Last weekend we paid a visit to Hub and Bespoke in the Fremont district of Seattle, Washington. Unique among bike shops, there are no bicycles for sale at this stylish cycle boutique — just clothing and accessories . Co-owner Juliette, who has a background in product design and home textiles, stocks the shop with brands like Outlier, Nau, Ibex, Dellar and Vittoria. Her goal is to sell pants, sweaters and – yes – dresses that transition from bicycle to boardroom – pieces for men and women that are both functional and fashionable. You won’t find skorts with sewn-in chamois or high-tech “plastic” jerseys. Wool is the preferred fabric. One of her featured items is men’s wool trousers and knickers designed and constructed by Seattle seamstress Katharine Andrews. Juliette and her business partner Aldan are fans of Archival Clothing and we had a great time chatting with the two of them. We left a couple of bags at the store, and as you can see (below), they look quite at home there.
Inspired by Mister Crew’s terrific post on knickers, we decided to dig through our closets and do a knicker round-up. I (Tom), due to my tender age, have only accumulated four pairs so far:
Ibex Schoeller knickers in black. Bought at the stunning Ibex Tent Sale. Wonderful for cycling. 75% nylon, 20% wool, 5% spandex. Prone to abrasion. Elasticized waist with five belt loops. Velcro cuff adjustment. Roomy fit.
Woolrich classic knickers, in gray and navy blue. Thrifted. Great for cross-country skiing, climbing, and hiking. 85% wool, 15% nylon. Double seat and knees. Seven belt loops. Velcro cuff adjustment. Slim fit.
As a crusty elder, I (Lesli) have collected more pairs of knickers than I need or actually wear. Even when they don’t fit, I archive pairs for their garment tags, quality fabrics or unusual design features.
Alpendale Knickers. 100% corduroy. Made in West Yorkshire by an out-of-business country clothing manufacturer (the source of my favorite corduroy trousers). Wide, tunnel style belt loops, zip fly, two on seam side pockets and rear buttoning pocket. The ends of the legs have a buckle strap that works loose during wear. These are my favorite knickers. They pair well with high socks and clogs.
Hebden Cord climbing breeks. 100% cotton ventile. Made in England. No longer available. Purchased via ebay during the Hebden Cord closeout sale. Like all Hebden Cord breeks, they come with a double layer seat, button through rear pocket, velcro fastening map pocket and velcro fastening cuffs. I’d happily add map pockets to all my knickers, trousers and shorts.
Bicycle Fixation Knickers. 100% wool gabardine. Made in Los Angeles. My pair is from Richard Risemberg’s original production run from 2007. The gabardine wool and satin trim make these knickers perfect for dress/workplace wear.
Butex Knickers. 100% ribbed wool. These knickers belong to Sara, not me. She inherited them from her mother who purchased them for hiking in Switzerland in the early 1960s. From fabric to garment tag, these are a masterpiece of the genre.
This spring mountaineering season: Pull on your knickers, grab your rucksack, lace up your tallest boots, help your pals with their bowlines-on-a-bight, and head for the hills. Here in Oregon, I’ll limit archivally-equipped outings to big, basic mountains – South Sister would be ideal, but the bold could go for Three-Fingered Jack, named after an infamously disfigured 19th century bandit. Archival Clothing is not responsible for the failure of wooden ice axes or hempen ropes.
While looking through suzannetodd82’s images from L’Eroica 2008, I came across this splendid image of a thoroughly archival gent. I’m not sold on his choice of trousers, but I hope to follow his example of using a Filson Game Bag as cycling baggage.
The Shot Shell Bag and the triple Shooting Bag also promise to be crossover bags for hunting, shooting, and cycling. In the spirit of the biathlon, perhaps Archival Clothing will host a cyclocross/target shooting event this summer. Please stay tuned. Here are a few more cyclo- shooting bag options from favorite archival brand, CC Filson:
If you’re shopping for a bag from the past, permit me to recommend the Abercrombie & Fitch Officer’s Musette Bag or Sportsman’s Haversack (for revolver shooters and botanists).
Ed. note: guest post by Archival Associate and Tintin reader, Tom B.
