Pre-pandemic, the vast majority of our bike miles were strictly utilitarian: getting from home to the office and back in a small fleet of cargo bikes and rugged, studded-tire-clad winter beaters. The remaining miles were pleasure rides: going to the liquor store and back.
While we still occasionally fake-commute, COVID-19 has made most rides for fun, and made us rediscover the joy of going fast on minimalist vintage steel road bikes (Principle of Archaism). This year we're completing the look and going full-on Breaking Away (with the addition of a helmet and a 25% higher BMI):
1.De Marchi Classic Merino Shorts (Principle of Organic Materials)
While they're a tad long — even classic Italian brands are not immune to decades of shorts' expanding inseams — it's nothing our tailor can't adjust (and remove the branding while he's at it). The "Elastic Interface Endurance" pad adds comfort for the longer rides, even if you draft off a semi for a segment.
2.EGi Merino Wool Tank Top (Principle of Organic Materials)
Ever hear of EGi? Us either. We took a flier on this Italian-made tank and we're getting more. Slim-fitting yet stretchy, seamless, super comfy. Cheap. Runs one size small.
3.De Marchi Classic Leather Gloves (Principle of Organic Materials)
Almost a perfect late-'70s period match, top-notch Italian craftsmanship, and like the shorts, padding where you need it.
4.Puma Speedcat Sparco Suede Low-Top Sneakers
We've written extensively about the sneakerization of just about all footwear, but unfortunately road cycling shoes remain largely unaffected. So we've turned the Puma Speedcat into a cycling shoe, and so far, so good. They're light, have a low profile, and rigid sole for good pedaling power. Puma runs one size small. If you have any other strong suggestions please drop us a note.
Q: As a young activist/Marxist revolutionary in the Philippines, what's the best way to look good on the streets while still ready to take down an oppressive government?
A: We suspect even a hint of New People's Army garb — a Mao cap with a red star, or green shirt — will get you jailed, or worse.
Our first thought was an updated Mao suit jacket — something like this — that Duterte's goons wouldn't pick up on, but would wink to the intellectual class that you're on the same team, and allow you to literally wear on your sleeve the Four Virtues its four pockets represent: propriety, justice, honesty, and a sense of shame.
But that thought didn't last long, once we remembered the Philippines is tropical. While we fully support your cause, if uniting the workers of the world means having to wear a buttoned-up wool suit jacket in 75°F dew points, we're out, and cannot recommend it for you.
Here's what we came up with instead, along with our rationale:
The shirt is climate-appropriate, foremost, with faint echoes of the Mao suit's utilitarianism and militarism. The shorts support the top, sharing the same elastane content and slim cut. And the shoes, while maybe not strictly proletarian, is an application of our high-low approach to outfits (and more importantly, they're comfortable on the streets). Finally, everything is black, which not only fulfills on the Maoist monochromatism maxim, is also practical when trying to slip out, undetected, to the nearest NPA camp.
Be smart, James. Stay safe. We wish you the best of luck.
Q: Greetings from Helsinki, Finland, and congratulations to you and the American people for the successful Nasa/Space X Beta-2 mission. It was an impressive show. It's a shame that the outfits were such a distraction. ISS commander Cassidy in cargo shorts and white socks. Your take? —JF
Yes, even in 2001: A Space Odyssey — Stanley Kubrick's disturbing vision of space travel — he never imagined anything as dark as astronauts in knee-length cargo shorts.
Q: Big fan of your posts. I love your products too. The Emperor's Tourniquet is the best tie in my closet for sure.
So, I hit the gym pretty regularly, it's not as classy as JFK and sailing, but then not all of us own boats and horses.
The appalling apparel worn by most men to the gym makes me nauseous (baggy shorts and low cut tank tops - the ones that have armpit holes which show the entire torso). Anyway what are your recommendations for gym clothing and shoes that are acceptably MB and yet functional enough (sweat wicking)?Against my initial apprehensions I am considering some of the men's gear from lululemon - what are your thoughts on the clothing on their website?
A: Good question. At Complex.com, they advise that "wearing gym clothes out in public" is a major mistake. We take that philosophy a step further. Or maybe even a dumbbell lunge further: Wearing gym clothes in the gym is usually a mistake too.
What makes a man think that because he's working up a sweat his style gets to take a break?
We're not sure. But what we do know is that many men who would never dream of dressing like a toolbag in the office or a bar find bandana headbands, deep armhole tank tops, and over-the-knee polyester mesh shorts perfectly acceptable as long as they are within 50 feet of an elliptical trainer.
