Mutton Chops, sideboards, cheek muffs, face furniture… We’ve all done it at some point (mostly men that is) to varying levels of success, thickness and texture. At the age of 16 – when I was getting to grips with the joys of facial hair – my father quipped: “what are those silly tufts on the side of your face?” I soon sliced these apparently offensive creepers off with my Wilkinson Sword. Since then I’ve only ever opted for a generic beard: no wax, no grooming or delicate topiary, just overgrown stubble.
But for some sideburns give you the edge, that garnish of style. And perhaps not only an advantage over your rivals, but a signal to potential partners of your superior… err … plumage. A carefully trimmed goatee or a well-manicured mane is a way to express your vitality both on and off the bike. And no one has been more splendid an advocate of the power of sideburns than Mr. Bradley Wiggins: Marginal gains via the miracle of fur.
Eddy Merckx – ‘Cannibal carpets’
You’d think they weren’t the most aerodynamic of appendages, but look at Roger de Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx, both Belgian-burn-boys and of course both devastating bike riders. They clearly benefitted from bakkebaarden.
Roger de Vlaeminck – one of the most superior classics riders and equally superior sideburns.
Maybe it is the Flandrian thing as well, Wiggins of course being born in Ghent. Whatever the reason it seems that Monsieur Wiggo, with his ‘bon profil’ and tiger-like abilities on a bike, has influenced a national, if not international, resurgence in the popularity of sideburns and hairy horticulture. ‘Mod-ifications’ for the face.
Cole Mane-ness – opting for a ‘thatched lip’
So, in homage to Bradley and for a bit of a laugh, Rapha are challenging riders to grow those fuzzy fenders between now and the 9th September. Obviously the more hirsute types will have an advantage, but we are strong believers in Darwinism, so get growing. We’re not asking for Austrian beard Olympics, just nice, well groomed, fully formed sideburns. How you sculpt them is up to you, but the aim is to have some substance there and not, as my old man put it, ‘silly tufts’.
Austrian Beard Olympics – not cool.
Then on Sideburn Sunday the Rapha Cycle Club in London will host one of the best barbers in town to provide a shearing service for those of you who dared to enter the challenge (and if you’re lucky they might just shave your legs too). And don’t worry, if you can’t make it to the Cycle Club on the day you’re still very welcome to grow that gristle. Please post your efforts up via Facebook or Twitter. Please use the hashtag #burnsforbrad