From short shorts to headbands to bleached hair, this is the fashion that has disappeared from cycling
Words: Joseph Robinson Pictures: Off-side
As the 108th Tour de France progresses, we can’t help but look at today’s peloton and think that everything has become a bit corporate.
The kits are like a bland amalgamation of mid-level frames, the sunglasses are now so big they look like a bunch of cyclist welders and without the Basques there wouldn’t even be an ear piercing in the peloton.
Back then, it couldn’t have been more different. Cycling was as much a Parade in Milan as it was a sporting event with greats such as Fausto Coppi, Hugo Koblet, Rudi Altig and Gert-Jan Theunisse all very attentive to their appearance on the motorcycle.
And when these legends rolled around, it was much more about individual style and fashion trends. Headbands, short socks, fluoro. Most of the looks come full circle, dropping the radar before returning a few years later – fluoro is a good example – but some fashion trends have seemingly faded from the edge of the world, never to return.
Below are seven trends from cycling’s past.
The UCI’s legitimate decision to introduce compulsory helmet use in the professional peloton in 2003 did a lot of good but has a huge negative ripple effect: it killed the use of the headband in race races. professional cycling.
Designed to keep sweat and hair out of the eyes, worn to look as cool as Sacha Distel, the headband was the ultimate fashion statement of the 1980s peloton with runners such as Bernard Hinault, Gert-Jan Theunisse and Pedro Delgado all followers of rock throughout their careers.
Yet no one wore the headband like Laurent Fignon, a man who would have seemed much more comfortable reading Camus over a hot espresso in a Parisian cafe than crushing the Tour de France.
The original hipster, Fignon’s use of the headband was practical, keeping his flowing blonde locks from draping over his oval glasses, but triggered a look that has since been emulated by climbers year after year.
An acceptable alternative to the headband is to cut off the top of a cap, a la Andrea Tafi, for the look of the Vegas gaming visor. Very 90s, very Paris-Roubaix, very cool.
There were always a lot of thighs exposed. Sean Yates, Eddy Merckx, Roger de Vlaeminck have always had a lot of legs, rain or shine.
They didn’t have time for silly tan lines, they made sure their shorts stopped firmly over the quad to keep their golden glow as even and evenly distributed as possible to avoid any embarrassment while on vacation by the swimming pool.
These days it’s all about knee-length shorts. Rigoberto Uran is the biggest offender of this, often having the bib shorts cuff snapping at the knee. Someone has a word because while it’s probably better from a performance point of view, quite possibly from a aerodynamic point of view, it is definitely not better from a styling point of view. And let’s be honest, it all depends on how we look on the bike, right?
Band on the nose
If you grew up watching cycling in the late 90s and early 2000s, you were probably a Lance Armstrong or Jan Ullrich fan.
If you prefer “Big Tex,” you probably wear a pair of Oakley sunglasses, Nike cycling shoes, and have a penchant for reporters at press conferences. If “The Kaiser” was your boy, then it was Adidas, fluctuating weight gain / loss and, of course, a nose strip. We are shameless these.
The very things made famous by footballer Robbie Fowler, it has been claimed that a nasal band will lift your nostrils and open up the nasal passage for easier breathing – a claim that has since been refuted – but it’s likely the marginal gain that led Ullrich to five second places in the Tour de France and a yellow jersey. Nothing else.
The Peak Ullrich nose strip was the 2001 Tour. The German was the national champion, resplendent in an iconic tricolor, red, black and yellow dissecting a white T-Mobile jersey, with alternating black and white Adidas stripes across her shorts and swimsuit, all matched to her shimmering nose band. It was a huge look. If it was a fashion contest, Ullrich would have won this Tour.
Little white socks
These days, sock heights have gotten so out of hand that the UCI has a dedicated team of senior citizens traveling for races around the world measuring runners’ socks to make sure they are not too long. Ridiculous, but sadly true. Mathieu van der Poel is criticized, his socks are so high.
That would never have been a problem back then, however, as it was the opposite that was, in fact, all the rage.
Scroll through the archives and you’ll see that Merckx, Coppi, and Hinault didn’t have time for a fabric covering their perfect ankles. Instead, it was the material that ended before the lateral malleolus (the pointy piece on your ankle).
Take a closer look at the photos and you’ll notice that most of the time the riders had actually rolled their ankle socks up, such was their disdain for the questionable tan lines midway up their calves. With all that is aero these days, the chances of a return to cropped socks are slim and, secretly, we’re glad that’s the case.
About two decades ago, many members of the pro peloton would have seemed better placed in a boy group than in a pro bike race. Frosted tips, faded highlights and everything in between have been a hairstyle of choice for many racing cyclists over the years. The likes of Richard Virenque, Danilo Di Luca and David Millar are all examples of riders who have already taken their hair with a squeeze of lemon and a dose of sunshine.
While they may have innocently looked like pale knockoffs of a young Justin Timberlake, rumors say the real reason behind the hair discoloration was slightly more insidious. Apparently, the discoloration of the hair affects its follicles to such an extent that detection of PED becomes impossible.
Whether that’s the reason for the bleached craze of two decades ago, who knows, but what we do know is that these days the bunch are busy with much more reasonable hairstyles.
Literal kit designs
Pro cycling kits are a bit boring these days, let’s be honest. Even the funniest ones like EF Education were clearly designed by a collection of oat milk fans pondering the moods at a WeWork in downtown San Francisco.
Back then, the kits were much more cut and drier. Castorama’s kit looked like work overalls because it’s a DIY store. The Carrera Blue Jeans kit looked like denim because it sold denim. Mario Cippolini wore a zebra jumpsuit to advertise zebras …
The trend of making the professional cycling kit a literal was a good thing and must return. Who doesn’t want the Deceuninck-QuickStep kit to be a gluing of double glazed windows and laminate floors? A Picasso emblazoned on the back of the AG2R-Citroën jersey? Yes please!
Tubular around the shoulders
Modern cycling means that professional cyclists can get a flat tire changed in a case. Snap their fingers and a beefy mechanic will have pierced their old wheel under their frame and exchanged it for a shiny new one in seconds.
Back in the days when nutrition centered around red meat and brandy, however, professional cyclists weren’t fortunate enough to have an army of staff behind in team cars. It meant fixing their own flat tires, which, in the end, meant riding with a spare hose wrapped around their shoulders. It was a practical solution that became a kind of fashionista look immortalized by style icon Fausto Coppi.
Obviously, modern technology means there’s no longer a need to ride with a spare wheel draped over it. It’s a shame, be careful, because it made professional cyclists look more human despite their superhuman exploits on the bike.