“Hundreds go for a ride in old-fangled garb, proclaiming the return of the dandy.”
— The Washington Post, Nov. 16, 2009
Eccentricity seems to be contagious — at least among bicyclists.
Since cyclists in London staged the first-ever Tweed Run on Jan. 24, 2009, similar rides have proliferated around the world, in such cities as Sydney and San Francisco, Toronto and Tokyo, Canberra and Cincinnati, Paris and Portland, Boston and Washington, Chicago and Durango. (See Jan. 10 blog post, “Tweed on a velocipede.”)
Describing itself as “a metropolitan bicycle ride with a bit of style,” London’s Tweed Run — has a prescribed dress code that has been copied by the other rides.
“Now look here, proper attire is expected,” its Web site cautioned wheelmen and wheelwomen who plan to take part in the second annual Tweed Run on April 10. “Tweed suits, plus fours, bowties, cycling capes, and jaunty flat caps are all encouraged. I hate to be a bore but please, no beastly denim.”
And, please, please, none of that lurid Lycra favored by many cyclists! Rummage through your grandparents’ attics and find some nice earth tones in tweed and polished leather, merino and meerschaum, corduroy and canvas.
An online forum for cyclists, London Fixed Gear and Single Speed, organized the first Tweed Run and the idea caught on.
In Los Angeles last November, for example, cyclists in the Tweed, Moxie & Mustache Ride pedaled past the surviving Art Deco structures in downtown LA and finished at Royal Claytons Pub to award prizes in such categories as best facial hair, best period outfit, best bike and tweed pairing and the most graceful mount and dismount.
The New York Times‘ Fashion & Style section took note of this “curious new movement called Tweed Rides” in a Nov. 11 piece headlined: “This Just in From the 1890s.”
The Times called the rides “informal gatherings of spiffily dressed ladies and gents cycling leisurely through town and disdaining finish lines.”
“Tweed Rides began in London earlier this year and have spread this fall to Boston, San Francisco and Chicago,” the newspaper said. “As the directions for this weekend’s Tweed Ride in Washington, D.C., put it: ‘Leave the fleece, Lycra and outer shell at home. This ride is for the dandy.'”
The Times quoted Eric Brewer, a gallery owner who founded Dandies and Quaintrelles, which organized the Washington tweed ride, as saying that the idea was not to come out in costume.
“There are all kinds of societies that are about dressing up in period costume and then going back to your oversize jeans the next day,” Brewer said. “This is about style as a way of being.”
The Washington Post, reporting on Washington’s tweed ride, described the phenomenon this way:
“This costumed lark may be a thread in a broader trend — a cyclical return to old-fashioned cocktails and chandelier lighting and waistcoats — that is nurturing a new brand of masculinity (rugged but elegant and old-world American) from the slick ashes of the European metrosexual.”
I’m not holding my breath about the tweed ride phenomenon catching on in Fort Worth, Texas, where I live. I fear that dandies might be frowned upon in these parts.