You're showing the right instinct with that lululemon site, at least in terms of its emphasis on dark, solid colors and clothes that fit closely without getting too clingy. But following our foundational principle of organic materials, we look for workout wear made from merino wool, which we aren't seeing there.
Because no one has ever seen a sheep on a treadmill, or even doing anything except standing still on a hillside, people don't necessarily think of wool as being a good material for the gym. But as lazy cyclists have long known, wool wicks well and doesn't stink even after repeated usage.
With shorts, though, we're not as concerned about the materials as we are about some general guidelines. Namely, no stripes and no mesh, and leave any pair that gets within 3 inches of the top of your kneecap to that guy by the weight bench who looks like Guy Fieri's ripped twin.
We get a lot of "what should I wear?" questions at Ask the MB, so we thought than on occasion, when we're having an occasion, we'd share what we wear. Articles and accessories will reflect core MB tenets like archaism, Anglophilia, artful dishevelment, and a few others that don't start with the letter A.
The first occasion: A singles match at the club during Wimbledon.
For any tennis played during this fortnight we always channel two of our all-time favorites, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, and split the difference where we can. We also strictly follow the Club's hopelessly vague and wonderfully antiquated "almost entirely white" rule.
1. Shorts. While ATP players' shorts have not yet reached the slacks-like length of the NBA and NCAAB, they're still far too long for our taste. We want zero restriction as we go wide to reach for our opponent's cross-court volley, and tanned thighs nicely accompany a down-the-line winner in response. 4" max inseam here, and cotton of course (principle of organic materials). So we're wearing these Sergio Tacchinis (the McEnroe brand) from a terrific UK eBay shop called honourabletype. Bookmark this one. $43.69.
2. Shirt. McEnroe got the shorts, so naturally Borg gets the shirt. What else but Borg's iconic Fila striped polo with oversize collar and 4-snap placket? $41.99.
3. Shoes We could take the court with the left foot wearing a Borg Diadora and the right foot in a McEnroe Nike, but instead we're opting for the classic style, relative obscurity, and archaism of Pantofola d'Oro low-tops in white. Launched in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 1886, these are made for the street but hold up great on the court, and no one else wears them. $210.00.
In late December, the Dow Jones topped 18,000 for the first time. The U.S. economy is taking off like a Titleist driven by the invisible hand, arm, torso, and Ping G30 of Bubba Watson. Even President Obama's approval ratings are trending upward.
Why all this good news? Correlation does not equal causation, but we can't help but notice that Mr. Obama is dressing better on the golf course. Granted, he had nowhere to go but up. As we've covered in the past, the nation's Executive-in-Chief has typically looked more like a hapless mailroom schlub while walking some of the best links in the land. Baggy cargo shorts. Voluminous polo shirts that would like right at home in Walmart's 4-person tent aisle. And who can forget that awful moment in 2008 when a driving range swing launched his Blackberry into the atmosphere like a doomed space shuttle. NASA, we do not have lift-off.
Now, he's still nowhere near embodying the casual kinetic assurance that says, "Yes, America, I am leading you toward prosperity, security, and overall well-being, and I still have time to get in 18 holes on Sunday."
But at least President Obama has apparently ditched the cargo shorts. He's wearing slimmer-fitting polos that leave his elbows uncovered. In his new garb, he looks more graceful and assured — and that in turn leads to greater grace and assurance. The impact is personal — his golf game has improved dramatically. But there's a macro element as well. America sees a more commanding figure at the helm, and almost magically, gas prices start dropping, consumer confidence increases, the Dow starts climbing, etc.
One hundred years ago this month, Henry Ford shocked the business world with his decision to pay his workers $5 an hour and limit their work day to eight hours. At the time, nine-hour days were standard and the average wage was just $2.40 per hour.
But Ford was radically automating his operation, which (a) made the work far more tedious and (b) greatly increased the number of cars he could produce, which in turn meant he also needed to figure out some way to manufacture more buyers. His solution was the $5 per hour wage. It made a boring assembly line job tolerable and also turned Ford employees into potential Ford customers. (The Model T cost $440 at the time.)
What does this have to do with Michael Bastian? In a 2009 NYT piece, Bastian exclaimed, "I can't even afford my own clothes." Two years later, Esquirereported that "Bastian found that he often couldn't afford to buy his own clothes."
In this month's Details, however, we see evidence that maybe the economic outlook really is improving, and not just for Chinese robots. Here's Bastian on what he looks for in gym shorts: "I have a hard time finding gym shorts that aren't too long or baggy or over logo-ed, so I really like the fleece ones we make in our own line."
