Answering the intriguing question; what happens to fashion when no one can see each other? It seems possible that, for cyclists at least, the answer could be white bib shorts.
Once universally reviled, in the interests of generating easy publicity some squads have occasionally chucked this stylistic dead cat onto the table.
Perhaps conscious of the tradition of sprint team’s making their kit as obnoxious as possible, HTC Highroad and Mark Cavendish rode a few seasons in all white around the late 2000s.
Leaning into their outsider status, French outfit FDJ made white cycling shorts its own throughout the 2010s. Before it became the far better turned-out Team Sunweb, Argos-Shimano also dabbled.
National and World Championship wins have also occasioned the jettisoning of traditional black bibs. A bit like criticising Louis XIV for having flouncy hair, few begrudged Peter Sagan and Tom Dumoulin when they opted for white legs on their World Champion’s skinsuits, while Bradley Wiggins was once spotted looking resplendent in an all-white British National Champs’ kit.
More recently, in 2019 Mathieu van der Poel went with white shorts to match his Corendon-Circus jersey at the Tour of Flanders. Although he did so somewhat apologetically, with his father explaining it was only to make it easier for his team’s DS to pick him out from the bunch.
However, a quick google search proves that cycling’s most hyped rider is in fact a long-time white shorts offender. In fact, he later took perhaps the best-looking win of the past few years at Amstel Gold in white kecks. And what the pro’s do...
Now, Danish purveyors of general cycling loveliness, Pas Normal Studios has teased an all-white outfit that we can’t help but think is rather nice. But can white shorts ever work for normal shlubs?
I suppose the problem here is the fraught intersection between fashion and sport. Fashion - populated in the popular imagination by beautiful and great smelling people wafting around the expensive bits of Europe. Sport – more readily identified with the reek of sweat, Deep Heat, and people scrubbing off mud, blood, and God knows what else in poorly maintained municipal changing rooms.
Can the two be reconciled? Is it ever a good idea to wear a white shirt while eating spaghetti? And where do bib shorts fit into this? Of course, few rules are truly set in stone. Once reserved for Fred Astaire, plenty of cyclists are now happy to tap upon the pedals in white shoes. Yet sticking to black shorts has previously fallen into the same immutable category as not making graven images, bearing false witness against thy neighbour, or riding on the top of the block while also in the big ring.
But will the wearers of white shorts escape censure? If you’re confident of ending your ride as neat and unbesmirched as you were upon starting it, an all-white outfit will undoubtedly set you apart from the competition. Not really a look for the back of the bunch, accessorise it by winning and you just might get away with it.