A new study claims that Mamils may be risking their health. They are certainly scaring children.
In April last year the Plough Hotel in Rangiora, New Zealand, decided to ban Lycra cycling shorts, claiming that the “bumps and bulges” revealed by the tight-fitting sports attire were inappropriate and “unsightly”. To “raise dress standards”, Mike Saunders, the co-owner, put a sign outside his premises that read: “The bicycle is a beautiful object but they should never have invented Lycra! No Lycra shorts allowed please.”
“I am not against Lycra in general,” Saunders commented. “Just Lycra shorts. A lot of our customers are elderly or children and they don’t need to know that much detail about the shape of somebody.”
The ban on males wearing Lycra-style clothing in public should be introduced worldwide
And as a keen cyclist of about 30 years’ experience, ergo a man who has been a weekend budgie-smuggler for the past three decades — wearing unforgiving, aesthetically offensive attire that paid tone and tailoring tribute to Van Halen’s stage attire during my purple, mountain-biking years in the 1980s, maturing into the more sober, minimally monochrome ensembles as sold by the lovely and reassuringly expensive Rapha label — you’d think that I would have been outraged by Saunders’s draconian fashion policing. Far from it.
In fact, I wholly supported him. I think the ban on males wearing Lycra-style clothing in public should be introduced worldwide, particularly middle-aged men in Lycra, banished to cordoned-off Mamil zones, in much the same way that smokers have been exiled to fire escapes and backyards. Certainly, they/we should be kept away from women, the elderly and small children. Why? Because while astride our carbon-fibre steeds we may look sporty and streamlined, off them we look comical, clownish, quasi-pornographic and very silly.
We clack around pub car park concrete in our preposterous cleated shoes with their mantrap fastenings and unbending soles like ducks on a frozen lake. Our technical, form-fitting, “tissue jiggle”-preventing clothes, apparently designed by a prankish, go-faster committee of Tim Burton and Marc Newson with Max Wall as their house model, seem more appropriate for ballet than biking. Anyone with a sense of vanity and decorum who cycles acknowledges this by staying away from toddlers and nervous pensioners when visiting cafés or taverns halfway through a ride.
Older people wearing compression tops risk raising their heart rates
Yesterday there were reports that seemed to suggest that there could be medical evidence to support my and Saunders’s opinions. A study by the University of Navarra in Spain warns that older people wearing compression tops risk raising their heart rates.
Frankly, I have my doubts. The Spanish university tested only a small sample of men of different ages at different temperatures to see how compression clothing affected performance and recovery. The results showed that older guys had an increased body temperature, but the figures seemed marginal to me.
For British cyclists, the weather is not an issue. The temperature in the UK rarely gets into the late 20s and hardly ever dips below freezing on Sunday mornings. But should the more serious cyclist hauling up Alpine passes during the summer months be wearing the “compression clothing” referred to in the report?
Tighter, thicker and clammier than Lycra, this is the geeky sportsman’s version of the type of deep vein thrombosis-foiling hosiery recommended to passengers of a certain age on long-haul flights. The theory being that the snug-fitting socks, tops and leggings mimic a deep-tissue massage, accelerate blood flow to the heart, heighten the venous system and move toxins from the legs to the lymph glands quicker, so speeding up the body’s repair of sore, damaged muscles.
I am in my fifties. My body is no longer my tool. I am more like a tool in a ‘body’
I have no idea which brand the Spanish study tested, but Skins, the Australian compression-kit specialist popular with the triathlon element of the cycling fraternity, claims that its clothing ranges “take into account compression levels needed to increase oxygen delivery to active muscles while in motion”. It calls this “dynamic gradient”. Nope, me neither.
I once tried a full suit of the Skins product on a long ride and felt warmer than usual. The black and yellow gear had a Spanx-like effect on my figure, my calves seemed slimmer, my stomach flatter. (They also seemed to sigh with relief when I disrobed.) However, glancing in the mirror, I looked a bit too much like Rowan Atkinson as Alternative Car Park, the sappy mime act in that famous sketch from Not the Nine O’Clock News. “My body is my tool.”
But then again, I am in my fifties. My body is no longer my tool. I am more like a tool in a “body”. My crippling velo-vanity means that I am more concerned with looking good — ie, as thin as possible — than combating post-ride cramp. I don’t worry too much about how I will recover, but how I will be regarded by the cruelly judgmental fashion police I choose to ride with. It’s not my muscles that need repairing, it’s my ego.
Rapha, my cycling apparel brand of choice, says that the fastest growing part of its business is performance-specific, hot-weather clobber designed for pros. “The tighter and lighter, the better,” its chief executive, Simon Mottram, once told me. I am pleased to report that Rapha also offers alternative livery in a more forgiving cut; city-cycling-centric clothing in breathable cotton, denim and merino wool. While this kind of un-compressed gear won’t win you races or help you to up that “dynamic gradient”, it won’t frighten the pensioners or the children either.
I’ve aged 30 fashion years in a decade, says Toby Young
I went clothes shopping with my wife last Saturday and it was a sobering experience. Almost everything I tried, from a slim-fit shirt in River Island to a pair of skinny jeans in G-Star Raw, made me look ridiculous. “A 10lb sausage in a 5lb bag,” was Caroline’s verdict.
However, it wasn’t just the sizing that was inappropriate. As a 53-year-old, I was at least 20 years too old for these get-ups. I looked like a cast member of T2 Trainspotting or a middle-aged motoring correspondent auditioning for a role on Top Gear.
