Top 10 Fashion Faux Pas

Are you a motorcycle fashion sinner?

FASHION is, by definition, a popular trend. But it isn’t a static condition; fashion is shaped by time. It begins with a few select opinion formers, gathers momentum as it snowballs into a movement, reaches a critical mass (often well before peak popularity), then declines at rate often inversely proportional to its ascent. Which is why some trends arrive on the scene with a bang and disappear just as rapidly, while others rise and fall in popular acceptance over a long period of time.

Fashion can become a sine wave, fading in and out over decades. It is also, only rarely, open to reinvention and can be adapted or shaped into a new trend.

On the face of it, fashion is about self-expression; the embodiment of ego. But it’s actually about self-deception. While we may naively believe what we wear speaks of who we are, fashion reveals the deeper truth’ of the gulf between who we are and who we want to be. Which is why it’s such a rich source of humour, and ire.

Here are, in the current state of play, our top ten fashion faux pas. But, having said all of this, please accept our apologies if, in a few years’ time, it turns out stick-on helmet ears are really cool. Because you just never can tell...

10. Splayed feet

Generally speaking, human feet are supposed to point forwards, perpendicular to the hips. There are various conditions in childhood when this isn’t the case, most often either pigeon-toed, where the feet point inwards, or duck-footed, where they splay outwards. In my case (mine was the latter), the correctional remedy employed by my mum was a constant nagging to walk properly.

It had an effect because a) my feet now point forwards when I walk – and, importantly, when I ride – and b) I am tremendously discomfited when I see anyone failing to observe this simple common decency. Especially on a bike. ‘Punter-feet’, as some uncharitable motorcycle journalists call it, where the arch of the foot rests on the footpeg and the toes point down and outwards at anything up to 45°, actually makes me sweat and prone to flashbacks of an awkward seven year-old in grey shorts, knee-length grey socks and brown sandals desperately trying to walk to primary school in the correct manner.* ‘You there!” I want to cry, ‘you with the shit riding style. Have you no shame? Have you no mental disciple, no backbone? Tuck your bloody feet or you’ll scything down pedestrians.’

But I don’t. People in glass houses, etc.

 *This makes my mum sound like a Victorian disciplinarian; nothing could be further from the truth. She’s brilliant. God knows I gave her reason enough to punch my lights out on many occasions, but she never did. 

9. Novelty valve caps

I used to ride a Hayabusa. It ran an Akrapovic and I’d geared it down on the rear sprocket. It made around 170bhp and was an absolute missile of a thing. Living, as I do, in the middle of nowhere, the ride home of an evening from the office was, basically, about as rude as it gets. Every single working day I committed an offence so outrageous, so grievous in the eyes of the law, I would be incarcerated were my collar ever to be felt. Staggeringly irresponsible, but bloody hell it was good fun.

Anyway, one night, as I arrived home with the Busa’s brakes glowing, tyres melting and the general detritus of hyperspace travel spinning in our wake, I noticed both tyres were flat. Like, 18psi flat. Both of them.

That’s a) odd and b) not very clever, I thought, so I went to inflate them. It was then I noticed a comedian at the office had removed the usual valve caps and added a pair of novelty flashing LED items, complete with a stack of watch batteries. I removed them – weighty, they were – pumped up the tyres, and put normal caps back on. The tyres didn’t go down again.

My conclusion was that when the wheels were spinning at whatever the top speed of a Hayabusa is across the vast, unpopulated tracts of land that make up my corner of the world, the extra mass of the valve caps increased their centripetal force (because centripetal force = valve cap mass multiplied by the square of their velocity divided by the radius of the circle), effectively pushing the valves back into the rims and allowing them to bleed air out at sustained high speed. 

8. Sliderless Velcro patches

So I’m sitting on a plane on the way to the launch of a hot, new sportsbike, whiling away the hours writing a Top Ten for Visordown about fashion faux pas. It’s going quite well, I think; this gig is my mischievous alter ego – the chance to wind up a few po-faced screwballs and, hopefully, make everyone else smile. Nothing too serious; a bit of fun.

So it’s all going swimmingly. I’m on number eight, and the plane hasn’t mysteriously diverted off its flight path, climbed to 45,000 feet before disappearing into the wild blue yonder. Number eight... let me see... that’ll be... wearing leathers with Velcro patches but not wearing kneesliders. How nobby does that look?

And then, of course, I remember. I remember I forgot to put sliders on the set of leathers now stowed in the hold. And so, in a bizarre Mobius strip of narrative, I start writing about how I’m sitting on a plane on the way to the launch of a hot, new sportsbike, whiling away the hours writing a Top Ten for Visordown about fashion faux pas. 

7. Mr & Mrs Matching leathers and lids

Personally, I believe the primary function of a pillion seat is to strap luggage to, and pillion footpegs are for securing the bungees to strap it with. I don’t know where we got the foolish idea a pillion seat was for carrying human payloads. Maybe the clue’s in the name.

