Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fashion outliers

Cycling in many ways is not unlike a friend of mine describes the practice of anesthesia:  95% of the time smooth sailing, 5% of the time sheer panic.  In this way, cycling is a practice of extremes.  Whether it is the various climatic challenges we deal with, the exertional differences between a morning commute and a mountainous ride, or in, say, cycling-related apparel, we are faced with experiencing both ends of the spectrum.
Let's take the latter example: Cycling related apparel.  'Tis the season, as they say, so if you are shopping for your favorite cyclist, you might find yourself perusing the virtual racks at the online store that recently opened called Outlier.  Their motto is: "Tailored performance clothing for cycling in the city."  City cycling is all the rage these days, and at least as important as simply looking like you are cycling in the city, so this company seems to be filling an important niche.  Clicking on an internal link within their website will let you read about the company's philosophy.  Upon reaching this page, you are first greeted by this photo which is literally titled Outlier Street Philosophy:

So apparently, in addition to riding brakeless fixed gears in the city, part of the Outlier philosophy is also doing so without looking where you are going.  The lengthy caption under the photo says, in part,

"The sun is rising, the air clear, the city unfold below you as you reach the top of the bridge.  Your legs are spinning fast, heart pumping, maybe you are sweating just a touch.  It's a magical feeling of exhiliration and liberation that comes from riding a bike in a city.  Inside trains, humans are imitating sardines, while drivers stall and stew in their own exhaust.  The cyclist however is completely free, in motion, almost flying, a huge smile wiped across their face.....At the core, Outlier clothing is about a certain freedom,  A freedom to ride, regardless of the destination. You should always look like you belong inside the city, not just out on the road pedaling."

Central, then to the theme of the company or "at the core" as the caption says, is to "always look like you belong inside the city," which then puzzles me as to why the company is called 'Outlier.'  Wikipedia tells us that statistically, an outlier is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data.  Here is a graphic representation of what an 'outlier' looks like in a data set.

So if the company is about dressing the modern city cyclist to ensure he or she looks like they belong, what is it about their clothing that makes them an Outlier?  I decided to shop around and investigate.  It didn't take me long to figure out what makes Outlier an outlier.

If you click on the Empire Merino Tee you get a page showing some models wearing said Tee.  My favorite is one called Outlier-Kai-Sunlight.jpg.

I'm assuming this is Kai, busting his $75 Tee shirt in the sunlight, with his lips pursed and his 1000-yard stare as he reminisces about the hardened city streets he has had to pedal on his way to school and also if he accidentally left his Daddy's credit card at Starbuck's this morning.

Well, perhaps the Empire Merino Tee at $75 is the outlier on the Outlier clothing product line, and the other clothes are more resonably priced. I looked further:

Ok, maybe not.  How about a $60 cap?  But in their defense - this, according to the description, was "made in collaboration with master milliner Victor Osborne."  I mean - that sounds like it would cost some money to produce.  But, if like me, you are also wondering 1) "What the shit is a 'master milliner'?" and 2) "Who the shit is Victor Osborne?" read on.

A milliner is one who makes and sells hats, according to the online Webster's dictonary.  Now, what makes one a 'master' is anyone's guess, and I'm left to wonder if one may just use this title if the need suits to improve credibility.  Thus, for example, one who baits lines for professional fishermen could try to pump up business by referring to him or herself as the 'Master Baiter."  In similar fashion, if you visit Victor Osborne's website, you can see his entire line of masterful chapeaux such as this little number he was commissioned to complete for the new Nazi Youth Cycling Brigade:

Or this one which really defines the look of tomorrow's hipster, but may require the optional chin-strap accessory if it is going to stay on one's head while doing all that city riding.

If your family and friends are anything like the cheap lot that mine are and there will be no Victor Osborne hat for you under the tree Christmas morning, perhaps you can tell them to visit the opposite end of the cycling-related apparel spectrum at Tired Ol' Belts.  This company takes used bike tires and various components to fashion belts with a pricetag of about $25-$30 seen here:

These certainly keep to the spirit of cycling more, in my mind anyway, but still obviously are incapable of dressing up mom-jeans.  Tired Ol' Belts will even go a step further and will trade a belt and even money for your used cassette cogs and lock rings or spokes.

I wonder if I wrote to Victor and told him of the trade in deal Tired Ol' Belts is running if he would trade me my worn out Dura Ace 10-speed cassette for this little baby?

Pedal on!

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