Rapha – pretentious, moi?

Rapha is (arguably) one of the most hated brands on the planet – up there with Islamic State, the Daily Mail and McDonalds. Why? For those who don’t know, Rapha makes cycle clothes and accessories, sold mainly through an achingly hip website. The clothes are usually modelled by older people, often with beards and invariably not wearing helmets, photographed in the mist or fog or rain, in Scottish or Norwegian landscapes. Apart from the whole image thing, Rapha is famous for being expensive and more recently as the clothes supplier to Team Sky. Rapha clothing is available in a small range of shops and in their own Rapha cafes, of which there is one in Soho, one in San Francisco (of course), one in Osaka (Japan) and occasional pop-up shops – I came across one in Majorca for instance. So then – cycle clothes and accessories, over-priced but often well designed and made and beautifully packaged. So why should Rapha be one of the most hated brands in the world? Some reasons:
  • Cycling is (largely) a traditionally working class activity and Rapha is clearly focussed on a middle class poncey clientele – all the gear and no idea.
  • Moody, atmospheric, black and white photography and muted colours just look pretentious
  • Their pricing policy seems to be based on the approach of start at 100, double it and add 25%
  • Items are produced in limited numbers, meaning they inevitably sell out, thus creating a demand – cynical marketing at its worst
  • Some of their designs are so far up their own arse they have to be seen to be believed – Peter Kennaugh’s ride data turned into a black and white motif anyone?
  • Their signature colour for menswear is shocking pink and chartreuse (that’s yellow to you)
  • Some riders dress head to toe in Rapha – shoes 300, socks 15, bib shorts 180, base layer 50, jersey 130, rain jacket 250, scarf 50, gloves 100, cap 35 – total over a grand. I saw a whole family at the Tour of Britain ride dressed completely in Rapha – they’d be lucky to have had any change out of 2 grand and they looked like twats
  • They use those impressive, meaningless phrases that some people delight in posting on Facebook for some reason – ‘Follow your dreams and your followers will dream of you’ or ‘life is like a mountain climb – get in the small ring and pedal.’
As a niche, select clothing maker with a carefully crafted image they built a loyal and devoted following and could ignore the nay-sayers and class war activists but now – logos plastered all over Chris Froome’s arse and selling travel trips for 3500 excluding flights – they have sold their soul to the devil. But as Rapha alienates more and more consumers, new brands are stealing their shtick – Vulpine, Huez, Pedal-on and the latest and most pretentious of them all – David Millar. His brand – in conjunction with Castelli – is called Chpt lll, 1 being the first phase of his career – uncaught doper – and 2 being the second phase of his career – caught doper. Pretentious, lui?

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