- When dandies take to bike lanes. (Photo: flickr/kenmayer)
Eric Brewer is a man who believes in redemption through style, as the organization he founded known as Dandies & Quaintrelles is quick to tell you in its tag line. He began the fashionable social group, which embraces throwback finery of the early 20th century, in 2009, and this Sunday, November 13, the group will hold one of its flashiest and most iconic events around D.C. from noon to four — the 2011 Tweed Ride, featuring dozens of D.C.'s bicyclists decked out in their best formal wear. See photos of last year's ride here and register for this year's ride here.
Brewer shared his thoughts with On Foot on what to expect from this Sunday's Tweed Ride as well as his thoughts on the essence of real commuting style — it has less to do with clothes than you'd think.
- (Photo: Joshua Yospyn)
TBD On Foot: What first motivated you to found Dandies & Quaintrelles and how would you describe its mission?
Eric Brewer: Dandies & Quaintrelles was founded to organize the first D.C. tweed ride. I was motivated to create a stylish bicycling event for D.C. after hearing of the 2009 London Tweed Run. Getting folks to enjoy themselves while embracing an elegant sense of style has been a basic goal. After witnessing how much fun participants had on the first ride, how great they looked and how well everyone behaved, it's been a goal to encourage more of the same!
On Foot: Why is style so important? Has D.C. lost its sense of flair?
Brewer: Personal style is important because it affects the way we move about in our our world and how we interact with others. Effort put into personal style can bring one a sense of dignity. Behaving with a sense of personal dignity can have a positive effect on an urban environment. D.C. has not been known as a city that openly promotes the practice of personal flair but the flair is there and is captured often in street style blogs like Curator of DC Style and The President Wears Prada. It might not be omnipresent here, but anyone who thinks it's missing should help bring it back!
On Foot: So what was the first Tweed Ride like?
Brewer: The first D.C. Tweed Ride took place in November of 2009. I imagined that fewer than 100 well dressed cyclists would casually gather for an elegant ride through the city followed by drinks at a quiet pub. I was quite surprised when around 500 people showed interest and registered for our first outing.
(Continue reading the Q&A with Eric Brewer after the jump)
On Foot: What stands out to you about the Tweed Ride? How do bikes fit in with the Dandies & Quaintrelles style?
Brewer: The range of personal expression that appears in the details of those who dress for the D.C. Tweed Ride is something that stands out to everyone. Photo spreads of the event are popular because people love to see how participants put their personal spin on this vintage-themed bicycle ride. Bikes fit in with D&Q style because they are elegant personal transport machines that can reflect the personal style of their owners while performing an important function. Joy is also an important element in D&Q style. Bicycles help put smiles on people faces, and smiles are quite stylish!
On Foot: Are there any particularly popular bike models at the ride or all sorts? How does a person bike in style?
Brewer: We get all kinds of bike models on the D.C. Tweed Ride, however this ride more than any other encourages people to dust off those vintage bicycles found in attics and barns take them out for a spin. Vintage rides made by Raleigh, Hercules, Schwinn, Ross, and other brands no longer in existence are a delight to see. New single-speed bikes and rides fashioned after European-style urban bikes from brands like Linus and Republic are popular.
On Foot: Give me a sense of the reaction to all these tweed riders. What do people say? I recall seeing photos of the event all over the Internet and always wondered.
Brewer: The reaction to tweed riders vary. Sometimes, folks in the trendiest neighborhoods barely look up from their mocha latte as we pass them on the street. We've had folks in less trendy neighborhoods cheer us on with excitement as go by. Most car drivers on the road with us tend to be patient while we are pedaling about. Many smile and often ask us about our purpose. People who aren't cyclists but love a fashionable display involving hundreds of merry people appreciate what they see.
On Foot: In what ways has Dandies & Quaintrelles grown since its founding in 2009? I noticed the new website. Any idea, for instance, how many people might be at this year’s 2011 Tweed Ride?
Brewer: Participation in D&Q events have grown steadily since the first Tweed Ride in 2009. We had over 900 people attend the last Seersucker Social lawn party and over 500 people join us for that ride. We had over 700 participants in the D.C. Tweed Ride last year. We are expecting between 700 and 800 riders this year.
We have folks following our blog all over the country and from other nations. Our influence seems to have grown since 2009 and we are continually trying to determine the best way to grow with it.
On Foot: Are you a frequent bicyclist when not wearing tweed? Bicycling has become so popular in the District in the last couple years.
Brewer: I've been an avid cyclist in the D.C. area for over 20 years. I've raced road bikes on country roads in lycra and sported it while bombing down mountain trails covered in mud. I've been bicycle commuting to work since 2001. I've witness the popularity of cycling in different forms since I was a kid on a BMX bike. The urban cycling trend has been the most exciting yet because it has impacted the way our cities are taking shape and has had the most positive effect on our environment. I love that the tweed ride has motivated people to go out and buy the kinds of bikes they feel comfortable riding every day in ordinary clothes.
On Foot: What’s your life like outside of Dandies & Quaintrelles?
Brewer: I work my 9-to-5 federal government contracting gig throughout the week and look for exciting ways to enjoy my leisure time on evenings and weekends. Like many in D.C., I'm in the lucky small percentage of people on this planet who enjoy steady work, basic necessities, safety, freedom, and time for fun and amusement. I try not to take that for granted and live an inspired life.
On Foot: What’s your perception of commuting style in D.C.? How’s your gut reaction when you glance around on the Metro?
Brewer: My gut feeling when I glance around the Metro is that people should smile more and treat one another with more grace when sharing public spaces. Style has as much to do with how a person acts as it has to do with choices in garments.
Read more about Dandies & Quaintrelles, the Tweed Ride, and Eric Brewer on their website here.