Cycling Jerseys Have Come a Long Way
Why Does Trou-Trou Look so Unsettled?
In the photo you see French cyclist Louis Trousselier at the 1905 Tour de France. You’d think he would be happy. After all, he’s dominating this Tour and will win it convincingly. But in this photo his expression is, much like the famous Mona Lisa, enigmatic. Pehaps he’s hoping that no one realizes his nickname is Trou-Trou. Maybe he’s merely upset that Tour impresario Henri Desgrange gave him a ridiculous new nickname, “the Florist” and he’s wondering why Trou Trou wasn’t ridiculous enough.
Knowledgeable cycling history buffs might conclude that, since Louis has gone AWOL from the French army in order to compete in this Tour, maybe he’s just keeping his eyes open for the MP’s.
I have my own theory. I think he’s pondering the disadvantages of wearing a wollen, ribbed cycling jersey in an athletic competition.
In poor Louis’s day most jerseys were of wool. I know that some proponents of wool still exist, and wool for cycling is still sold. I’ve worn wollen jerseys myself. And certainly at the dawn of cycling there was no better fabric. Wool wicked moisture away from the skin better than cotton and absorbed perspiration better, so it was better in winter or summer. But it also looses it’s shape when it gets wet and feels like a baggy rag. When you hit a slow climb, where the cooling passage of air through it’s fibers doesn’t help dissipate the heat, it becomes, well, oppressive.
It can smell pretty bad, too.
Armando Castelli, the Italian tailor-turned-clothing-manufacturer, introduced silken jerseys in the 40’s in order to provide a lighter, cooler option. They also took ink better and were flashier. That was important to the progression of professional cycling, since by that time the titans of commerce had discovered the value of turning racing cyclists into dynamic billboards for their products.
Trou Trou died in 1939, so he never did see the advent of post-wool clothing. In 1941 British chemists JT Dickson and Rex Whinfield patented PET, also known as Polyester. With this invention, not only did the leisure suit become possible, but so did a whole world of synthetic fabric grandchildren to poor, plain polyester. By the ’80’s an entire generation of cyclist had turned away from wool and embraced nex-gen fabrics that wicked like wool, were light like silk, and could be imprinted with vivid colors like, well, polyester.
We’ve now come to an age where almost anything aesthetically can be done with a jersey. Just take a look at our collection of vintage and retro cycling jerseys to bring that point home. And something tells me that Trou-Trou is looking down from that eternal resting place of Tour de France winners, and finally smiling.