It’s a strange thing, taste. One man’s vomit-inducing outfit is another’s epitome of cool. There are of course universally accepted standards, such as black, which actually is the definition of cool even if it isn’t particularly visible.
But on the most part we each carve our own path through the style minefield and never has that been more true than in cycling, which is a law unto itself.
In no other pastime or walk of life for instance can I think of an occasion when it would be acceptable to be dressed head to toe in the same brand. But in cycling it’s not only desirable, it can be considered a cardinal sin by your riding pals if you don’t. To confuse matters, this doesn’t apply to helmets or shoes, although if you have a helmet and glasses by the same brand you get additional style points.
Colours are another area where cycling rubs against convention. Floro on the street is, well, it marks you out as a cyclist, frankly, whether you have a bike with you or not. Or a runner, - you can get away with retina burning yellow if you’re sprinting down the road for no apparent reason.
When you think about it, a lot of the time if you do the opposite to what is considered decent on the street you will end up with cycling fashion. Super-tight fitting garments? Check. Lycra on grown men? Check. Caps with the peak turned up? Double check.
It’s a style that’s kind of borne of safety and practicality and sport rolled into one. And a lot of the time it isn’t a bad look, especially when you throw in a few of the more better-designed bits.
But as with any other style cultures, cycling fashions warm and wane, and little intricacies that could completely pass the unobservant by will mark you out as someone in the know or someone you doesn’t quite get it.
So imagine my abject horror when I was quite officiously informed by someone I wouldn’t take a sartorial tip from on civvy street if he pointed a gun at my head that socks worn outside leggings were most definitely not the thing. This horror was borne of the fact that I have been wearing my flamboyant The Athletic and Sako 7 socks in full view all winter. And the cool Cafe du Cycliste ones that have an alpine thing going on. After all, what’s the point in lairy socks if you’re going to cover them up with a pair of leggings? The whole point is slightly moot now since we entered the season of the oversock but let’s not ruin a good column with that technicality.
At this point let me also point out that lairy socks are definitely on the lower slopes of the style zeitgeist mountain and on their way up; in their infancy in terms of popularity. This year, mark my words, they will be everywhere.
But according to this fella, those who race - who one might, in certain circles, consider to be some kind of superior cycling being, a step further up the evolutionary ladder which will eventually result in cycles being welded to one’s posterior in some kind of man-machine hybrid - cover up their socks with their leggings. And have been doing so since, oh, 2009?
I went straight on the defensive, as is usually the case in these circumstances, decrying that I for one absolutely flatly do not follow cycling fashion and the wearing of socks outside of my leggings was a personal statement that transcended style, and especially fashion. If I had given it any more thought I would have wheeled out exhibit a: the most stylish man in cycling, none other than David Millar, who has not so much taken to wearing his socks outside his leggings as designed a pair of leg warmers that stop MID CALF. Try wearing socks over them!
So on that basis I shall continue to wear my socks over my leggings, covered over by oversocks. I will, however, still be sitting comfortable in the fact that I am streets ahead in the cycling style stakes.
This column first appeared on www.thetimes.co.uk/onyourbike on January 25 2016