When I was 20 I was short on social graces. Practically speaking, I’d show up to almost any event dressed in whatever my morning mood dictated. In California, you can wear flip-flops to the opera, but in the conservative South, there was some stuff you didn’t do and wearing Vans to a high school graduation was just that sort. So it is with not a little amusement that I note how even though my sense of decorum has improved, being in California means situations are much tougher to read. The last time I showed up for a job interview was the first time in my life I interviewed in jeans. Wearing a sportcoat to a nice restaurant can result in some funny looks.
So with the advent of looser-fitting mountain bike apparel, I’ve found myself second-guessing my apparel choices prior to an off-road ride. Do I need to stick with the stretchy stuff, or should I show up looking lower-key? What I’ve settled on is wearing loose(r) stuff for all my mountain bike rides, unless all that stuff is on the drying rack. The simplest way to frame this is that I’m no longer okay with being the only guy dressed like Billy Blastoff.
The Panache Button-Up Shirt and Button-Fly Short are, of the various pieces of apparel I’ve worn that were meant for cyclists to wear on a ride and not just after the ride, the ones that look most like normal casual wear. Certainly, they don’t look like BMX or motocross gear, which is how all the baggy mountain bike apparel got its start.
I track what kind of reaction I get when I pick Mini-Shred up from preschool with the tandem. As often as possible, I dress in something other than noisy cycling kit. On those occasions that all my looser stuff is in the wash and I show up shrink-wrapped, I’ve noticed that I get some look from the other moms and dads. They aren’t favorable—the looks, that is. But I’ve showed up in this combination a few times and no one bats an eye. And that’s despite the fact that one need not look too closely to notice that both these pieces are crafted from rather stretchy polyester.
Unlike many baggy-ish shorts, the Button-Fly Shorts don’t come with a pad or other liner with pad. It’s up to you to pick a pair of shorts to wear beneath them. I like that because it means I don’t have to wash the shorts after each ride, just the bibs I wore beneath them. The shorts feature five pockets: two in front, just like your jeans, and then two hip pockets in back. The right hip pocket also features a zippered security pocket, perfect for a key or credit card. The hip pockets are shifted low so that they don’t interfere with your ability to sit on the saddle if you happen to have a Hot Wheels car in there. Just sayin’. The shorts also have belt loops, but I can’t say I’ve ever considered wearing a belt on a bike ride. Just me?
The shorts are cut pretty long; they are to my knees, nearly knicker length. I probably wouldn’t choose shorts quite that long under most circumstances, but the nice feature here is that there’s zero chance of any shorts you might choose to wear beneath these shorts peeking out beneath the lower hem.
The fabric used in both the shorts and the shirt has a remarkable degree of elasticity. They use a fabric called SmartFIT in the shirt and 2SmartFIT in the shorts (more abrasion resistance) that wicks remarkably well and dries quickly so that the garments don’t stay wet long after you climb off the bike. Also that stretch means they fit better than some similar pieces I’ve tried through more of my full range of motion on the bike. The shorts come in five sizes: 30, 32, 34, 36 and 38-inch waists. I’m wearing the 32.
The fit of the Button-Up Shirt is best when you’re standing or in a fairly upright seated position, meaning it’s better suited to cruisers and mountain bikes. On a bike with a drop bar the shirt pulls taught through the back and I can feel the wind ripple over my shoulders. The fit is close, but not quite perfect. The shirt comes in five sizes: Small, Medium, Large, XL and 2XL. I’m wearing the small.
Sewing buttons into such a lightweight and stretchy material is an instruction sheet for how to lose said buttons. To make sure they stay put over the long term, the placket passes through the buttons and then those plackets are sewn into the garments. This is true for both the shorts and the shirt. No matter how hard you ride, you’re not going to lose a button, or if you manage to, it’s probably a sign that you’re dealing with bigger problems.
There have been criticisms for how expensive some companies’ apparel is. While I see there being a constant trade off between quality and price, my experience with these Panache pieces stresses value. The shorts go for $89 while the shirt goes for $99. Yes, you’ll still need to add some shorts (preferably bibs) but I’m betting you already have those and a base layer.
Bottom line: When I get off the mountain bike and climb in my car, I know that my next stop will involve the sale (and subsequent consumption) of Mexican food. I like putting on a baseball cap and walking into a restaurant and not getting stared at and no one looks twice at this stuff. And while that’s antithetical to what most people want from fashion, that might be the strongest recommendation for this wear.