Photo by Rob Mandolene
George Hahn – Riding in a Suit"Add fenders and a chainguard, and no strange clothing modifications – such as rolling up a trouser leg or stuffing it into your socks – are required."
Though I work from a home office, my business involves many meetings and outings around Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. My uniform for public outings is a tailored suit and my preferred mode for getting around town is the bicycle.
When I speak to other suit wearers about riding, a common reservation they express is the fear of ruining a good suit or pair of shoes. My response is always the same: these concerns disappear with the right bike and by riding it leisurely. With an urban, utility bike designed for easy, upright riding, it’s like regular sitting – extremely comfortable.
It’s about practical transportation for a busy professional in a crowded metropolis – not the “Go, go, go!” speed-demon riding that makes you sweat and stress unnecessarily.
Riding while wearing a suit is not awkward. On an upright, my weight is placed on my butt, as opposed to on a sport bike, which forces the rider to hunch over and put weight on their wrists, elbows, and shoulders and strain on their clothing. Add fenders and a chainguard, and no strange clothing modifications – such as rolling up a trouser leg or stuffing it into your socks – are required. Nice and easy.
In New York City, the suit is a standard uniform for many. My suits and cycling lifestyle demand fabrics that are both beautiful and durable. On the Super scale for wool fabrics from Super 100s to beyond Super 150s, the higher the number is, the more luxurious the fabric. Today’s Super 100s are nicer than the finest wools from decades ago. My preference for an all-season suit wool is between 100s and 120s. Beyond 120s, we get into über-fine wools that are more luxurious but also more delicate, which would not be practical. Lower Supers also rebound from wrinkling much better.
For summer months, cotton suits are wonderful as they are durable, light, and breezy. Linen is even better and more durable than cotton. In my opinion, the natural wrinkling that occurs with linen is part of its charm.
As for shoes, I’m a blucher man who favors wingtip brogues and plain oxfords. One of my readers once warned me that I was destined to destroy a good pair of shoes. I can’t say how he was riding his bike, but if ruining his shoes were a legitimate concern of his, I would argue that he was riding incorrectly. Only the soles of my shoes ever touch the alloy pedals. After riding this way for several years, I have yet to ruin a pair.
I realize that bicycling in a suit and dress shoes is not for everyone. Many work modes don’t require a suit, while others just don’t like to wear one. I do. The growing chorus of our increasingly casual world doesn’t need another voice. I speak for myself and others who have different sartorial requirements and preferences and I encourage people with a similar style to give the bike a try.
George Hahn is the creator, writer, and crash test dummy of his own website, a journal for men who aren’t millionaires but who like to look good and live well. georgehahn.com