Paul Smith on his collection of old cycling jerseys

The fashion designer’s new book charts the history of his infatuation with the sport of cycling and includes a lovely photo series documenting his collection of old jerseys – simple, stylish designs that continue to inspire him.

Alongside the jerseys, Smith’s Cycling Scrapbook is filled with images of cycling publications, advertisements and photographs from the 1950s and 60s. Smith is an avid collector of cycling-related material and reveals that many of the world’s street markets have been sources of inspiration for him – particularly in Italy, where old cycling jerseys are often to be found on sale.

Above and top of post: Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media
Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media

“In Forte di Marmi, a resort in Tuscany, there is a big market twice a year, and there’s a man who sells old jerseys,” Smith writes. “He sold me the one that’s probably my favourite in my collection: it’s Felice Gimondi’s [1973] world championship jersey, in wool, with the rainbow stripes [shown, below].

“It came with a letter of authentication, and obviously I had to pay quite a lot for that. But last time I went, the prices had gone right up and I just couldn’t buy any. It’s got to the point where the sellers think they’re more valuable than they are.”

Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media
Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media
Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media

For the designer, one of the major draws of the older jerseys is their simplicity. “In the 1950s there was a really nice Rayon that was probably awful to wear but visually was really good,” he continues.

“I’ve got a pink one from that era that I’ve often gone back to and used as inspiration for men’s and women’s clothes. Of course, there’s a lot less advertising on the old ones than there is on the modern shirts. That’s true of all sports today: even in darts and snooker, they find a space for promotion”.

Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media
Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media
Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media

Smith cites companies such as Rapha as having taken an influence from the pared-back aesthetic. “It’s a look that a lot of today’s cyclists appreciate,” he writes.

“I’ve had very interesting conversations with Mark Cavendish about whether you could ever do something like that again, something really simple, where the simplicity of it became the advert, if you see what I mean. For the time being, I’ll carry on collecting”.

Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media
Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media
Courtesy of Paul Smith © Heuristic Media

Smith’s own collection includes a range of woollen jerseys, some of which were displayed in his first exhibition at the Design Museum in London a few years ago.

He’s also been given some of the more recent examples which feature in the book from cyclists such as Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins, Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd and Bernard Hinault.

Paul Smith’s Cycling Scrapbook by Paul Smith with Richard Williams, designed by Alan Aboud, is published by Thames & Hudson, £29.95

Paul Smith's Cycling Scrapbook

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