Book Review: The Jersey Project

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Jersey Project by Bill Humphreys and Jerry Dunn

The cycling jersey has changed so much over the years. From a simple piece of clothing made out of wool, today’s jerseys deploy modern fabrics, reflect corporate sponsors and are cut to suit a racer bent low on the bike. This book traces the evolution of cycling jerseys, cataloguing all the changes via a series of photos.

The book is based on Koerstrui, a Dutch book whose title means “Race jersey”. Bill Humphreys is a key figure in the development of US cycle sport who has worked with national teams and helped bring on riders like triple Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. Back in 1971 Humprheys was a soigneur at the Tour de l’Avenir race and met Dutchman Marinus Wagtmans, once a team mate of Eddy Merckx. Better known as Rini Wagtmans and the best descender in the bunch at the time. The pair became friends and come 2010 Wagtmans presented Humphreys with the Koerstrui book. “I knew instinctively that I was compelled to add the American jersey story to this wonderful book” says Humphreys.

And that’s exactly what has happened. Koestrui was translated into English and more jerseys from American cycling were added. If there was ever a Dutch cycling book you could read without knowing the language then it’s Koestrui thanks to the pages of race jerseys without a great deal of text. But there is writing and you’d still miss out on the details. The Jersey Project adds 50 pages on US cycling history to the 150 pages.

The book is enjoyable on many levels. The design is worth a mention. A hardback and printed with high quality paper, each jersey is clear to see, studio photographed. Sometimes you can see crash damage or wear. As an exercise in graphic design the book succeeds but rightly so since it is probably the kind of book that could reach beyond cycling as it shows the evolution of clothing and corporate logos. We go from plain wool to screen-printed fabrics with peacock-displays of corporate branding.

The section on US cycling is interesting in how the early jerseys resemble their European peers in design although the names are different. Then suddenly Greg Lemond changes everything as the US cycling sphere merges like a Venn diagram into the Euro world of pro cycling.

Some pages feature jerseys arranged in rows and columns, an egalitarian mix where iconic designs like Peugeot with its black and white chequered pattern sit alongside forgettable designs like the Jean Delatour maillot. Other pages zoom on a jersey and explain its history.

I liked the small details. You can trace the changing shape of jerseys of the years, something I’d not thought about but they had tight sleeves to start with and became almost baggy by the 1980s before we get today’s slim fitting versions. See the image above, look at the variety of cuts, the angle of the sleeves and more.

The book is organised, there’s the section on the US, then we have teams for classics, leaders jerseys, world champions and so on. The translation to English is good but there’s still a Dutch feel in one or two places. The section on cyclocross is labelled “fields”, like veldrijden or “field riding” and the section on the jerseys from the minor stages is called “small rounds”, as in ronde meaning tour.

Finally this isn’t just a book. It wouldn’t exist without the collection of jerseys and the work done to document them. It is a historical catalogue and a tribute to riders and teams of the past, whether Humphreys in the US or John van Ierland and Henk Theuns in the Netherlands. Not every jersey from every team is here but there’s a big selection.

It’s not a book you start on page one and gradually work through to the end. Rather it’s something you flick through and return to many times. It’s something that would go well in a bike shop or a design studio or your coffee table. And whilst it doesn’t exist, it would make for a great app for a tablet display like an iPad.

Distribution
This isn’t for sale in Borders or on Amazon. Instead you can find it some US bike stores and it is available for purchase online direct from the author in the US for $30, see thejerseyproject.com

Disclaimer: this was sent over by Bill Humphreys for review

A list of book reviews is available at inrng.com/books.

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{ 11 comments }

Coriander April 20, 2012 at 10:22 am

That’s worth getting just for the cover alone – beautiful.

Bomsie April 20, 2012 at 10:37 am

I love books like this, they satisfy the ‘geek’ in me!

daniel alpin April 20, 2012 at 11:27 am

bought

Roadie61 April 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm

“The Jersey Project” draws me in simply because of my zeal for cycling. Anything cycling interests me. Yes, my coffee table beckons this photographic journey through cycling history. As a former graphic artist/designer, I appreciate good book design. Clean. Simple. Tasteful fonts. Never fear too much white space.

