the new kid on the block - vulpine clothing

button merino jersey

i realise this may be hard to digest, but there are cyclists amongst us, and those who simply ride bicycles, who cannot see the folly in the wearing of replica team jerseys. they think nothing of shuffling into look mum no hands, having locked the carbon cannondale outside, wearing full liquigas kit, ostentatious in its lime greenery. many are the individuals aboard ageing steel replete with mudguards, yet clad in pristine club kit, on their merry way to a day in the office or, perchance the boardroom, oblivious to the offensiveness of their sartorial choices.

there is, of course, little wrong with advertising your membership of the pelotonese; after all, many are the errant football fans displaying their affiliation to one or more mobile phone providers or one of the country's more common beverages. why therefore should we not shop in tescos, controversially extolling the virtues of mercatone uno? despite the dedication of one or more apparel providers to supplying every known racing team's colours, purchasing one or more items from their catalogue or website is, surprisingly enough, not a compulsory requirement.


in my early days of cycling, prior to comprehending the intricacies of the ten speed gear and what misfortune would befall rider and mechanicals should the chain be deliberately shifted from inner ring to outer, i cared not one whit for my tailoring preferences. unknown to me were the benefits of the padded short, of the wicking properties offered by fleece lined polyester nor, indeed, the existence of the saviours of lycra, the dupont corporation. even toeclips and straps were something being hung onto for dear life by sean kelly, and i'd never even heard of him.

cycling life, however, has a predilection for encroachment. step by step, hitherto unknown facets would be revealed, often at moments of embarrassment or ignorance, perhaps the principal one amongst many, being the fact that i wasn't robert millar. he alone was in the right place at the right time to leave his peer group behind and summit alone, clad originally in the black and white chequerboard of peugeot. i, on the other hand, had no need or desire to pin a number on the back of whatever i was wearing for cycling purposes, and thus had little need, or right, to be seen dressed in similar garb.

add to the foregoing, a need to commute from home to place of employ, preferably without need of a change of clothes, and the discrepancy between ideal and pragmatism became all too clear. these were, it has to be said, the early days of youth, when such considerations were less than uppermost in an art and music filled head. to be perfectly frank, the idea of carrying out the daily tasks wearing a 'z' jersey would likely have been tantamount to rebellion, a fact that would have likely enhanced my own sense of self-worth.

vulpine softshell

rebel without a pause.

these are more enlightened times. the rise and rise of cycling as not just a weekend sporting or leisure activity, but as a perfectly acceptable mode of transport has allowed it to gather about it, an entire support structure ranging from bicycle stores with coffee and decent opening hours, to the very clothing that will make daily riding not only eminently comfortable, but stylish at the very same time. and though many of the providers of such tailored elegance will be already known to most, as of today, one more has joined their ranks.

nick hussey, erstwhile owner of a rather fine fireflies colnago master, has thrown heart and soul into his new clothing venture via, opening with a rather fine range of jacketry: softshell, waterproof, gilet, the first of which has been holidaying on islay for the past couple of weeks, sullying the tables at debbie's in a superlative style all of its own. in this, it has been aided and abetted by a short sleeve merino button jersey.

but first things first; in an arguably overcrowded market, why start yet another cycle clothing company? "Because it's fun! Ok, that's incredibly facile, but partially true. "The market certainly isn't over-crowded with gear you can wear off the bike too. I mean actually feel good, not just less embarrassed. And narrower still if you want it to perform on the bike as well. Lots of companies have dipped in, but not made it their raison d'etre. We are thinking purely along Ride & Destination lines (plug plug). We're not making racing gear with a few dabbles into casual.
A short answer would be: How much classy casual cycling gear can you actually find right now? People have been telling me not a lot. Especially women."

softshell & button merino

perhaps nick has a point, though i think i might take issue with the contention that this section of the market isn't overcrowded. i daresay it depends on how you classify some of the current offerings on the market. the vulpine softshell certainly exceeds what i might regard as the average cyclist's expectations. the material is what could reasonably described as mid-weight, not even so much as a problem in the rather cooler climes currently being experienced in the north atlantic. it features a full length but non-taped zip; the softshell is offered with the proviso that it is water-resistant, something that has already been tested and it has not been found wanting. but despite its cleverly thought out pocket arrangement, both front and rear, it is, to be blunt, simply a black softshell, albeit a ruddy good one.

what does he figure vulpine will bring to the table that the others haven't already? "Focus. Commitment. Quality. Subtlety. Style. High quality. Britishness. Value (considering the materials and processes used, we know it's not cheap). Inclusiveness. Innovation that isn t silly. Green bits.( Many companies have a few of these. But never really hit the nail on the head....Maybe I should say Hit The Nail On The Headness."