Anyway, if you really must pop a loved one on the back, for goodness’ sake don’t do the matching leathers and lids thing (unless it’s all black. That’s cool). You wouldn’t both wear the same design dress when you go out together, would you? You don’t deliberately buy his ’n’ hers matching luggage, or cars, or slippers, or laptops.

And you know what wearing the same kit as each other says? It’s the same as using a picture of you and your missus as your Facebook profile pic. She thinks it’s a statement of unity to ward off the attentions of prospective ex-girlfriends (‘Hands off, he’s taken, bitch’), but by playing along you are, by extension, guilty as sin. The best demonstration of togetherness is trust, you know.

6. Chicken strips

Damn that unused band of rubber on the outside of a tyre. Nothing challenges masculinity like a micro penis-length of virgin compound around the outside circumferences of your tread (ladies are, for some reason, excluded from this fashion faux pas. I don’t know why; I’m all for gender equality. Maybe some genders are more equal than others). It’s an entirely unfair observation to make; accusative, humiliating and potentially dangerous. I know riders who’ve crashed in an attempt to use up the last few millimetres of chicken strip, as if it really does indicate a measure of riding ability. I always thought staying upright was a better guide.

5. Sunglasses behind a clear visor

Poor man’s black visor, shades under a clear visor say you can’t be bothered to fit the real thing or you’re frit of the Five-O. Fact is you’re ugly and who wants to see your creased features, straining in extremis every time you throttle out a big one? You’re a fat dweeb. Go away and bother someone else with your mutant face.

4. Camouflaged muscle pants

With a nod to MC Hammer’s famous 1990s legwear and, before that, the ideal garment for steroid-addled extreme bodybuilders to conceal ego-shattering winkie-shrinkage, it’s easy to mock muscle pants as a lazy streetfighters stereotype. Yet camouflaged muscle pants (correctly pronounced ‘mmmmmuuuuscle’, with a roll of the eyes in the style of Blakey from On The Busses) are actually very sensible motorcycle legwear and, together with a Simpson Bandit, goatee, neglected dentistry and shaven head, provide a high degree of protection and make a clear statement of bad-assedness.

No, really, they do. 

3. Trousers tucked in boots/cuffs under gloves

The – and I use the word loosely – ‘style’ for wearing one’s trouser bottoms inside one’s boots and one’s sleeve cuffs inside one’s gloves may possibly be a relic from pre-1950s motorcycling apparel, when voluminous galoshes and massive gauntlets gave riders little option but to wedge their wax cottons into them.

But there’s no excuse today. It’s one of those quirky yet universal rules of biking fashion: leather trouser legs and jacket cuffs go under boots and gloves, but denim or textile trouser legs and jacket cuffs go over boots and gloves. I’m not sure why, they just should. Anything else – with the possible exception of one-piece race leathers over boots, although even that is debatable – is just wrong, wrong and wrong. It’s pretty much a sackable offence and a sign you really don’t know anything about anything, let alone bikes. 

2. Iridium visors

Iridium (Ir) is one of the least abundant metals in the earth’s crust (although relatively concentrated in meteorites), with only three tonnes mined and used annually worldwide. It is also one of the most corrosion-resistant metals, and is named after the Greek rainbow goddess, Iris, because of its multi-coloured salt crystals.

How much if this is relevant to the reflective rainbow visor coating popular in the mid to late 1990s is moot; I have no facts, but a strong suspicion the nearest most ‘iridium’ visors came to the element was when someone dropped one on the ground, preferably near a meteorite. Not that it mattered if you did; you only had to look at an iridium visor to scratch it.

The iridium visor fad started, like many do, in Japan in the early 90s. It’s therefore telling that not even a whacked-out Tokyo teenager would be seen dead in 2014 with an iridium visor, unless as a post-ironic fashion statement.

Apparently they make you go blind, too (iridium visors, not whacked-out Tokyo teenagers. Although, having said that…)

1) Stick-on helmet ears

Sometime between the end of 2002 and the start of 2003, a disease spread through motorcycling. At first sight the symptoms of the illness looked curiously like fluffy ears, horns and/or tails suckered onto expensive Arais and Shoeis. And then it turned out that’s exactly what it was.

For one irredeemably pathetic, embarrassing summer, Loptoff Lugs became the biking fashion accessory without which any Sunday ride-out would be incomplete. The biking equivalent of Timmy Mallet glasses, stick-on helmet ears – or anything stuck-on (apart from Troy Lee decals, ahem) – revealed a Colin Hunt lurking at the heart of British motorcycling. Every dealer had a box of the useless appendages on the counter, and online stores like Motrax, Demon Tweeks and M&P Accessories flogged them by the boatload. 

But by 2004 the game was up and stick-on ears went from whacky to wanky overnight. Today, anyone with stick-on helmet ears might as well wear a sign above their heads saying ‘MASSIVE GARETH’. It’s why skiers still wear them. But, if you must, get some here.

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