The Fatherhood of the Traveling Pants

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So my dad’s birthday was coming up and I started racking my brain for gift ideas. I’ve had some home runs (an on-sale REI fleece that he doesn’t take off from October through April, and an Amtrak gift voucher), but most clothing items are a real bust. Although Stephen Bilenky may not look like a fashionista, he is very picky about his clothes. Socks must be tall enough to store his cell phone while riding, preferred colors are green and blue, and absolutely no polo shirts (even though his beard hides the hated collar). If you commute quite often in regular clothing you know that the seat of your pants are usually the first to wear out. This is no exception with my dad. Sometimes he retires the pants and sometimes he keeps wearing them…

In the last few years several brands have developed jeans designed specifically for riding. Each pair is different, but have the same basic purpose: to withstand the stress on the fabric from riding and to be comfortable and look good while on the bike. I first saw the Rapha jeans at NAHBS in Austin. Slate Olsen was wearing them and he was looking preeeeetty good… Of course it was the subtle pink details that really caught my eye. I have a hard time finding casual cycling wear that I like because it still looks so bike-y. Some people are going for that look and there are tons of great casual-but-technical accessories and apparel out there. For me, when I’m not spandexed out, I want to look like me – which isn’t cropped knickers and a club fit jersey. I’ll be wearing my painted on jeans, a tank top and flip flops (or a sweater and Uggs if its winter. Booo.). I have yet to find the equivalent of this for biking, but enough about me!

The Rapha jeans are my idea of the perfect casual-but-technical biking apparel. They have a really nice straight fit with a slightly higher rise in the back so you don’t moon everyone when you are riding. The material has a little bit of stretch for extra comfort and they come in quite a few sizes and lengths to accommodate cyclists of all shapes – even if you aren’t 6’ and built like a Tour de France rider. Because the denim is resilient without having a noticeable reinforced butt patch, they look exactly like regular jeans. Well, not regular, more like inconspicuous designer jeans. Since they look like jeans and not funny riding pants, they look great with anything from a t-shirt to a sweater, and even a too-big flannel shirt (my dad’s wardrobe pick). I have no doubt they will pass the riding test, but I’m curious how they will hold up as haute couture brazing wear. My favorite detail is the reflective pink piping and Rapha logo when the right leg is rolled up. You may think this is a Rapha pitch, but it isn’t just that. It’s part praise, part product review, and part hint: hey Rapha, I wear a women’s 00. Just saying…

I gave my dad his present early when he came to visit for Thanksgiving. He hates trying things on and I figured I would need the extra time to make sure they were the right size. He didn’t say much when he opened the package but it wasn’t more than a couple of hours before he tried them on. My husband asked him how he liked them and my dad did his best impression of a Rapha model with a Zoolander face staring off into the distance. He then proceeded to wear them the rest of the night and the next day and probably this whole week if I had to guess. Apparently once you have Rapha jeans there is no need for any other pants, since he left the pants he arrived in at my house. His feedback after riding in them: “no bunchin’ up or chafing – just delightful! Thanks – great present for the guy who doesn’t buy clothes”.



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