there is a considerable amount of verifiable truth in nick's answer. all fastening points on the vulpine softshell are completed by means of small magnets. it was an initial source of frustration, for though the outer fabric pays witness to small fastenings, the obverse of each conceals to deceive. this is, in my humble opinion, a damn clever idea; both front pockets (yes, front pockets) are protected by lime green-backed, forward facing flaps which magnet together. as, indeed, does the enormous rear pocket on the left. this is joined by one open example fronted by a zipped example for keeping valuables safely enclosed. the high neck is closed by a further two easily operated magnetic poppers.

button merino

the style is, i might infer, impeccably british in conception, and a garment that confers suaveness on all who inhabit its versatility. but why call the company vulpine? "I was going to and fro with names and eventually plumbed for one that felt and sounded right, but didn t really mean much to people, including me. It also sounds like Alpine and Vue. I love mountains and imagery. Oh, and it's latin for 'fox-like'. I like foxes. Bosh."

dressing well on the outside more or less forces a similar mode when the softshell is left partially open or, at point of arrival, removed altogether. everyone's circumstances vary according to the expectations of their employer or peer group, and i willingly concur that wearing a garment, even one fashioned from merino wool and resembling a grandpa vest, might not fit the bill. thankfully, i have no such sartorial fears; though the occasional eyebrow may be raised now and again, comments are few and far between. at this time of year, short sleeves are less than advisable even under a cosy softshell, so i wore the merino jersey over a long-sleeve baselayer, and found myself rather pleased at the devil-may-care aura that it engendered.

when summer finally dawns, probably one day in july, and the jersey can be worn al fresco, yet again the support structure makes itself subtly known in the shape of two small outer rear pockets sandwiching a horizontal zipped affair that could conceivably conceal a mini-pump. it is also hard to ignore the affixed loop that would harbour a night light, something also featured on the softshell. the merino jersey is, if allowed only a one word description, funky. at present, the vulpine range reaches out to only the upper torso, and though perhaps unfair to ask on launch day, what plans has nick to extend the range, particularly in the form of legwear?


"Oh, not unfair at all... A LOT of plans. We have 14 products already designed, research and developed. Many of them are woman-specific. We have nearly 40 on the drawing board. But those will take quite a while to see the outside world! The development period from brain to website is quite scarily long, to get it right.
"We have more lines coming in July and if we sell some stuff when we launch (I presume nothing!) then we ll start pushing the button on them asap. There will definitely be a range of lower-half garments. I d rather not give the game away now though.
"Really all that s holding us back is that I've always insisted we use the best fabrics, trims & manufacturing, and thus costs us n absolute fortune to put each product into production. I've spent all my savings. If people like the opening range, we can fund new lines. Fingers crossed."

despite the excellence of the vulpine softshell, there's no denying that it is black, a colour choice that has seen perhaps more than its fair share of criticism over the past few years when related to clothing destined for the regular commuter. given that nick has not concealed this as the primary motive for the vulpine range at point of launch, would he care to share his reasoning?


"1. because we have incorporated a number of visibility features into those jackets. ( 2. because the whole point is you should be able to wear them OFF the bike! high-viz yellow still really doesn't cut it in the modern Monday Morning Status Meeting or Hot Date. (At least, I didn't think so). Black looks good. Everyone likes a bit of black. 3. because we're not here to follow.
4. because we want to create classics (history will be the judge of that), not seasonal fashion items.
5. It costs a bomb to buy the fabric! So I chose what people asked for most. If a garment sells, we'll expand the colour palette. Oh, and the Rain jacket comes in Indigo & Red and the other colour is Charcoal Grey, not Black....Quibbles."

as averred to above, the world of cycle clothing already owns a number of softshell jackets. it's a style of clothing without which many of us would stuck indoors, and it's a style that is equally at home in the world of civilians. i have regularly worn a non-pelotonic softshell to the office for a number of years. and it too is black. those domiciled in the uk may remember a bbc television music show called the old grey whistle test, the title of which came from a genuine test exploited in the offices of many a record company. whichever was the latest potential blockbuster single of the day would be played regularly through the office sound system for the benefit of the cleaners and the gents who provided the first line of defence at the front door.

these employees were referred to as the old greys.

merino button

if the record had the potential to be a hit, many of the old greys were often to be found whistling along. this was regarded as proof of its chart potential; the old grey whistle test. bearing this in mind, i have on occasion worn to the office, cycle clothing that prefers not to be thought of as such. if the comments are either complimentary or non-existent, i'm inclined to think that the designer has achieved their goal.

