2008: Going (For) Broke
“When I first saw a fixed gear bike I had no idea what it was. I now see young kids ride them to my store, and older business people use them as their daily commuter bikes. The bikes have infiltrated mainstream culture and it’s good to see more people excited about them.” —Benny Gold, Designer
FIXED GEAR BIKES
The two-wheeler that became a style essential.
The subcultural obsession with fixed gear bikes can be traced to bike messengers. In cities like San Francisco and New York, couriers pared down their rides to one gear, fixed to the rear wheel, with no brakes. These bare bones bikes were simple, affordable, and fast. The ultimate urban assault vehicle, it combined the rebellious nature of skateboarding and BMX with the childhood joy of barreling down the street on your first Huffy.
The easy maintenance and near-endless customization options meant any urban-minded “individual” could appropriate the rig. Narrow handlebars, leather saddles, flashy rims, top-tube protectors, clipless pedals—all surefire ways to spot a cool guy’s fixie. They became staples in skate and sneaker boutiques, from Dave’s Quality Meat in New York to HUF in San Francisco. Inspired by track racing, messengers and die-hard cyclists competed in “alleycat” races. Along with slim raw denim jeans and classic Vans, fixies were a quintessential element of downtown cred.
As with anything cool people think is cool, mass retailers caught on. Every bike brand from Giant to Bianchi started producing single-speed road bikes. Then mass retailers such as Urban Outfitters, who partnered with Republic Bikes, offered factory-fresh fixies for as little as $400, so everyone and their art-school girlfriend could ride one.
GOT IT FOR CHEAP
Recession-friendly retailers stepped up when times were tough.
H&M: The Swedish retailer’s combination of fashion-forward clothing and insanely affordable prices meant dudes had access to everything from suits, sportswear, hoodies, and shoes at low prices. It was easy to cop a whole new ’fit for a night out, and one for the morning after—if you didn’t end up at home.
AMERICAN APPAREL: Adopting a logo-less aesthetic and a sleazy-chic advertising campaign, the brainchild of Dov Charney caught on with fixie-riding hipsters and angsty suburban kids alike. Their deep v-necks were associated with a certain kind of douche bag, while their comfortable hoodies struck a chord with average guys.
UNIQLO: Merging utilitarian design with modern fits, Uniqlo captured the zeitgeist of New York’s diverse style. Guys could rack up on an array of affordable, unbranded outerwear, pants, button downs, T-shirts, and knits. Deals on basics like underwear, socks, and tees kept dudes coming back for more.