though i smugly laugh at each year's influx of visitors, wearing their barbour caps and jackets in a fruitless attempt to blend in with the local populace, almost none of who wear such clobber, unfortunately, i recall making similar attempts in my early years on the isle. a part of this was of a pragmatic nature, but i was pretty much willingly taken in by the iniquities of the outdoor world's insidious marketing.
in those pre-interweb days, substantial catalogues would drop thuddingly through the letterbox for the perusal of the already converted. their pages offered the sort of apparel providing the ultimate protection to those tasked with measuring the antarctic ice shelf, or making single-handed attempts to reach the north pole, armed only with a swiss army penknife and a crunchy peanut butter clif bar.
sadly, none of my immediate circle had any intention of doing either, and i certainly had no designs on such unbridled adventure. perish the thought.
however, here was i, newly ensconced in the hebrides, determined to underline the difference between here and my former mainland domicile, and what better way to do so than by dressing in a deliberately rugged fashion? brands such as rohan and berghaus were uppermost on the mail order list, encapsulating thermal, brightly coloured, quick-drying, easily packed items of clothing that would not only protect me from the surly elements each winter, but would sartorially advertise that they were doing precisely that.
i cannot pretend that the ruggedness of it all did not hold a great deal of appeal. adhering to the layering principal, this usually meant some form of t-shirt like baselayer, a fleecy something or other in between, and an outer shell that promised comprehensive breathability and a star-trek like shield ability to keep precipitation at bay. couple this with leather hiking boots and thermal windproof trousers and i could easily have been mistaken for bear grylls while traversing the aisles of our averagemarket on a saturday morn.
all the above is fine and well when, as my own boss, i need only adhere to a self-imposed dress code. though the last vestiges of designer scruff can still be seen when the light is poor, now that i often have need of visiting folks in their own home for training purposes and maintianing an air of insouciant respectability when office bound, i feel i ought to make a bit more of an effort. my late father would have been proud. i, on the other hand, can scarcely believe it has come to this. whatever happened to the ageing hippy?
the credit, however, is not mine alone. as the wealth of appropriate day to day cycle clothing has increased in direct proportion to the activity's growing popularity, the tide appears to have turned. no longer is it necessary or even desirable to arrive at work after the morning commute smelling like a bin bag and looking as if dragged through a hedge backwards. rapha's observed 15:1 ratio has led to highly technical, yet sartorially innocuous apparel that fares well on the bike, while displaying a more conventional front to a less than caring public.
the pelotonese, of which i am a fully paid up member every weekend, have no shame scurrying about the countryside in full team sky kit, offering a slow motion replay of the last one day classic. but i'm reasonably sure that the boss would be a lot less keen on those three rear pockets and lightweight bibshorts sitting at a computer desk. a one hour commute against the other fifteen hours of civility. keep that ratio in mind.
let me state quite categorically that i'm not a shirt wearer. and while i'm in confessional mood, i'm none too keen on cotton t-shirts either (though i do make exceptions for certain examples). i quite like polo shirts, but long-sleeve versions are hard to come by. shirts with a collar i left behind when i departed the pipe band; i'm not saying it's a problem to be smart, but i prefer to do so on my own terms, and though i have no wish to appear melodramatic, it seems rapha may just have provided me with the wherewithal.
their new, button-up merino shirts have just the right amount of respectable style married to a relaxed demeanour. meaning, of course, that i can pay at least lip-service to the former, while keeping both arms firmly in the latter. available in two distinct colours (grey and dark blue), the merino button shirt forming a part of rapha's autumn/winter city riding range offers a slim fit, impressive cosiness and windproof woven cotton shoulder panels in a darker contrasting shade. aside from the well-known properties of merino wool in relation to velocipedinal activity, both colours comfortably straddle the line between formality and informality.
though i'll deny it when questioned, i have already suggested to imperial works that a rapha silk tie, bearing either their chainlink or sprocket pattern would be the ideal accoutrement.
however, if we accept the shirt at its current face value, it looks every bit as good buttoned all the way to the neck as it does with a top button left casually undone. rapha's web page suggests pairing the shirt with one of their v-neck baselayers, but in my humble opinion that's for the self-conscious wimp. i paired mine with rapha's recently released merino t-shirt on the basis that they look as if they were made for each other. don't say i didn't tell you.
the quality and fit is impeccable, with buttons featuring the word rapha in embossed white on their sides. an attention to detail that extends as far as a small reflective tab under the collar. the sleeves on the medium size reviewed were of a length that accommodated all styles of riding, yet resisted any predilection to wrinkle in more civilian pursuits. those woven cotton shoulder panels, aside from offering windproofing when riding with an open jacket, also resist wear and tear on the merino fabric if you ride with a shoulder bag.
and when i eventually made it to debbie's aboard my light coloured taurus corinto, my personage dressed in shirt and jeans, blended seamlessly with a clientele less cycle obsessed than yours truly. and that was true whether i sat at the coffee bar or on the red leather chesterfield in the corner. nobody pointed or sniggered.
i never thought i'd see the day when i'd cheerfully wear a button shirt to work as well as while riding a bicycle. i'd love to say it is a situation that has left me riddled with guilt and self-loathing, but in point of fact, it's ruddy marvellous. a state of affairs that will be regularly repeated.
i believe it was the band haircut 100 that made mention of a favourite shirt.
rapha's button shirt is available in either blue or grey, in sizes ranging from xs - xxl at a cost of £150...........................................................................................................................................................................................................