The Rapha Fixed Shirt has me seriously considering a major wardrobe donation to the Salvation Army. Street clothes have been on the defensive for some time as cycling continues its inexorable march through my closet. Perhaps its all part of getting older, you come to terms with what you like and you let go of the things that no longer matter.
So it is with fashion. For those that appreciate it and have the means to afford it, Rapha answers the what-to-wear-on-the-bike question. The collection has grown and diversified but thanks to a very talented design team never lost its thematic way. They simply make the most refined, stylish clothing to ride in. That's not to say that other companies don't make some exceptional pieces. Campagnolo, Panache, Showers Pass, Twin Six, Craft, Assos, Specialized, Outlier and Mavic (though I don't own a stitch from the last two yet) are on a rarefied list for sure, yet none of them have the signature of our friends in London.
So my interest in street clothes has waned. Dressing for work is now a casual exercise even when meeting with clients. I still believe clothes can make a statement about who we are, but they're just a calling card, empty and superfluous if you can't back them up with brains, talent and balls (that goes for women too). In that context it took a while for Rapha's Fixed Shirt to register. Well it has and I now believe this cross-over effort is one best things they've done.
It comes in two colors Brown or Navy with contrasting accents inside. Yellow accents with the brown and orange with the blue. The latter is described as navy blue, and in bright sunlight it might be, but in more subdued light it's a neutral, slate blue. Thanks Mr. Olson.
Right on the Buttons
It's beautifully tailored in a soft dry-release cotton (85% polyester/15% cotton) and ingeniously constructed throughout. The fit is slim. Admittedly a year and ten pounds ago I couldn't have worn this. It features an action back and inset shoulders that provide a little more room/give in the riding position. The back drops a little lower and there's a single buttoned-down right-rear pocket... large enough for an iPhone or credit card case.
The choice and positioning of buttons on the front of the Fixed Shirt are worthy of special mention. Each one bears a tiny RAPHA in the corresponding accent color. Who else would worry about this level of detail. Their are two hidden buttons at the collar to keep it looking sharp and presentable, then four more hidden buttons are secreted under a stylish front placket never to catch on a musette or courier bag strap. When it's safe for buttons to re-emerge two make an appearance before a final inward-fastening and hidden button neatly closes the shirt at the waist. The button hole for this last fastener is stitched in, you guessed it, the accent color. So clever.
It's extremely comfortable, and cool. To the amazement of several spectators at the Nevada City Classic, I wore the blue one on a very hot race day (90s) and had no complaints. Each has been washed several times in cold water, and it's already apparent these shirts will look great for a long time. If not for two tiny issues I'd declare the shirt perfect and retire.
First, and most seriously the Fixed Shirt is not available in black (I'd settle for charcoal). I won't rest until that glaring omission is corrected. Second my biceps (think Will Ferrell doing curls in Anchorman) are just a touch too large for the designed fit of the sleeves. Either my "guns" get smaller or I live with the fact the shirt exaggerates how much I work out. I vote for number two, though a tiny dart of notch on the underside of the sleeve might do the trick.
I know Rapha has plans to introduce more clothing like this and frankly I can't wait. Time to recoup some closet space and head over to the Sally Ann.
The Rapha Fixed Shirt is priced at £65 $110 €70
One more shot. Here's Levi on the cool down lap of Nevada City transfixed by the Fixed Shirt I'm wearing. Actually he's hi-fiving fans and looking at a very enthusiastic photographer; me. He would definitely wear a small.