the vulpine softshell, with its adjustable high collar, two front pockets and internally adjustable waist profile, succeeded where others have feared to tread. though the cut is ideal for on the bicycle, the fluorescent and reflective tail flap, is magnetised inside, ready and waiting for a reflective moment. meaning, of course, that its cycling heritage is concealed from civilian eyes when business is the nature of the business. the cut is relaxed, yet flattering. always assuming the cyclist's souplesse is not far from that inner shape. slouching (as one knows one shouldn't) in front of a soya cappuccino at debbie's, only the cielo parked against the outside wall evidences a cyclist in residence. the vulpine can keep a secret.

tailor the above with my devil-may-care insouciance, clad in a vulpine merino jersey and the foam on the upper lip would fool even johan bruyneel. at which point, it seems not untoward to ask if nick has any beady eyes on the sporting end of the genre anytime soon? "No, not product-wise. I love that side. I grew up immersed in racing and I love it with all my heart. But that's a personal obsession that helps inform what we're doing. Pure racing gear is taken care of very well already. We want to focus on getting our area right and not diluting our attention."

vulpine softshell

though i'm happy and confident enough to both wear and review a wide variety of cycling apparel, hopefully making a few pertinent comments and suggestions along the way, i would not have the faintest idea where to start if pressed to design a garment of my very own. does nick have a background in this sort of thing? "No. But hopefully that won't matter if people like the gear.
Before Vulpine I came from a background in film, animation and music vids. I used to run clubs & bars and got asked to wear designer clothes when i was young, and I am a huge fan of bespoke British tailoring. I d like to think I have a pretty handy base of knowledge in high-end design. Oh, and I've been a clothes obsessed cyclist of every kind for 26 years. I just mix that all up and hopefully it helps create something that chimes with people. But I do have a colleague who is extremely experienced and puts my designs to work in reality."

chameleon-like, i tend to change my cycling mindset as the situation demands, therefore dressing in a black vulpine softshell with its reflective details and cleverly reversible, reflective cuffs revealing warming fleece draught excluders behoves me to exclude all thoughts of robert millarness and to avoid playing at mark cavendish when closing on the 30mph signs at bruichladdich. neither vulpine garment actually forbids such behaviour, but i feel it important when playing a bit part, to do so methodically. what's vulpine's ideal target market?

"Cyclists of all creeds."

vulpine softshell

the magnetic closures are a neat and individual touch, as is the pocket arrangement on the rear, but something like the zipped pocket on the right arm with enclosed key carabiner is not something seen for the first time. and the very notion of a softshell, however unfairly considered, is one that belongs to an earlier generation of the new guard. is nick concerned over comparisons with existing cycle apparel providers?

"Ha ha. You mean Rapha? (I'm starting to realise I'm going to get that one a fair bit!)
"No. It's natural to seek comparisons, though I would rather not. We have our own path. I saw Simon (Mottram) a while back for some advice (he was extremely helpful, bless him) and we agreed we're coming from different places. But already the comparisons are being made. I guess its natural. We're both high quality, web-based, and design obsessed. But those comparisons are very common in other fields I've worked or been involved in. In cycling this is still very new. If we talk again in five or ten years time, it'll be very different. Cycling clothing is essentially unchanged apart from a few companies, I feel.
The short answer is it is hugely complimentary, but we are different beasts with a very different ethos. And of course Vulpine are wee tiny minnows!"

merino button jersey

the phrase 'hitting the ground running' is one that has recurred during the review period for both vulpine garments. nick hussey has been very deliberate and, dare i say it, single-minded in the pursuit of what he feels the contemporary 'regular' cyclist requires to more easily incorporate the daily ride into a busy and perhaps corporate life. the softshell is an impressive bit of kit, one that has taken over daily duties in the land of the ileach. i have little doubt that, as i slope into the world of cool, calm and collected, the merino jersey will join its exterior companion. if, however, i may be allowed a couple of constructive criticisms, i'd suggest that the zip on the softshell be extended all the way to the top, allowing the closing flap to magnetise over the top.

i say this not as a comment on style, but due to a small gap that occasionally makes itself known between the current zip terminus and the base of the flap. i cannot deny that, now and again, this small gap allowed for a cooling exhaust, but more often, particularly at the outset of a ride, there's danger of a chilling draught. and on a far more positive note, i'd be overjoyed to see a long-sleeve version of the merino jersey. that would undoubtedly be worth the price of admission alone.

today is the first day of the rest of nick hussey's and vulpine's life, and i am more than crass enough to ask where he sees things in five year's time? "Oh blimey, I'm launching, and all I worry about is how people will react to us and making sure we don't bugger anything up. Ask me again in June! We have a major new event that I can tell you about in a week or two, and we ll have got through the early days."

the current vulpine range is available online at the softshell jacket is available in black only in small through to xxl at a cost of £160. the merino button jersey can be had in black or blue (reviewed) in the same range of sizes, retailing at £80.


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