Mary Poppins or Pink with Red Gingham

Sartorialist in Milan

Yesterday a woman I work with told me “Ya know, pink doesn’t go with red.” I was asking her to do a traffic study of the new S. 2nd complete street makeover when she offered this bit of fashion advice. I was wearing a light pink dress shirt; a red gingham tie; a red, white and gray cardigan sweater and gray slacks. Now I’m no Sartorialist, but I do think about what I wear. I forgot about the comment and went about my day. During the day, outside of work, at least 5 different people gave me props on my outfit:

“When I saw you roll up on your bike, in that outfit, I told the photographer to get a photo of you.”
“Nice cap”
“Cool look, you ride a bike dressed like that?”
“You are the coolest person here.”
“Hey, you on the bike, great outfit.”

Dottie from Lets Go Ride a Bike

Now I’m not telling you all this to blow my own horn or prove my coworkers have no fashion sense. I am saying it because how we dress when we bike does have an impact on people.  If you dress well, motorists seem to give me a bit more respect on the road. I get crowded less and noticed more often.  Maybe it is the oddity of seeing someone in Milwaukee wearing something other than super skinny jeans or lycra riding a bike. 

Female bike bloggers have been talking about this as the Mary Poppins Effect. Lovely Bicycle and Dottie from Lets Go Ride a Bike have noticed motorists treat them better when they wear dresses. I can’t testify to that, but I certainly have had similar feelings when I wear a particularly noticeable outfit or suit. Maybe it just another shade of how I am treated when I ride in my Santa Suit.  Whatever the reason, I think anything we can do to normalize the idea of using bicycles for transportation is a good thing. 

Photo by Bryan Derall from the Wall Street Journal

Cyclechic, or dressing well while riding a bicycle is certainly trending.  Readers Toneih and Michael both sent me emails about the  Wall Street Journal article  about bicycle fashionistas.  Outfits like the one shown in the Wall Street Journal photo may be a bit over the top, but the general cyclechic idea is no fad.  It is the embodiment of bicycles as basic transportation in a cosmopolitan urban center.


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Bike clothing, Cyclechic and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Mary Poppins or Pink with Red Gingham

  1. Will says:

    We really should be treated to a pic of this attention grabbing outfit so we can copy it!!!

  2. hopp says:

    post an image dave!

  3. MaxBenign says:

    I understand what you’re saying, Dave. I am wholly in favor of riding in suitable clothes for whatever bike trip I’m taking. I ride to work in work clothes, I wear lycra on longer rides, I wear grubby old shorts & tees for trail rides.

    But I can’t help but wonder whether cyclechic as a movement is just as much about dressing up fancy to ride your bike as a putting on a team kit is. It’s not that I object to people looking fabulous on bikes, it’s just that cyclechic (again, as a movement) seems to fetishize affluence and beauty in a way that alienates me a bit. I suppose my question is, if cyclechic is “the embodiment of bicycles as basic transportation in a cosmopolitan urban center” where does that leave less dapper folk like me in our off the rack Dockers, store-brand shirts and utterly drab Giant FCRs? Not to mention the folks riding beat-up mountain bikes to their jobs roofing houses or insulating attics?

    Sincerely (and somewhat in jest),

    A Schlub

    P.S. That said, like others have requested, let’s see this outfit of yours!

    • daveschlabowske says:


      I agree with you that the Sartorialist/Collville-Anderson cyclechic movement is not too much more morally defensible than haute couture. I also understand that high fashion angle can turn some people off. That is sort of why I added the “cosmopolitan urban center” phrase to that statement. When I am the cosmopolitan urban centers like Paris, Manhattan, or Copenhagen, I expect to see fashionistas strutting their stuff on the sidewalk. I am now happy to see them rolling along on the asphalt. Since a number of people want to see the outfit I was wearing that drew all the comments that day, I will publish a photo on Monday and respond a bit more about my thoughts on the Cyclechic movement.

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