Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Rational Dress Society & Tweed Rides

An article from one of our followers:

There is a close relationship between style and action. This relationship can become complex when new modes of action emerge amidst an earlier range of styles.

Thus it was when cycling first achieved popularity in what was very much, a horse-drawn society. Men could quite easily mount the bicycle saddle in everyday clothes, or clothes similar to those worn for horse riding. For women the situation was very different, side-saddle on a bicycle is not an option and so, in response to the desire to go cycling, a social revolution was born.

The new activity required a new style of dress and as a result, in the late nineteenth century, a campaign against restrictive clothing was founded: The Rational Dress Society; this campaign for the release of flesh from restrictive garments provided for developments in a wide range of activities including dance and athletics.

Today restriction afflicts us in another form: the commodification of experience implemented through the straightjacket of consumerism, where commercial interests promote not only a particular set of clothes for an activity but a range (if not lifestyle!) of items for small variations within all activities: different clothes and bicycles for different circumstances! And just when you think you’ve got them all, out comes a newer and ‘better’ range.

This close identification between a particular dress style and cycling has become unhelpful and burdensome. Firstly there is the exhaustion caused by all the work that has to be done to earn the money to buy these commodities and the bigger house you’ll need to keep them in. But worse still, it leads to the marginalisation of the activity that is supposed to be facilitated – the activity comes to be seen as being over specialised, the wearing of logo-laden lycra gradually becomes almost mandatory and eventually, because we know it isn’t really necessary, faintly ridiculous!

(Words - Roderic Howard) (Pictures -

There is a better way. Come to Bristol Cycling Chic on Saturday 7th of November. Meet at The Fountains, outside the Hippodrome at 10.30am.

Tweed Rides take place all over the world - here's a link to a Tweed Run in London. How about one in Bristol?


  1. This is an attractive and interesting blog and the pictures would be great too if they were big enough for some detail to be visible. It's a shame to make them so small after all the good work that has gone into acquiring them.

  2. Thanks for the comment justwilliams. The Tweed pictures aren't mine so I made them quite small - you can go to to see them better I think. Our own pictures are typically 800x600 for convenience. If you click on the picture it should open at this size - if that doesn't give sufficient detail do suggest an alternative size.

  3. I like that. Clawing back 'rational dress' for people on bikes.

    In this day and age, 'rational dress' for biking around town is, as has been said before, whatever's in your wardrobe. Normal clothes. (If not making a bit more effort because you're on display to the world and her husband.)

    Nice post. :-)


  4. The good people may not be to chic, but at least they are out on their bikes - great to see what looks like significant numbers.

    Irish Cycle Chic

  5. Yes we were talking about this yesterday, Have a tweed run in Bristol and we will definitely come. It would be ace. Smiles Drew