120 years of the Tour de France

Posted: 07/07/2023 @ 13:09PM

Origins of the Tour de France.

120 years ago in 1903, the first Tour de France, the world's greatest bicycle race, took place. The original event was a six-stage race totalling 2428km, created by Henri Desgrange, the editor of L'Auto, and George Lefèvre, the rugby and cycling correspondent, to help publicise and promote readership of this sports journal. The cyclists cycled from Paris to Lyon, then via Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, and finally back to Paris. The average stage distance was 405 kilometres, which meant that riders had to cycle at night as well as during the day! They were also required to perform their own repairs if necessary.

The introduction of the iconic Yellow Jersey.

 Desgrange introduced the yellow jersey (maillot jaune) immediately after World War I. He picked yellow for two reasons: roadside spectators could immediately identify the race leader, and, perhaps more importantly, L'Auto was printed on yellow paper. On July 18, 1919, Eugene Christophe became the first man to wear the yellow jersey.

 Impact of the sport on Mod fashion.

This commencement of this iconic race chimed perfectly with the growing popularity of cycling with the wider public as not just a form of transport but a sport. This increased participation would lead to the birth of specialist clothing, including the cycling jersey. Initially knitted in wool due its moisture wicking capacity in summer and warming nature in winter. However rain is no great friend of woollen garments so alternatives were sought initially silk and then increasingly in the post war period synthetics became the fabrics of choice for racers. The knitted cycling jersey may have been consigned to history, but like the tennis shirt and the boating blazer, this classic style was picked up and popularised by the 60s Mods.

 This embrace of the cycling jersey as a street fashion essential has continued ever since,  as has the connection of the sport with the mod aesthetic, an iconic 80s example being the promo video for the Style Councils "My Ever Changing Moods" which sees Paul Welling in full cycling gear. At Atom Retro we are proud to offer up a great range of cycling jerseys not just for Tour de France season, but all year round, including stunning examples from Merc, Trojan and Madcap England.

The Brooke Cycling Top from Merc and the Vitesse from Madcap England.


The emergence of Britain from the shadows.

Back to the Tour itself and despite a somewhat sluggish start, Britain has emerged as a prominent player in the Tour in recent years. The duck was broken rather aptly by 21st century Mod Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky, who became the first British rider to win in 2012. Since then Brits have dominated with Chris Froome winning the Tour four times since "Wiggo" ended the long losing streak, in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. The sport like its classic style is all future.