Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Archival News: Bicycle Fixation Herringbone Knickers (Limited Edition)

Bicycle Fixation, my favorite source for cycling and dress knickers, is now offering a limited edition Herringbone "luxury" model. Fortunately for my austerity matrix, the herringbone wool knickers are not sourced in my size (smalls start at 32).

If you do order the BF knickers, you might also consider matching them up with a snappy, safety orange, four season cycling jersey  and over-the-knee knicker socks.

I emailed Bicycle Fixation founder, Richard Risemberg, to get more information on his made-in-USA (Los Angeles) business philosophy and the idea behind his line of "dress" cycling clothing (suitable for commuting and officewear). Richard wrote back with the following report:
I buy all the materials in downtown Los Angeles, but most of them are made out of the US, as we have very little textile manufacturing capacity left in this country. All the labor is done in Los Angeles, near Broadway and 9th, in fact, in a contract factory that pays its workers a good wage. (In fact, the workers regularly ask me for more money for my complex sewing jobs, and I always sigh and concede....) The herringbone wool is from England; my gabardine may actually be US made; I'd have to check. I know my wool broker was dealing directly with the mill, so it may be from New York. My broker buys leftover rolls from big orders for me, as my quantities are small. I've been able to get the same superb gabardine for two years now; a great improvement over the original material.

Never worked in the rag trade, and was fairly indifferent to fashion, in fact. But I wanted some clothes that wouldn't stand out when I was off the bike but would work well when I was riding, couldn't find them, and so determined to make my own. Figuring that more people were starting to ride for transportation, and having been a sustainable transportation and urban development advocate for ten years already, I figured to make enough to sell and maybe get some extras cash to support my publishing. My starting point was an old Raleigh bicycle ad from around 1936 or so; the fellow in the drawing was wearing elegant-looking knickers. I took that as a general outline, went to a way-too-expensive custom tailor for the first iteration, and went through a few more iterations of the first product (the Classic Wool Knickers) with another tailor and ultimately with sample makers (whom I was referred to by a neighbor who'd been in the rag trade), hooked up by purest chance with my sewing contractor (whose office was across the hall for my first pattern maker), gritted my teeth, held out my credit card, and made the first batch of knicks. My wife had introduced me to gabardine years before, and we knew that was the right fabric for bike wear of my style.
More on Bicycle Fixation and a field test of the gabardine city knickers in a future post.

For those questioning the practical use value, (the "wearability," as the beer ad would say) of dress knickers--or breeks--I offer you several pages of visual evidence from one of my favorite vintage barbour catalogs:

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