist, who chronicles Bostonian bikers, and Copenhagen Cycle Chic, from the world capital of bike fashion.