How this news failed to make it into President Obama's State of the Union address we can't explain. But once again, America is a place where designers can afford to buy their own clothes! In our own bid to make 2014 a "year of action," we are following Bastian's lead, giving ourselves raises, and buying ourselves cashmerebelts.
Q: I agree with your posts regarding the sport-shirts-untucked-from-pants plight. To push the point, however, what about shorts? I tend to tuck the shirt, yet sometimes I'm tempted to untuck it. I'm almost sure you'll say no good, but is this at least less bad? —Chris
A: Your instincts are on point, Chris. We are not fans of dress shorts, shorts with ties and wingtips, or any other look that might have people wondering if your work pants got amputated at the dry cleaners. For us, shorts are emphatically casual, so you'd think we'd be more open to untucking. And we are, sort of. With shorts, we like the partial tuck, which is to say, artful dishevelment.
How do you make it work? First, make sure that your shirt, be it a polo or a woven, is cut appropriately. If the fabric that falls beneath your belt-line is abundant enough to make a placemat, it's cut too long! If there's barely enough fabric showing to make, say, a bandana, then it's cut right.
Now that you're wearing the right shirt, tuck it in entirely, and pretend like you're a hailing a cab on a busy Manhattan street. Extend your arm, wave vigorously and impatiently. If you do this right, this should dislodge your shirt just enough to give the desired effect. And you're ready to go.
Q: Dear MB: How does an MB rock shorts? I know, I know, a real MB shouldn't wear shorts, but in some parts of the country summer gets too hot for pants. 115 degrees. Looking back at your earlier posts about shorts, the MB short has an 8"-8.5" inseam. Thanks for the help. --Larry
A: In the S/S issue of Another Man, Tom Ford offers five easy lessons on how to become a modern gentleman. Fifth on his list: "A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach."
But there are some good shorts out there, or at least one pair. We love the color, texture, and inseam length of these Obey Whalers, and we're pretty sure our tailor will be happy to excise the overly wordy logo tag for a six-pack of Schlitz. $58. (They fit true to size.)
We will address the footwear part of your question next week.
Until recently we could safely say that jorts were the worst thing to happen to summer since domed baseball stadiums. Then, someone invented dorts -- designer jean shorts. As the weather gets hotter, they're showing up everywhere -- just like mosquitos. Consider these things carriers of a deadly neuroinvasive style virus and repel at all costs.
Wear these dorts if you want people to think you robbed a midget hipster's cuffed jeans.
Have you heard the one about the doctor who removed a patient's perfectly functioning lung while leaving the cancerous one in place? This is the jeans version of that. The least offensive part of these things -- the legs -- have been amputated. The hideous malignant pockets are left intact. Who are the quacks in charge of pants surgery at Antik? They should be sued for malpractice.
Q: I've got a pair of super-comfy CK jeans and I've worn them so much that they've started to get holes in the knees. I've considered cutting them into shorts because it's summer in OZ. Should I? And if so, how short? --Reece
A: Whoa, mate. Rather than make a mistake that might get you on the front page of jorts.com, instead take this opportunity to begin creating some seriously cool, organically destroyed jean pants. Find a tailor with an interest in being less like a seamstress and more like a designer, and show him this picture (here is a super-big version). Get him to put the patch behind the hole and damn-near embroider on the top with a high-contrast, heavy-weight thread. Then get to work making some new holes.
(Jeans pictured owned by: Carl Chiara. Design director, Levi's Capital E and Red Collections.)
Q: How can a 36 year old male dress in resort casual without looking too metrosexual, preppy or like a Tommy Bahama wanna-be? --Mollee
A: From top to bottom:
Knit Shirt: Polo with sleeves that hit at about the middle of the bicep. No logos if possible, especially none with the name of your country club or a high-end public course he recently played. Be sure to follow the polo shirt button rule.
Woven Shirt: At least one in white, of course. Unpressed. Just take it out of the dryer and go. Not buttoned-down. If it's not specifically designed to be worn untucked, have him tuck it in.
Sweater: Fine gauge v-neck cashmere. Period. On cool nights have him toss this over the polo or the woven and let his shirt collar just do what it wants to do.
Pants: No pleats. No creases. No linen. Khakis with patch pockets are a solid choice. Only denim if it's dark and dressed up, like Theory. Shorts OK too, but when the sun goes down remember the rule: pants only.
Footwear: Plimsolls or Jack Purcells. Sandals or flip-flops (but only if they're made from organic materials).
The Feet Themselves: If he chooses the sandal/flip-flop route, remember this rule about feet: If you wouldn't put his toe in your mouth, you need to convince him to get a pedicure.
