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Origins of a Classic
As we introduce two new colours of the Classic Jersey for the Spring Summer season, we wanted to find out a little more about the origins of the product that started it all. Who better to ask than Rapha founder (and one of the original testers of the first Classic Jersey prototypes), Simon Mottram.
When did you first start developing the jersey?
We first started to develop the jersey in early 2004. Its working title was the ‘Charly’ Jersey, after the great Luxembourg rider, Charly Gaul. We decided that was probably a bit obscure, so it became the Sportwool™ Jersey. We started out working with a factory in Derbyshire, here in the UK, but they let us down at the last minute so we had to source the jersey from Europe. It meant we didn’t have the final versions for the jersey’s official launch (they followed two months later) but quite soon the press picked up on how different the jersey was from anything they’d seen before.
What was the brief for the first Rapha jersey?
We wanted it to do so much more than all the rubbish that was on offer at the time. It had to be the equivalent of a beautiful, modern race bike; functional, refined, durable and classic. From hours on the road, rethinking all aspects of the way a jersey had to work, we came up with some features that were pioneering at the time and which have now been picked up by many other brands. The zip and chin guard for comfort, for example, or an O-ring puller on the rear pocket for ease of use. The angled pockets made it more ergonomic in terms of getting hands in and cargo out, while the ‘bite grip’ protects the fabric when grabbing the zip. Every feature was designed to improve your ride. That included a water-resistant valuables pocket and loops on the inside to keep headphone cables tidy. We tried to be as logical as possible, right down to the eyelet in the side pocket that lets you connect the cable to a phone or MP3 player. It’s the innovative details that set the jersey apart, not just from other cycling jerseys but from many other sports garments.
Another pioneering feature was the fabric.
Yes, the main thing, apart from the colour, was the fabric. Sportwool™ was unknown to many people in the cycling industry but having researched countless fabrics, we eventually found this combination of polyester and merino. It was a revelation, a real Eureka moment. And as we considered it essential for any rider, the jersey has always come with arm warmers as standard, these were originally made from Sportwool™ too.
The colour was certainly a statement. Why black?
Mainly it was a response to the ‘screaming neon’, over-branded, garish jerseys of the time. We wanted something understated, pared back and cool. Some of our influences were jerseys from the ‘Golden Era’, the simple aesthetic and elegant shapes of jerseys worn by road riding style icons, such as Jacques Anquetil and Tom Simpson. At the time, we looked to London bike couriers to test our prototypes as they were riding as much as pro racers, albeit a little differently. And for anyone riding in London at that time, they were kind of inspiring figures. The messengers I admired wore mainly black for practical reasons. One in particular, Jamie, known as ‘Pretty Boy’, wore all black and looked very striking. He came on our first photoshoot, in Italy. Lastly, we wanted the first five products to correspond with each other, so it seemed easier if they were all black.
And now we have the latest version of the jersey in two new colours.
We did offer the jersey in white for a season or two but black has always been the most popular. Now, nearly ten years on, we’ve introduced some new colours which, we think, are classic enough to merit the title of the original jersey. They have become quite classic Rapha colours in other products and both colours are as versatile as the original. They look good with black bibs, various bike paint schemes and different skin tones. And, as the cycling writer Paul Fournel puts it, “to look good is to already go fast”.
- RT @IonaNiDhalaigh: Yahhh mountain jersey in the bag!!! Nice one @mike_cuming!!! @raphacondor http://t.co/GrGqSL0Kgl
- RT @CondorWarehouse: Nice to see the @raphacondor JLT team bike on display @campagnolosrl HQ with so many top pro teams http://t.co/5CgE0tY…
- RT @anpostras: GC after Stage 4: Bialoblocki,, McConvey, Guldhammer, Handley, Pelletier-Roy, Hunal, Simon Yates, Fodor, Roger Aiken, Archbo…
- Spare a thought for @Porterelliott who punctured out of the yellow jersey group, when will he get some luck!
- Took the @anpostras on today. Didn't quite pull it off. @RichHandley90 4th on GC and @mike_cuming in the KoM jersey.
- Tour series update from Stoke up on the site http://t.co/aVdcnGnkOX
- RT @elstopbanana: Here's Kristian House @raphacondor at last night's @TourSeries picture by Sue Howlett Great racing! @SoTCityCouncil http:…
- RT @sticky_bottle: Meant to say, to be eligible for the @raphacondor team car compeition you have to be a stickybottle twitter follower!
- RT @sticky_bottle: OK folks; nice morning for it. To win a day in the Rapha Condor JLT team car on the Rás last stage, Sunday, just retweet…
- Third team overall for the Men in Black at Stoke last night in the @TourSeries