Like a “proper” presentation of the perfect meal, good book design has many elements which draw us in and beg us to open its cover. This cover with its many jerseys has used a lot of real estate, but the design begs our eyes to scan all around for a past fav perhaps? Jerseys define our coolness or geeky-ness, and wearing one that we love makes us go faster, right?. By the description, I can almost feel the silkiness of the stock that it’s printed on. This is a book whose pages will never be dog-eared.

Beginning my love affair with road cycling in 1980 was not during an era of high fashion (or even decent fashion) for everyday folks. It was the era of funky clothes and disco-age polyester. But cycling jerseys transcended everyday wear. They were functional, practical pieces that got the job done. Take wool. Wool keeps one warm when it’s chilly outside, but it also helps regulate body temp when the mercury rises. And best of all, it keeps you warm even when it’s wet.

I have a fondness for the simplicity of the old wool jerseys, sans multiple sponsors names printed on every inch and in every direction. And I like natural materials which breathe and perform well in all conditions, like Merino wool (thanks to the many sheep in Kiwi land).

As an American growing up in the 1960s and 70s, we weren’t exposed to the Euro cycling scene in the sports press. If I could go back in time, I think I’d like to grow up in Belgium or Italy or France and experience the delight of putting on my home club’s jersey. Cool. Wish I was there.

Roadie61 April 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Forgot to mention a past favorite, the 7-Eleven jersey. Not a fan of 7-Eleven slurpies or fast food, but they did sponsor one of the most exciting teams to ever come from the states. So many ultra-talented cyclists crossed the pond to take on the TDF as the first American team to do so, and for that reason I love that red, white and green jersey.

Anyone know of a website selling high-quality (replica) retro jerseys of the same materials used back in the day?

Kjetil April 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Prendas Ciclismo and Vintage Velos come to mind.

Larry T. April 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm

http://www.soigneur.co.nz/webapps/category/76887/227235/55639

Not only do they make a couple for us, but they have plenty of other retro-styles. The quality is excellent!

Kris April 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Got Koerstrui already. Nice to see the English language variety. I really like the idea of the app, I would pay for that.

Larry T. April 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Looks like a nice book. We have an old book in the CycleItalia library from Italy with what looks like watercolor renditions of jerseys arranged by the team’s country of origin and chronology. I’ve used it countless times in reference. This looks like another “must have” for my list. Thanks for the review.

bikecellar April 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Interesting book, Which has prompted me into thinking about jersey’s I have worn, two categories really club/teams I have ridden for, and jersey’s purchased because I liked them, First club jersey was a Pelforth Lejuene themed but with red/blue/gold, late 60s, lots of stitching of different coloured acrylic sections. Flock lettering was common back then, fav from this period was an IGNIS yellow jersey with blue/red embroidered lettering. French club in the 70s CC Bigouden red/yellow panels with sponsor Muebles Le Page and later the ever present in the peleton Credit Agricole, Also Equipe Jeux GA pale blue and red, all itchy acrylic fabric and flock. I have mentioned on here before that I have a Peugeot jersey (just like Thevenet’s with front pockets, but used to have Esso patches on shoulders, l removed and lost the patches, it is wool and has shrunk, anyone know how to reverse the shinking process?) Current club jersey follows the British habit of European sounding club names but is a sort of French/Italian mix namely VC Azzurri very smart in Italian national team blue with fluo yellow cuffs and lettering.

Cycling Jersey Collection January 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Really enjoyed your article on The Jersey Project (I have the Dutch version Koerstrui) which inspired me to get all of my jerseys online! http://cycling-jersey-collection.com/ would love it if some of your knowledgable inrng readers took a look – i aim to get 100 of my jerseys online by the end of the year!

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