Last season I got in the habit of forcing myself out of the office at night to ride my bike. The previous few years I was working furiously to establish myself in this strange, twisted city and barely ate or slept. It was starting to take a toll on my health so I decided that I would have to forcefully drag myself out for some fresh air that would hopefully set off a chain reaction that would lead to, roughly in order: more hunger, more eating, more sleeping, more relaxation, and less stress. Oh, and maybe a return of the goatee that had gone missing for the last decade of “serious” and “professional” work.

While the full goatee didn’t make it (the “soul patch” did) the plan worked like a charm and I quickly became reacquainted with an old favorite pastime.

Back in the midwest mountain biking was my thing. I had a $2400 Breezer that I raced every Thursday and used for long meandering explorations of the woods.

Here in the land of concrete road bikes are the *only* choice. My road bike had been raced for a few seasons – the only problem was: it’s most recent race was two decades prior. For a 1989 bike it was in very good shape and I had upgraded nearly every part but the frame and that classic nothing-says-1980s-like-color-coordinated-gruppos Sante drivetrain.

As I was narrowing down my search for a new bike it occurred to me that I would probably also need to invest in some new cycling gear. The summer before I had purchased my very first cycling jersey which on it’s first day was dubbed “magic”. I remember it well, it was in the mid 90s and humid and I remember the first thing I felt was: (1) not entirely wet and soggy and (2) AIR!, wonderful air passing through the shirt and evaporating my sweat! While I was familiar with how this wicking material worked in theory, experiencing it was an entirely different thing. It was a revelation. This would change everything.

The replacement would not just have to be more expensive (read: higher performance), it would have to be the perfect statement. Bright is okay for visibility but neon is out. Also the idea of paying to become a billboard for a company is ridiculous to me and one of the greatest mind engineering tricks advertisers have come up with in the history of advertising. Having a jersey with stupid sayings like “I like beer” would not fit my personality. Lastly, the plain colors of the past (my jersey was a neutral gray with two subtle vertical racing stripes down the front and back) may be a bit too…dull.

So one would think that this would leave a person with pretty much nothing, and it did. I considered making my own jersey and made some mockups, then found the Classic Brooklyn Jersey, pictured here.

My girlfriend and I have had a friendly “Brooklyn vs. Manhattan” war raging for years now with me obviously on the Brooklyn side. Without going into detail here, the “represent” value of this jersey was immediately apparent, as was the high tech fabric.

I’ve never considered myself a loud, truck-driving, flag-waving, beer drinking American so the idea of essentially turning myself into a 6′ flag for our country gave me pause. Complicating things was the administration (of our country) who, at the time, were trying very hard at the time to yank this very flag over onto their conservative side of the fence. They were busy passing things like the “Patriot Act” which essentially eroded the civil rights of our citizens and gave the government the right to detain anyone for any reason. Our fine leaders were also working on expanding their ability to spy on their own people, and continue to suck more and more money from their pockets into overseas wars of retaliation that warped into unilateral pre-emptive wars against anyone who looked funny.

The general mood they were trying to create was: either you love our country and are with us 100% or you are unpatriotic and should be ashamed (and put in jail if we can get that bill passed quickly).

I dreaded the idea that wearing this flag would suggest that I was a war monger who opposed civilian privacy, gay marriage, and individual thought and expression.

After letting this marinate for a few weeks, and after talking to a few of my political allies we came to the conclusion that this was NOT the administration’s flag. They did not swoop into office and change our existing democratic flag to this one. No. This was still America, and even though it is going through a difficult time which I can not understand or explain, it still is a great country and I have high hopes that it can recover. This is my flag and my country as well. I love it, and I love freedom.

It was time to take our country’s flag back.

August 11 update: Though the internet seems to be a pretty thorough source of information about life in industrial countries since the 1990s, once you start to go back a few decades the info becomes quite spotty and irregular. Mainly, it seems, items of historic importance or “retro” items making a comeback are the things that get the blog posts, written articles, and purchasable merchandise. Though I don’t have a lot of sources to cross reference this, it appears that the Brooklyn cycling jersey doesn’t really have much to do with Brooklyn, NY. Competitive Cycling states:

“Most people think this jersey commemorates New York City’s most under-rated borough. In fact, Brooklyn is actually a Dutch chewing gum manufacturer, and they sponsored a high-profile road racing team in the 70’s. Roger de Vlaminck won Paris-Roubaix something like 4 times wearing this jersey.”

Of course this modern jersey does actually have an icon of the Brooklyn Bridge on it so it’s easy to see how one might not know it’s real history.

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