What’s more classic, and simultaneously fresh for peak-summer pedaling, than Breton stripes? It’s a look that originated with French sailors, took on iconic status when worn by celebrities like Audrey Hepburn and James Dean, and has been hot all season.
But the Breton-striped Cafe du Cycliste jersey (above) is more than the sum of its pretty parts. Packed with road-ready details for performance and comfort on the bike, it boasts the rarely seen — in the world of women’s cycling apparel — fashion styling that makes it as fun and easy to wear with boyfriend jeans or a navy linen skirt as with bike shorts.
And that’s the point, says Remi Clermont, founder of the company, which makes a full line of stylish road and city cycling apparel for men and women. I had the pleasure of meeting Clermont, a former kayaking world champion who later turned to endurance cycling to stay fit, on my spring training trip to Nice, where he is based.
“We start with good performance qualities, then we take inspiration from fashion trends for more elegant styling,” Clermont says of the brand, which is named for a local cycling café. His own take on the Breton stripe jersey, called the Suzanne, was inspired by a sailor-themed collection by Jean Paul Gaultier. Clermont creates the apparel designs and then works with a partner in Paris on styling.
His looks defy the “purple and butterfly” vibe that’s de riguer for much of women’s cycling apparel. “When my wife goes to shop for clothing, she doesn’t buy that,” he says. “We’re trying to do something different.
While more women’s cycling brands are pursuing simplified designs meant to fit with greater ease into active daily living, few thus far have them as dialed in as Café du Cycliste.
The Suzanne has all the details you demand from a typical high-quality jersey: a full-length front zipper, three roomy rear pockets, plus a zippered exterior key pocket and an interior one for a mini pump.
Silicone gripper trim keeps the jersey hem from creeping up, and sheer mesh panels on the back (see photo at top of post) and behind the shoulders encourage ventilation.
The fabric is 100 percent polyester for quick drying and durability, but feels like cotton against the skin. It’s freedom of shininess is one reason why it coordinates so well with denim and other casual-wear materials. A feminine cut, and sweet, notched arm cuffs in red and white cotton gingham that’s also used to finish the interior seems — dressmaker’s details! — round out the features. The approach reminds me of what Pret-A-Surf has created for the big-wave world.
Of course another brand that comes to mind instantly when tasteful styling and details are discussed is Rapha. “They doing a great job of saying ‘there’s another way of looking at cycling.’ “ Clermont says. “We’re all part of a new trend.”
Above: Remi Clermont, founder of Café du Cycliste, in Nice, France, March 2013. Photo: velojoy
Stripes and and solids in hues such as wine and mustard (in addition to black, white and grey) extend through the men’s line, as well. Clermont admits that it’s not always an easy sell. The home of a century’s worth of Tour de France epics is perhaps understandably wedded to traditional team and club racing kits. (Another French company, Le Coq Sportif, which has an august history with the Tour, markets a line of cycling-themed fashion sportswear in addition to its performance line.)
But Clermont foresees the day, driven by broader interest in everyday cycling, when Café du Cyclist evolves into a lifestyle brand.“You don’t have to put on a costume,” Clermont says. “You just behave the same way on and off the bike. Same spirit.”
Café du Cycliste Suzanne Short Sleeve Jersey, approximately $150