There’s endless discussion on the genius of Tintin’s wardrobe. But let’s broaden the search. Tintin In Tibet offers some really terrific examples of hiking clothing – tennis sweaters, anoraks, plus fours, socks folded over boots. While I continue to use gaiters to keep snow out, I swear by my knickers for hiking and cross-country skiing – both my Woolrich wool and my Ibex soft shell knickers see a great deal of use during the winter. Now, has anyone found an anorak that could dodouble-duty for those seen in Tintin In Tibet?
If you do order the BF knickers, you might also consider matching them up with a snappy, safety orange, four season cycling jersey and over-the-knee knicker socks.
I emailed Bicycle Fixation founder, Richard Risemberg, to get more information on his made-in-USA (Los Angeles) business philosophy and the idea behind his line of “dress” cycling clothing (suitable for commuting and officewear). Richard wrote back with the following report:
I buy all the materials in downtown Los Angeles, but most of them are made out of the US, as we have very little textile manufacturing capacity left in this country. All the labor is done in Los Angeles, near Broadway and 9th, in fact, in a contract factory that pays its workers a good wage. (In fact, the workers regularly ask me for more money for my complex sewing jobs, and I always sigh and concede….) The herringbone wool is from England; my gabardine may actually be US made; I’d have to check. I know my wool broker was dealing directly with the mill, so it may be from New York. My broker buys leftover rolls from big orders for me, as my quantities are small. I’ve been able to get the same superb gabardine for two years now; a great improvement over the original material.
Never worked in the rag trade, and was fairly indifferent to fashion, in fact. But I wanted some clothes that wouldn’t stand out when I was off the bike but would work well when I was riding, couldn’t find them, and so determined to make my own. Figuring that more people were starting to ride for transportation, and having been a sustainable transportation and urban development advocate for ten years already, I figured to make enough to sell and maybe get some extras cash to support my publishing. My starting point was an old Raleigh bicycle ad from around 1936 or so; the fellow in the drawing was wearing elegant-looking knickers. I took that as a general outline, went to a way-too-expensive custom tailor for the first iteration, and went through a few more iterations of the first product (the Classic Wool Knickers) with another tailor and ultimately with sample makers (whom I was referred to by a neighbor who’d been in the rag trade), hooked up by purest chance with my sewing contractor (whose office was across the hall for my first pattern maker), gritted my teeth, held out my credit card, and made the first batch of knicks. My wife had introduced me to gabardine years before, and we knew that was the right fabric for bike wear of my style.
More on Bicycle Fixation and a field test of the gabardine city knickers in a future post.
For those questioning the practical use value, (the “wearability,” as the beer ad would say) of dress knickers–or breeks–I offer you several pages of visual evidence from one of my favorite vintage barbour catalogs:
Hiroshi of Jitensha studio is now selling a lovely, alpine style wool cycling knicker made by a small shop in Japan. Though I’m not a fan of some of the individual details (pleated front or lower buckle clasps), the overall design looks terrific. They remind me of the cycling knickers originally offered by now-out-of-business, Hebden Cord Co. Ltd. I also like the look of the of the Marresi Storica style cycling shoes (worn by the model) but I’m not sure quite how I would ever go about identifying my size or placing an order. Has anyone tried the knickers or Marresi shoes? If not, place an order and let us know.
Ever since I saw Liza Minnelli perform the Bye Bye Blackbird number in Liza with a Z, I’ve had knickers (or more accurately, plus twos or britches or breeks) on the brain. Now, as it turns out, knickers are re-emerging as a major fashion item on the cycling/bike messenger scene. On bike listservs like the I-bob list, references to knickers (knicker glories, knicker styling, knicker fabric selection/preferences) abound. Folks are sporting italian military issue “alpine trousers” scored at army surplus depots and a fine fellow in Los Angeles is designing a new, all gabardine, “dress” knicker manufactured just for him by an LA garment maker.
I’ve always liked the idea of knickers but shied away from actually wearing a pair due to my short height (fearing that the plus two or plus four look–two or four inches below the knee) might have the optical effect of cutting me into funny tear- away pieces. But now, emboldened by all this internet chatter and fixed gear hipster posturing, I’m breaking out my own carefully archived stockpile of wool and cord breeks (plus purchasing the necessary color neutral knee high socks to wear underneath). Today, I shall honor tin cloth Mondays by sporting a pair of vintage Filson ladies Whipcord climbing breeches (a necessary transgression since Filson didn’t bother to manufacturer tin cloth trousers in plus two or four dimensions).