When it comes to being fashion forward, I think 50 is the cut-off — time to hang up those Adidas trainers. Thirteen years ago, I embraced the idea that 40 was the new 20 and could just about get away with wearing a black AC/DC T-shirt and a pair of jeans to a party. But 50 doesn’t feel like the new 30 or even the new 40. It feels like 50. Or, to put it another way, I’ve aged 30 fashion years in the space of 10 human years.
Singing along to the latest chart-toppers is also a no-no, particularly if you have a teenage daughter
It isn’t just trendy clothes you have to give up. Drinking so much that you can’t stay upright is never a good look, but after 50 it’s positively tragic. Then there are things you shouldn’t eat if you want to live past 65. Roast potatoes, for instance (thanks, Food Standards Agency). Singing along to the latest chart-toppers is also a no-no, particularly if you have a teenage daughter, as I do. And trying to keep up with the latest street slang can also be embarrassing — d’you get me, fam?
I’m tempted to add sports cars to this list, but that’s because I can’t afford one. There’s definitely something a bit sad about a middle-aged man in a Porsche 911, but if I won the lottery I might allow myself a royal blue Maserati GranTurismo Sport. Not that I’ve thought about it or anything.
Ah well. At least I’ll only age seven fashion years between now and my 60th birthday. Although judging from the number of over-60s you see wearing tracksuit bottoms, maybe the whole process goes into reverse at some point. I dread to think what Caroline will say if she sees me in a pair of those.
What not to wear over 45, by Jeremy Langmead
Until Spanish scientists spoke up about the potential health risk, we thought that sexagenarian cyclists clad in tight compression clothing were causing only a strain on our eyes. How many of us have had trips to the Yorkshire Dales ruined by a flotilla of flesh wobbling past like a pack of past-their-prime sausages escaping the chop at Lidl?
The same problem arises, or rather droops, in other recreational activities too — it’s always the men who shouldn’t who wear the tiniest shorts to the gym, the teeniest trunks to the pool, the sleeveless Ts to the track.
Self-respect might help you to accept that a few items should be left for the next generation
It seems that none of us really knows what’s age-appropriate any more. We’re all told we can live longer, look younger, and that age is just a number. Up to a point, this is true. Yet self-respect and consideration for others might help you to accept that a few items in your wardrobe should really be left for the next generation to enjoy. This doesn’t mean, like your father, that you suddenly have to don a cardigan and tartan slippers, but the items below need to be put away.
1 High-top sneakers (or soles that light up when you walk) Apart from Chelsea boots and wellingtons, no item of footwear should climb higher than your ankle. It won’t look cool; it will look orthopaedic. And you will probably have a fall (when you’re younger it’s called falling over; in late middle age it’s called having a fall).
2 Fake tan As we’ve discovered with the US president, fake tan doesn’t love older skin. It finds it hard to settle on all those peaks and troughs and tends to coagulate in facial furrows.
3 Beanies or pompom hats They may keep your ears toasty warm (although as you get older ear hair tends to do that for you), but they also draw attention to your features. If you’re Zayn Malik, that’s fine, but the chances are you’ll look more like Compo from Last of the Summer Wine.
4 Hoodies As much for practical reasons as for sartorial ones; if you walk too slowly in a hoody you’ll find that passers-by use the hood as a dustbin and you’ll get home with a couple of cigarette butts, a half-eaten Lion bar and the white ones from the Haribo packet that no one likes in it.
5 Sweatpants A harsh one because they make going to the loo easier.
6 Inappropriate social media usage It’s great that we’re able to enjoy this social media platform, but if you’re over 40 there are hashtags that are uncomfortable: #silverfox and #aboutlastnight, for example. Selfies aren’t appropriate; nor is posting LOL on Facebook (especially as you think it stands for “lots of love”).
7 Band T-shirts Whether it’s Taylor Swift or Led Zeppelin, I’m afraid.
8 Drinking Jägerbombs Popular before a big night out, a shot glass of Jägermeister (a 35 per cent proof German aperitif) is dropped into a tall glass of Red Bull to give you a charge. These days it’s more likely to give you heartburn.
9 Man fringes or any statement haircut Whether you’re inspired by Justin Bieber, Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber or Donald Trump (again), fringes are a no-no. Just be happy you have hair and let the hair decide where it wants to sit.
10 Parkas with fur hoods Chances are you’ll look more like a puppet from Sesame Street than a character from Quadrophenia. And if it’s very cold, “Shackleton hits the high street” isn’t a great look.
11 Playing games (even if it’s Tetris) or listening to Drake on your phone on the train. Accept the fact that you’re now Generation Kindle, not Grandpa Disco.
12 Teeth grills (grillz) Unless you’re A$AP Rocky or Madonna, it’s best to give gold or diamond tooth-jewellery a miss. Time to accept you’re more hip op than hip-hop.
13 Supreme A skatewear brand based in New York that has become a cult hit and just collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a range of men’s clothes and accessories. It might be cool, it may have stepped into your price bracket with the Vuitton collab, but it hasn’t stepped into your age bracket. David Beckham might have sported one of the scarves in Paris this week, but you can’t.
14 Highlights Or hair dye. There are a few former 1980s pop stars who favour blond tints, and it doesn’t do them any favours. Good hairdressers will tell you that men shouldn’t dye their hair; the colour looks flat and heavy and, ironically, ageing. And please avoid the temptation to dye body hair (yes, it happens).
15 Flamboyant scarves Big, jazzy scarves that wrap endlessly round necks are all too popular. Perhaps the intention is to disguise additional chins or to add personality, but it ends up like a disappointing game of pass the parcel when the big reveal turns out to be underwhelming.