Words: David Evans | Date:
Leon Cerrone is a retail manager and rider, and a friend of Rapha. Having been a part of several Rapha lookbooks, we thought he’d be the perfect person to talk to about all things cycling and sartorial.
Leon, you’re quite the fashionable gentleman. How did you get in to fashion?
I won’t go right back to the beginning of the story because we’d be here all day, but I got in to fashion because my dad is a bit of a dresser. He was a mod who knew how to take care of himself – pressed trousers, sorted hair, all that. He’s the sort of bloke people would call a ‘snappy dresser’. My mum has a fair bit of style too, so I just grew up around it.
My first job was in retail, for Diesel. I started earning my living from clothes and spending my living on clothes. I began as the weekend boy, but I realised pretty quickly that I wanted to spend my life in fashion, in one way or another. I wanted to get out of Birmingham, and I knew that I wanted to get down to the big smoke. I’m fond of Brum, but I’d outgrown it. A job came up at Folk, and I happened to be the lucky guy who got it.
I like what Folk do – they’re a bit like Rapha, I suppose, but on a smaller scale. You can see the M.D. walking around the office most days, just as you can catch Simon [Mottram, Rapha CEO] at Imperial Works. The design studio is just across the road, and head designer pops over. She’ll show us her work and ask our opinions. You feel part of something here, which is really good.
Have you always ridden a bike?
I’ve been riding for just a couple of years. I bought a bike to do a charity ride, but the ride never really materialised. I was just about to fade in to the rank-and-file of the occasional commuters, when I came to know Rob Saunders.
Now, how I came to know him isn’t straight forward. He was a fan of Rapha, and a fan of Folk, and at some point we started talking on Twitter and Instagram – the power of social media, and all that. Now we’re close friends, and we ride together a lot. I’m quite the early bird, and I’ve been known to get up at 4 and head out for a long-ish ride before work, coming back in to the city just as the day is really starting. It becomes part of your life really quickly.
The thing about cycling is that there is so much to observe and to learn. There’s a history, there are stories, there are challenges, and there are rituals.
Is there a crossover between cycling and fashion?
When you look at photos from the 50s and 60s, you can see that there was a golden age of style in cycling. That sense of style is on its way back now, I think, and there are a few people in the peloton who look pretty good.
Who in the professional peloton rates highly on your sartorial scale?
As much as it might be a cliché, I really appreciate Wiggins’s look. He has the mod aesthetic, just like my Dad, and he gives off the impression that it’s not just a ‘look’ for him – he has the attitude, too.
Mods were political, they were part of a counter-culture, they did what they did for a reason. I get the same sense with Wiggins. He’s not one to make someone’s life easy just for the sake of it. Put it this way: when someone sticks a microphone in his face, there’s always the prospect of him saying something that’ll blow the roof off.
David Millar is the other guy I look too, style-wise. I’ve been into ‘Ivy League’ style for a couple of years – you know, college kids of the 1960s, well turned out but a little unconventional. I can imagine Millar strolling across a campus with a textbook or two.
I’m told that you like to tailor your own clothes – why’s that?
I’ve been known to customise my clothes, slicing and dicing them to change the fit. I’ve ruined many a pair of jeans in the search of exactly the right taper, and I’ve done it to a few Rapha jerseys too. I can be quite compulsive when it comes to clothes, and learning how to unstitch a seam and roll up a hem gave me new ways to be compulsive. If you’re not the sort of bloke who can drop a couple of grand on a tailor and a bespoke suit – and most of us aren’t – then I wholly recommend it.
Start small, make yourself a pair of cut-offs. Failed experiments are a good thing, in my opinion.
Looking through your Instagram feed, I caught a few glimpses of an impressive record collection. Is music a big part of your life?
There was never a TV on in my house, growing up, only music. It’s still the same story – like tonight, I’ll get home and put on a couple of records. It was nice when I used to DJ, because I could tell myself that record shopping was time well spent, that I was ‘researching’, or something equally important. I used to put the time in to finding new things – or old things, you could say.
My top method of procrastination right now is going on to Discogs and finding records my parents used to play. My Granddad was Kingston, so he always played lots of Ska and Calypso, and recently I’ll find myself at my desk clicking on links to records, thinking, ‘Oh, I remember this one.’ It takes up a lot of my time, to be honest. It’s fun.
The three passions of my life are clothes, cycling, and music. They go well together, I think.