Look, there’s no use denying that there is a subtext whenever discussing Rapha. They have a reputation as this snobby Euro-phile brand, ads filled with photos of grizzled riders jammed into tiny, mountainside cafes. The vibe just a bit cooler than most Americans should probably attempt. And the company is owned, in part, by the grandkids of the Walmart fortune, so there are socio-economic questions about the whole enterprise that I, frankly, don’t want to get into, but I felt I had to write this prelude, because it was in my head to be all the way honest with you.
Without trust, what do we have?
All of that aside, I want to say that they do make some good stuff. Those minimalist but elegant designs get married to some high quality fabrics, and the result is some pretty good clothing to put on your body. I try to focus my reviews on things I think are good value for your money, whether they cost a lot or not, and I do own one particular Rapha item that I think is tremendously good, so good I own it in two different colors.
It’s the Rapha Crew Neck Knit Jumper. I gotta tell you, it bothers me that they call it a jumper, and not just a sweatshirt, but I guess if you’re going to affect Euro-suaveness you have to be committed to the role. I was doing an event at the Rapha store in Seattle (long story), and I was pacing around nervously before it was my turn to regale the
massive crowd few vaguely interested standers-by with my accrued wisdom. That’s when I saw the aforementioned garment and reached out to touch it, as one does in a clothing store.
Immediately I thought, “Oh no, I’m going to buy this.”
Here’s why I love it. The merino is warm and very breathable, and I know, I know. That’s what everyone says about every merino thing, but this is better than that. It’s MORE breathable. I wear it on the bike, and I wear it off the bike. It’s a great mid-layer for any activity, like dog walking or grocery shopping. It’s just so versatile that, while it costs $165 retail, I still think, if you’ve got that kind of disposable cash, it’s worth having.
I mean, it’s Rapha, so it looks sharp, but it doesn’t look SO Rapha, you know. It lives in their City Riding collection.
I have one in light grey and one in burgundy, because after I bought the first one, I loved it so much I tipped over into buying another one, and I wear one or the other multiple days of the week. I’ve had them both for 7 or 8 years, and they look new. They wear very well, and you can wash them without ruining them. If a slob like me can keep them going this long, someone, somewhere has done something right.