Style crimes – wet look lycra

An earlier post on Middle Aged Men in Lycra received more reaction than I expected. I realised that this is a deep seam worth mining. It’d be over simplistic to say that Lycra’s not for the stylish cyclist. If you’re racing or covering long distances then Lycra’s extremely practical. There’s no flapping fabric to increase your wind resistance (after fitness, wind is the main enemy of the cyclist), it can be washed easily and there’s less chance of chafing. Regardless of your opinions, Lycra has had some cataclysmically low, OMG style moments. There are three dark periods

  1. Wet look lycra (a feature of the early 80’s)
  2. Coloured/textured lycra (a feature of the mid to late 80’s)
  3. White lycra (spotted from the mid 90’s onwards)

    Nelson Vails resplendent in wet-look lycra at the LA '84 Olympics from

The “wet look” phase happened during the period ’83 to ’85. It’s hold was thankfully short-lived. The zenith for wet-look lycra was the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when a number of teams sported the look. Track sprinters have always been able to carry off the lycra look best; having a thigh girth that rivals most women’s ideal waist measurement certainly helps.

The photo of Laurnet Fignon looking very shiny from the waist down makes me smile. It’s enough to make the guy behind avert his eyes. Up top the look’s all fluffy with wool tops and flock lettering and the bottom half is all sleek and aero. If an aero look was key, Laurent would probably have saved more time by leaving the headband at home and snipping his pony tail. Notice too the tucked in collars – either this was a style decision or Laurent wanted to avoid a redneck farmer’s tan on his collar line.

I’m a big fan of “The Professor” who is unfairly remembered for his 8 second defeat in the ’89 Tour. This photo dates from his early ascendance when he clearly doesn’t care two hoots what anyone thinks of wet look lycra. He went on to kick Bernhard Hinault’s ass in the ’84 Tour: the look suggests that my opinions of his style wouldn’t have distracted him.

"So you don't like wet-look. Do I look like someone who cares?" Laurent Fignon

I have a confession to make: I have owned a pair of wet look lycra shorts. In my defence, I was a teenager when I bought them. Also I didn’t know many other cyclists to keep me on the straight and narrow. They were the only cycling shorts I had for a long time (too long) and eventually they sat at the back of a drawer until the lycra went all crusty (from age, I should add) and I threw them out.

Fashion has a habit of coming round in cycles. If that’s the case then expect to see some wet-look Lycra in your bike shop around spring 2013.

If you’re interested in “the rules” on cycling shorts, Velominati’s has some good guidance

  • Rule #14  Shorts should be black. Team-issue shorts should be black, with the possible exception of side-panels, which may match the rest of the team kit.
  • Rule #27  Shorts and socks should be like Golidlocks. Not too long and not too short

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