Slide from Label Networks’ Urban Youth Culture Lifestyle Report 2009
It’s a curious thing, but often we tend to focus on youth culture movements, stories, data, from places other than in our home town of Los Angeles, almost like we’re forgetting that this too is a hub of new ideas, and a destination for those seeking inspiration outside of the norm of SoCal beaches and celeb citings. In our most direct ‘hood, which is downtown Los Angeles, we’re in the thick of a cultural revival on many fronts. Boutiques such as SkinGraft and Elmer Ave are in the area, representing neo-Victorian, leather and deconstructed rock styles, respectively, as well as Mouvement, the former Comme des Garcons pop-up, and the famous Blends limited-edition sneaker boutique in front of the notorious skate video hotspot the “4th Street Gap.” Just a block over, Jack White and The Dead Weather are taking over the Regent Theater with Third Man Records and a freebie noon concert August 26th. And later this week is the stopover of the global touring subculture of the Bicycle Film Festival (BFF), which given the growing number of cyclists, and fixed gear bike riders, a.k.a. “fixies” is sure to attract even more fans.
In commemoration of the fact that the BFF (which is our BFF) is in town, we decided to take another look at the growing movement of urban cyclists and its corresponding lifestyle including not only fixed gear but fashion and accessories.
The movement towards caring about your ride has been evolving over the last decade, and especially become more interesting as subcultures such as the fixed gear cycling movement has taken off among urban hipsters in major cities in the last 4 years. As we’ve written about before, more people are taking to the streets, reclaiming their roads, and riding on bikes and other modes of transportation that are slightly different and more personal than hopping in your average car. Sure gas prices were one of the main instigators but whether they’re high or low, as the economy sours and the environment erodes, riding fixed gear bikes or bikes in general has taken on new meaning to a group of self-professed “beautiful losers” to borrow an expression from artist-director Aaron Rose and become a lifestyle. The Cult of Transportation as we call it has tapped into such DIY aesthetics that there’s a growing passion for the old-school for all things that have to do with riding bikes -especially in relatively dangerous locations like urban city streets.
What’s interesting when you think about the growing passion for urban cycling is that the most passionate transportation fans love the details and the art of utilitarian. From fixed gear bikes that are paired down bicycles with one gear and usually no brakes, EBay-found cruisers, each act as symbols of a lifestyle: the culture of action and using transportation as that message. Skateboarding is also a part of this groove, especially among urban dwellers who look at the urban detritus of their surroundings as potential places to hit-up with various tricks. We cyclists and skaters tend to look at traffic in a new way -as obstacles to be carved around, threaded through, to meet one’s destination.
As any strong movement grows, so too does a new industry, including of course the proliferation of bike shops, especially in downtown Los Angeles. That is one industry that has not taken a hit. Events such as Midnight Rides in various cities, art shows showcasing the creative energy of the art of movement, and self-made videos and documentaries such the ever-popular Bicycle Film Festival all represent this. You see this also in the rise of websites and blogs featuring styles, bikes, and cycle chatter such as urbancyclechic.com and Copenhagencyclechic.com.
Many brands see the potential within this subculture and are getting into the scene, such as Adidas and the launch of their Zeitfrei cycling-inspired shoes and collaboration with Bianchi. Lance Armstrongs’ collaboration with Nike’s “Stages” art show tour to benefit the Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation also represents various new collaborations. New York pop artist Kenny Scharf and street artist Shepard Fairey were brought on board to custom design two of the Tour de- France winner’s bikes by Trek (curated by Supertouch).
New Era’s launch of their 506 empire style short-brimmed cycle caps is clearly a nod to the urban cycle movement, and fresh brands such as Outlier created by futuristic garment designer Abe Burmeister have turned tailored cycle gear for men, a cross between performance clothing, fashionable menswear, and heritage blends, into a new sports style cult of its own..
Overall, the growing cult of transportation is a message about a way of life -about seeing the joy of the ride as part of getting from point A to point B and recreating the experience of the journey as the goal instead of the destination. And all done in one’s own personal sense of cycle style.