Dress Code

A simple guide to authenticity and modesty.

It's true, clothes make the man/woman and in this case, they make the ride. I have noticed an increase of interest in appropriate dress for the 3-Speed Tour and ABCE so here is a basic guide to what to wear and where to get it. The only rule is: no lycra.

English cycling togs in the 30s were simple, elegant and versatile. If it was a cool morning you donned your cycling jacket made from summer-weight wool tweed or Sanforized cotton/linen. Plus fours, plus twos or breeks (Yanks call them knickers) were the order of the day for most rides. The name "plus fours" or "plus twos" depended on how oversize they were cut. Worn with a buttoned long-sleeve shirt and over-the-calf stockings, you were set for the day. A Google search on breeks will yield many hits. You can find them on eBay but be careful; don't get them confused with equestrian breeks. Golf knickers are a possibility but be careful with the colors; muted darker tones are best since your seat will be dirtied from the saddle. NEW! Bicycle Fixation has wool breeks available: http://www.bicyclefixation.com/wool_knickers.html

Norfolk jackets are harder to find at reasonable prices. They are available on eBay from time to time and you may find variations listed as "shooting jackets" or "hacking jackets". The best options for cycling are:

You may be able to modify something from the Thrift Store if you don't mind a little custom tailoring.

If it was hot, the jacket was left at home and a lightweight long-sleeve shirt was worn with Bermuda shorts. The sleeves could be rolled up or left down as sun protection. Over-the-calf stockings were usually  worn with this outfit too.

Hats were optional but a traditional flat cap or beret will compliment. Kangol makes several styles and they are easily found on eBay.


Other details:

Women's choices were a little easier. The most popular choice for club riders was Bermuda shorts with a complimentary blouse and short stockings. The shorts were cut a little shorter than the men. If you rode a loop framed roadster around town or if it was cold, a nice dress was the order of the day.

Interested in making your own riding breeks? Ken Keberle sent the following:

Dear Jon –

Made some perfect riding breeks over the weekend.  Took about an hour; time well invested.  I began with a good pair of slacks (3/4 lining – summer weight wool – French fly - my uniform pants from The National Hockey League )

Using 3/4 inch flat non-roll elastic for the bottom will get you the greatest comfort

To measure the proper length.  Put the slacks on and place your foot on a chair or other elevated surface to ensure that you aren’t trimming them too short.  Using a tailor’s chalk, put a small slash mark just below your knee.  All your other measurements come from this mark.

To make plus twos - Mark down from this mark 6”.  Measure up from the bottom hem of the pants to this mark and use that measurement to trim the bottom portion of the leg off.   Do not simply cut them off straight across. Use pinking shears if you have them.

Turn and press a one half inch hem.  Stitch completely.

Mark and press another 1 ¼ hem from this finished edge..  Sew all but 1” of this hem closed.  Start and stop at the inside seam (less noticeable).

Place your foot on a stool and run a piece of the elastic around your calf.  Do not stretch the elastic.  Add two inches to the length, trim and cut. 

Being careful not to get the webbing twisted, place the elastic web inside the I ¼ inch hem.  Pull both ends of the elastic out and stitch it together using the two inch overlap.

Work the elastic back into the hem pocket.  Stitch the hem pocket closed.

The ¾ inch elastic is most comfortable and will provide a good drape for the garment.

Plus fours are, from what I’ve researched, cut far more generously throughout the garment, and less likely to be adapted from existing modern garments.

Have fun –


Suspenders clipped 25 April 2014

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