Clothes-Minded: You Are What You Wear

One of life's greatest challenges is finding a balance between adhering to your own beliefs and imposing them on others. Whether it's spirituality, or diet, or choice of drivetrain components, it's important to keep in mind that what works for us may not work for others. And while we may choose to don a cone of smugness from time to time and broadcast our own opinions, it's important not to force that same cone upon another's head. Still, it's human nature to share our beliefs, so if you're inclined to do so at least consider turning dogma into entertainment by taking various cones of smugness and juggling them, like this person I recently spotted on Houston Street:

Speaking of smugness, few media outlets juggle it as flambulliently as NPR, and as some commenters noticed yesterday I make a brief appearance yesterday on "All Things Considered," which you can listen to below if you're so inclined:

Incidentally, it's not easy to get onto NPR due to their stringent smugness guidelines. Knowing this, I arrived at the interview clad head to toe in Obama paraphernalia and carrying WNYC ECOBAGS® Tote filled with organic produce purchased at the Park Slope Food Coop. However, NPR's Smugness Inspectors discovered that in 5th grade I had voted for David Berenbaum in the election for Class President. While my decision was motivated solely by his promise to lower the price of chocolate milk in the school cafeteria, apparently he was also a staunch conservative with a strong pro-life stance, and it was only after the Chief Inspector strapped me into an Aeron chair and did something unspeakable to me which he called "deprogramming" that they finally allowed the piece to air. In any case, thanks very much to JoElla Straley for letting me participate in her report, and thanks to NPR for the crippling fear and sleepless nights.

But while all I contributed to the report was fluff and a voice which one reader called that of an "arrogant nerd," someone who's actually somewhat credible also made an appearance, and that person is New York City Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Under her reign of terror, the city has added many new bike lanes, and in the NPR piece she cites bike theft as a major reason more people don't ride to work. As I've said before, I think fear of bike theft is mostly a flimsy excuse not to ride, though I do admit it is a problem. Consequently, at least some New Yorkers are taking the matter into their own hands:

This is incredibly disturbing. The attempted theft and ensuing beating is one thing, but the fact that messengers are now brunching in the East Village is incontrovertible proof that we live in troubled times. Fortunately, though, they have not been so softened by Eggs Benedict and $9 Bloody Marys that they will allow somebody to get away with stealing their bikes. While the incident was captured on video, unfortunately the thrilling footage has since been pulled from YouTube. Now, I don't condone violence, but having watched the video I do think the messengers were merciful and fair in their treatment of the thief. Sure, they landed a few punches, but they mostly just pushed him around, and the fact that he was able to walk away means he got off easy. However, I did manage to get a screenshot of the video shortly before it was pulled, and it does reveal a flagrant face mask foul:

At least the thief was wearing a helmet.

Nonetheless, I stand by my semi-serious assertion that what we cyclists need is not greater protection from bike theft, but rather an overall relaxing of the dress code. Theft will continue to exist no matter what we do, but there's no reason we shouldn't be able to ride our bikes to work because our bosses require us to meet some arbitrary standard of appearance. If you listen to the morning traffic report, it's full of car accidents, stalled trains, and general mishaps. Really, commuting is a battle--people actually die getting to work. Yet we feel compelled to maintain the illusion that the whole endeavor is dignified, as though battling for your life on the streets is somehow more civilized if you do it in khaki pants and wingtips. But the truth is that a "business casual" clusterfuck is still a clusterfuck, and there's no reason we should all have to pretend we didn't travel to get to work.

Then again, I suppose pretending is the point. Take the young woman I saw this morning on a Lower East Side stoop:

At first glance she might appear to be recovering from a long night of partying, substance abuse, and general misbehavior. However, it turns out she was actually the subject of a photo shoot, and there were something like eight people working to make her look this way:

Presumably, these people are spending a lot of time and money to make someone look "tore up" so that they can sell this studiously "tore up" look to other people. This way, we can look fashionably "tore up" on the weekends before we even leave the house. Not only is looking "tore up" in this context socially acceptable, but it's also expensive. Yet at the same time, we're not allowed to look "tore up" when we're commuting and working, even though these are things that often actually do tear you up. If anything, I say you should be able to wear your crappy clothes to work and save the nice stuff for the weekends, even if you work in an office. Or, you can just walk around in a shirt in the "Rawr!" colourway, like this guy who I also encountered this morning:

Unlike the brunching messengers, he's got his tail tucked neatly between his legs:

Perhaps his bike just got stolen.

But while I believe in embracing the fact that riding a bike in the city can make you look somewhat rumpled and dirty, other cyclists prefer to push the whole faux dignity thing even further by doing "tweed rides," like this one which was forwarded to me by a reader:

And still others prefer to make a statement by foregoing clothing altogether and simply getting naked. Take the recent Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride for example:

A reader send me the above photo which he kindly pre-sepiaed, though since it was still unsafe for work I took the additional step of censoring it with images of both Larry King and the Opinionated Cyclist. (The only thing more frowned upon in our society than showing up to work in rumpled, sweaty clothing is showing up to work in rumpled, sweaty clothing and looking at pictures of breasts and penises.) Still, my censorship does not hide the most disturbing aspect of the photo, which is that the rider is not "palping" a saddle:

Another reader was kind enough to forward me actual video of the event. Here's some unsafe-for-work footage of the roll-out, which is decidedly more "Penga!" than "Venga!"

Indeed, the only thing more satisfying than watching a fixed-gear rider dab during a trackstand attempt is watching a pantsless fixed-gear rider dab during a trackstand attempt:

You may or may not also find tire inflation more satisfying when it's performed without pants, depending on your sensibilities:

And while it seems that all of Philadelphia disrobed in order to ride their bikes, it's ironic that pornographic actor Jack Lawrence prefers to ride his crabon wonderbike while fully clothed in team Discovery USPro Championship kit, as forwarded to me by Stevil Kinevil of AHTBM:

I guess when your job requires not wearing pants you actually relish the opportunity to wear them in your free time. However, he clearly still likes things that are long and uncut:

Nonetheless, he prefers to save the "wood" for the workplace--unlike this rider:

I guess he prefers to keep both hands on his wood while he rides:

And while it's becoming increasingly common to see a fixed-gear with wooden handlebars, it's still relatively rare to see one with a bento box:

Still, I have yet to see a bike with both wood and a box--though I'm sure there's a website for that somewhere.

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