Mrs. Takahashi died last month. She was in her mid-80’s, and lived across the street from us in Utsunomiya. She was what folks in small town Texas call a “character.” She smoked and didn’t care who saw it or if was unladylike. She said what she thought, even when it mostly pissed people off. And she dressed up.
When I say “dressed up” I don’t mean formal clothes, although she would have been equally at home in a barn or at an inauguration ball. Mrs. Takahashi had that one thing that hardly anyone has, and that can’t be bought.
She had a sense of fashion and a sense of style, and let me tell you, friend, she didn’t get it out of a magazine.
Nope, Mrs. Takahashi was more likely to get her fashion items out of a trash can or at a rummage sale or as pre-teen hand-me-downs than she was to buy something fashionable from a store. Two days after we’d thrown away some of my daughter’s purple-and-star-spangled pajamas (daughter was ten), we saw Mrs. Takahashi wearing them with a red turban, bangles, and a sweeping orange cape. She was on her way to the vegetable stand. In bright red, CFM heels.
Mrs. Takahashi always looked stunning, too, and beautiful even with her busted up nicotine teeth and her nine decades of life. Because beauty comes from within, whatever she wore radiated, and she wore whatever. No detail was too fine, no unusual or strange item was unworthy of at least being considered as clothing or an accent piece.
Cyclist fashion of the Rapha-roadie-group-ride variety is about as fashionable as any of the things you buy at a department store. It’s boring, uniform, and tailored after a “look” that is not very attractive, i.e. the look of a 25-year-old male climber on the pro tour with an eating disorder.
By definition it’s unfashionable because everyone else does it, but it’s also unfashionable from an aesthetic angle as well: There is no attempt to cobble together your own eclectic items, scavenged out of a dumpster or bought at Goodwill, and press them into something that is uniquely you. With conformity comes boring anonymity.
But the mores of bike fashion that get handed down within bike clubs don’t represent the great mass of people who cycle. Most riders wear whatever, down to the flip-flops or bare feet they use to push the pedals. Shirtless Keith? Cutoffs, work boots, and a bare torso, yo.
It’s only when you poke your head out from under the covers that you see, for example, the crazy variety at a Los Angeles Ciclavia, some 100k riders strong. Variety, imagination, beauty, fashion, and style run amok when cyclists are freed from the disapproving frowns of those who cannot countenance socks (white) with cuffs less than six inches, not to mention the pathetic fashion douchebaggery of the Velominati.
Here in the South Bay we are as cursed with the monotheism of bike clothing as any other cycling clique. Although my helmetless form is a kind of blow for freedom of cycling as well as for freedom of fashion, it pales in comparison to the Wily Greek.
Once a slave to the smallest details of #fakepro fashion, Wily took a sabbatical from cycling, discovered his inner freak, and now shares it with us every time he rides, which is a lot.
Ski goggles. Yellow nose ring. Ear studs. Down Jacket. Backpack. Bleach blonde hair. No helmet.
One day I asked him about the ski goggles. “Are you trying them out to see if they are better than glasses?”
“No,” he said, just before he rode me off his wheel.
“Why are you wearing them, then?”
“Because they look fucking weird, dude.”
The heir to Mrs. Takahashi. We need more of that.