Q: Should Thom Brown have his right to produce men's fashion revoked, or is it ever ok for an MB to look like THIS??? --Javier
A: As far as we can tell, Thom Browne's primary contributions to fashion are:
1. suits with capri pants, and
2. suits with shorts.
If you're a wee man who wants to flaunt his weeness, then Thom Browne is your god. This particular get-up makes him look like a tiny, hairy puppet IBM invented to sell toner cartridges to yacht clubs. We sincerely do not get it.
Q: Based on this link I'm pretty sure this proves that plaid shorts are post-peak. I've loved my plaid shorts from Penguin and the like for 3 or 4 years now but I think the style is over. What are alternatives for shorts in summer if Tommy Bahama has taken to plaid short production? --Bradley
Just like Eddie Van Halen's toolbaggish, sleep-inducing, fret-jerking in "Beat It" couldn't kill the guitar solo, Tommy Bahama can't kill plaid. Next season they'll be back to florals (bottom). Wear the Penguins and the like without fear.
Q: I read your article about shorts at night and wanted present a more specific scenario. You said, "Wearing shorts after dark is strictly for college boys and parking valets." However, I live on an island (Galveston, TX) where local culture seems to allow shorts at any time and nearly any place. Would shorts after dark be MB-approved in this situation? --Justin
A: Sure, you can wear shorts after dark in Galveston, but only if you're planning to make an appearance on COPS. If you are, we also recommend ditching your shirt and your teeth too, to complete the outfit. If a COPS cameo is not in the cards, get to know lightweight denim like this AG version; they will change the way you think about jeans. Just don't pair with those boots.
Q: Although I wore Thom Browne long before it was available anywhere but Bergdorf Goodman and kind of liked it primarily for the quality and nerdyness, I have recently come to the conclusion that it is kind of "The Emperor's New Clothes." What do you think? --Mark
A: (Ed. note: This question was sent in January, 2009.)
Either it's the Emperor's New Clothes or the Emperor's Flood Pants. Either way, we've never gotten Thom Browne, and perhaps we'll never get Thom Browne, since rumors of his impending bankruptcy surfaced last month (later denied). Maybe we're dumb (or blind), but we don't see a point of view or story to his work, only a gimmick. One thing we think is a very, very safe bet, Mark: If you've been photographed in a Thom Browne suit you're not gonna want to see that pic in 10 years.
It broke 60° yesterday at our Pulaski, WI offices and it moved a few women to break out one of mankind's greatest inventions: short shorts. Now, up here in northern Wisconsin, our women's legs might not be the most toned, and they're clearly a little sun-deprived, and there might be a little more hair than we'd probably like**, but doggone if we still don't really, really dig short shorts. Just wait until it hits 70! Bikinis!
* Not to be confused with short jorts.
** Model clearly not from Pulaski, WI vicinity
Q: MB, I am a 20 year old college student and recently was very excited to find a pair of new Puma Contacts at a thrift store and have been wearing them occasionally. I only wear them with plain black skinny jeans, because I don't want to be too elaborate. My girlfriend on the other hand feels that they are too ridiculous and make me stand out in a bad way. Am I wrong? --Jacob
A: Jacob, your girlfriend would've been more accurate to say you stand out in a too Joey Ramone way. This is fine if you're the 6'6" frontman for an up-and-coming college punk rock cover band. Otherwise save this ironic footwear for the hardcourts.
Q: What the hell can I wear with jean shorts?! I just recently donated a bunch of my clothes and noticed I have tons of jean shorts. I can't think up anything that can go with them. Should I have donated them too? Help! --Aaron
A: Florida Gator quarterback and massive toolbag Tim Tebow wears jean shorts. (Looks as though MBs can safely rule out Birkenstocks as well. But you knew that.) If that doesn't answer your question, visit jean short photo site jorts.com and let us know if you find one guy even approximating Magnificent Bastard-dom. Aaron, this is best left to the opposite sex, specifically Daisy Duke or women with DD-quality buns.
Something just ain't right about seeing the completely unstylish Rafael Nadal triumph on the completely stylish lawns of Wimbledon. Nadal's match with Roger Federer may be an instant classic, but neither that dreadful sleeveless top nor those long shorts will stand the test of time. Poor fella looks like some weird combination of Menudo and Rambo.
A URL for any MB is the UO sale page, sorted by "new additions." They do not fuck around with their discounts, and we like that. Take, for instance, these stylin' Stock cutoff shorts, once $39.99, now just $9.99.