I guess we can thank those batty Brits for the tweed ride and the rise of the Young Fogeys.
Yearning for the days of handlebar mustaches, calabash pipes, plus fours and penny farthing bicycles, a group of eccentric Britons organized the first 21st century Tweed Run on Jan. 24, 2009 — a two-wheeled ramble through London in vintage attire.
Their eccentricity seemed to be contagious, at least among bicyclists. Similar rides have since 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 — and probably in a city near you.
London’s third annual Tweed Run took place on April 9. As the ride’s website put it: “Between the hours of ten and eleven in the morning, on a day that combined the warmth and unmistakable fresh charm of spring, numerous individuals in the city of London readied themselves to take part in a spectacle that would transgress the bounds of contemporary fashion and etiquette.”
Describing itself as “a metropolitan bicycle ride with a bit of style,” London’s Tweed Run has a prescribed dress code for its “wheelmen” and “wheelwomen” that has been copied by the other rides — tweed suits, plus fours, bowties, cycling capes and jaunty flat caps.
The 10-mile jaunt around the British capital allowed about 400 participants to take in such sights as St. Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Saville Row. For the second consecutive year, the Tweed Run benefited Bikes4Africa, a charity that accepts donated bikes, teaches inmates in British prisons to refurbish them and then ships them to Gambia in West Africa.
British author and journalist Harry Mount wrote on the Telegraph website that a new society has been set up at Oxford University called The Young Fogeys of Oxford. He quoted Kelsey Williams of Oxford’s Balliol College, who runs the society, as saying: “A brief survey of Balliol men and their acquaintances throughout the university suggests that young fogeydom is alive and well and present everywhere, from Duke Humfrey’s to the college dining societies.”
Duke Humfrey’s is the oldest reading room in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. It was completed in 1487.
“It’s hardly the most young fogeyish of things to join a Facebook group,” Williams said of the Young Fogeys’ presence on the social networking site, “but it’s hoped that this one will let isolated young fogeys know they’re not alone and, perhaps, encourage the continued vibrant cultural of young fogeydom in our glorious university.”
Perhaps the Tweed Run and the resurgence of young fogeydom has something to do with that strain of British zaniness that brought to the world Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the Monster Raving Loony Party. Or perhaps it’s nostalgia for the glory days of empire under Queen Victoria.
Harry Mount suggested that it might be a side-effect of the much-ballyhooed wedding of Prince Edward, heir to the throne, and Kate Middleton on April 29.
“These things go in cycles,” Mount wrote. “The Young Fogey died out in the 2000s — through a combination of a New Labour government, and a tide of international money that obliterated all talk of monocles, wind-up gramophones and discussions over how many buttons you should have on your jacket cuff.
“The recession, the anarchists on the streets of London, the collapse of the brave new modern world … all of it sends wistful hearts harking back to a supposed golden age of sound, thornproof tweed jackets, stout brogues and a teddy bear stuffed into the armpit.”
Well said, old boy!