What better way for a sporting chap to spend the day than to head out into the countryside on that most celebrated mode of transport – the bicycle.
Of course, we are not all lucky enough to own a country pile or have the great English countryside on our doorstep so for those suburbanites with a passion for two wheels a favourite pastime was to head to the local velodrome to watch the ‘pros’ go head-to-head on the track.
The venue for this year’s P&P World Cycling Revival, Herne Hill Velodrome, was built in 1891 and is one of the oldest cycling tracks in the world. Most famously it hosted the cycling events of the 1948 Summer Olympics, so what better way to celebrate this heritage than to attend this years event in the vintage inspired fashions and style of the post-war period.
Here’s our little guide to help you dress the part …
Men what to wear!
Cycling Revival Look 1 – Sporting tweeds
The classic look for the well-to-do sporting chap with time on his hands, from the 1920s right through to post-WWII, was tweed.
Grab yourself a single-breasted tweed sports coat, a tattersall shirt, a v-neck tank-top, and a silk scarf or woollen neck or bow tie and pair it with some tweed plus fours, shooting socks (with garters naturally) and a pair of brown brogues. Don’t be afraid to mix your tweeds, but try and stay within the same colour palette.
Cycling Revival Look 2 – Sunday Best
Of course for the average suburbanite, still suffering from post-war shortages, the trackside uniform of ‘Sunday Best’ would be on show. From demob to an off-the-shelf from Burtons, men would want any excuse to “doll-up” and head to the track to sink a few whilst placing a cheeky bet on the side.
The key to this look is a wide-lapel single or double-breasted three-piece suit, in a dark shade, or pin/chalk-stripe with a crisp spear-point collar shirt, tie-pin and bold-look tie. Usually warn with a pair of plain oxford shoes, the more flamboyant fellow might choose a pair of correspondent shows instead!r palette.
Cycling Revival Look 3 – Club Casual
If you want to cause a bit of a stir at the track, what better way than to throw all caution to the wind and show what an up-and-coming free spirit you are by wearing your club uniform.
Grab your navy-blue boating blazer or club jacket; throw on a pair of cream or beige ‘slacks’, a crisp white spear-point shirt and your stripped club tie. Or for an alternative look, go for navy trousers and a cream or grey sports jacket. Show those ‘stiffs’ what you are made of.
Accessories and hats
Finally a word about accessories: without doubt, how you accessorise an outfit is what takes it from a fancy dress costume into an authentic vintage look. If you are wearing a tie, then add in a collar-bar or a tie-clip, a pair of interesting cufflinks for shirts with French cuffs, a jacket pocket needs a pocket square (never matched to your tie, but complimentary), and, if the outfit befits it, a hat.
Casual looks wouldn’t work with a hat, but a Sporting or Sunday best look can be ‘topped-off’ with a fine head covering. Fedoras, Bowlers or Homburgs work well with a three-piece suit, and the hat of choice for any discerning sportsman is without doubt the cap. A traditional cap, unlike the modern equivalent, is made of a single piece of fabric and wider at the sides than today’s ‘flat cap’, although the modern style will do at a push. Alternatively try for an American ‘News Boy’ cap, made from eight panels of fabric, which would work well with tweeds and plus fours.
If you aren’t a hat wearing man, don’t fear, a snappy short-back-and-sides is the ticket, finished off with pomade and a crisp neat parting!
Ladies what to wear!
Cycling Revival Look 1 – The 20s ‘Gatsby Gone Wild’
The era of art deco, the flapper and the boyish look. This decade can be chic and elegant or decadent and full glam. The silhouette in the 1920s was boyish with a drop waist. You can have a lot of fun with the 1920s look, your opportunity to take opulence to a new level. Beaded, bejewelled and fringed or sumptuous velvets and chiffons
Hair: was cropped close or in a bob. (a clever up-do can make a faux bob – there are plenty pop tutorials on you-tube)
Makeup: (inspired by the silver screen) was smoky eye and dark lip.
Accessories: cloche hat, long gloves, long pendant necklace, art deco jewellery
Shoes: Mary-Jane or T-bar
Cycling Revival Look 2 – 1930s The Well Dressed ‘Moll’
The 1930s was a well dressed decade. It makes us think of bias cut gowns, tweed suits, flounces and frills. It had many contrasts with the 1920s – the waist has returned and curves are in vogue again. The 1930s, however, also saw the birth of ‘sports casual’ clothing for women when outdoor exercising was encouraged and adopted.
The hair: is still short but more natural and often curled. Headwear such as the beret or tilt hat.
Makeup: is simpler than the 1920s but the main focus was a very thin eyebrow and a strong lip.
Accessories: are abundant: faux fur, gloves, scarves and a tilt hat or beret to top of your outfit.
If comfort is your thing and you are seeking a trousers style – then this might be the look for you! The new sports casual styles of the 30s often took the form of sailor themes. Very wide trousers with bib fastening, boat neck top or sailor blouse. Or try a calf length fitted dress with matching tweed jacket and tilt hat.
Cycling Revival Look 3 – The 1940s ‘Home Front Honey’
When we think of 1940s fashion, we probably think of the glamour of the 40s Pin Up and the practical styles of the wartime Land Army Girls. We think of ultra feminine 1940s tea dance dresses in floral prints, wedge shoes and brogues. The fashions were of course, influenced by the war and economic situation and so fashion was practical.
Makeup: subtle winged eyeliner, red lip
Hair: 1940s hair is definitely the iconic element of this era – but can easily look silly if not done right. Avoid victory rolls and try the 40s poodle or pageboy with hair flowers.. check out instruction videos on youtube.
Accessories: seamed stockings/tights, hat or snood, diamanté jewellery
Shoes: brogues or sandals with a platform
The is a great style for those who seek a practical option – perhaps also very helpful if cycling! Trousers from this period are different to modern styles – choose reproduction high waisted, wide leg trousers which are really flattering and should be paired with a waisted jumper, blouse and jacket. Or opt for a practical shirt waister dress.