For all the money I've invested in Rapha (and we can all agree it is an investment) I do so with high expectations that the clothes will last. Speak to any knowledgeable men's clothier and the advice is always the same; you build a wardrobe around a few high-quality pieces, and with each new purchase you find ways to mix and match them. That's what I've attempted to do with my collection of Rapha as I hope this series demonstrates.
I wouldn't necessarily agree with the old adage "clothes make the man" but I believe we'd all like to look our best in the duds we wear. My father's generation took great pride in their suits and ties and going back to the fifties, the hats they wore to work. These days the office is an increasingly casual place and many of us don't get the same enjoyment out of dressing for work or put quite as much emphasis on the job as defining us. Rapha gives me a connection back to the classic era in men's clothing where cut, fabric and finish truly mattered – and happily it does this on the bike.
I began with the essentials: Bib Shorts, the black Light Weight Jersey and the Classic Softshell Jacket. Since then the collection has expanded to over twenty pieces counting accessories and every bit of it has held up to continuous use and washing. Speaking with Rapha's newest designer Graeme Raeburn in Portland it's clear that the attention to detail with bound internal seams, soft facings and linings and refined tailoring in new fabrics means the latest generation of Rapha is just getting better.
My Rapha bibs, jerseys and base layers are washed after every ride. That adds up to hundreds of wash cycles without complaint or defect. Yes, I'm careful about it: delicate cycle, cold water, Woolite Dark, turn inside out, no fabric softener and everything is hung or laid out to dry, but it's a simple routine to follow with the added benefit you don't add insult to injury by expecting your spouse to care for your fashion sense.
In the dynamic between the sexes there's nothing that plays into women's hands more than men who can't (or won't) look after themselves. If you're having a hard time justifying that next Rapha acquisition start doing your own laundry; it works wonders. And while you're at it stop asking them "What should I wear" I almost dropped a guy one day for asking his wife that in a mall; sounded like he was shopping with his mother.
Enough men's liberation, back to the kit. Today's outfit combines Rapha's fixed, road and cross offerings into a comfortable hybrid look I'll call urban road. When commuting I typically wear my bibs under the Fixed shorts, but if my commute was under ten miles I'd dispense with the bibs. The double padding doesn't quite work as the miles get longer.