It was this kit that inspired me to get serious about cycling. It spurred me in ways I could never have imagined. There’s an inner strength that comes from wearing this kit. Not least because two years ago I couldn’t have imagined ending a Friday evening ride and going straight into a bar for a beer. But in this kit, who cares – unique, stylish and colourful. My personal style is understated, so I like that the pattern is uniformed and continuous – flowing. It might be the placebo effect, but I feel that harmony, that almost water-like movement, transfers to the way you ride and how people perceive you in the bunch. That sense of being provides me a lot of personal satisfaction.
I feel like a bit of a badass when I wear this kit. You want to ride in it because you feel good in it. Look good in it. I’m quite a colourful character and that’s ordinarily reflected in my personal style. But this monotone kit resonated with me remarkably. It’s sophisticated. Sleek. Mystical even. I’m obsessed with the way the patterning infuses with the contours of my body – it makes me feel good about myself; gives me confidence and I’m convinced I go five kilometres faster when I wear it. Maybe. It’s turned a few heads of passers-by, too. It’s nice to get recognition for what you’re wearing from people who aren’t cyclists.
I was initially hesitant about Black Sheep. I conjured that it was only serious cyclists that wore it and that’s certainly not me. This kit made me believe I was strong enough. Made me feel a part of something. And was the impetus for a whole change in mindset. The entire Black Sheep community is so supportive irrespective of whether you’re a podium getter or at the back of the pack. This kit emphasises all of that. A metaphor for life. I feel bad ass, but pretty and peaceful at the same time. There’s melodic quality to the design which calms my nerves when I wake up and put it on. It’s colourful, but easy on the eye. Noticeable but not in your face.
This Season was definitive. Two kits. One, completely out of my comfort zone. The other right up my alley – simple, direct, monotone. Those two next to each other was a significant duality: on the one side ‘the me I am’, and on the other ‘the me I wanted to be’. It’s good to have both, and I still think “that’s so me” when I wear this kit. Slick, like Pierce Brosnan as Bond: capable, willing to get dirty, would prefer to stay clean, still taking care of business. This kit, in many ways, was also the stimulus for my entire life changing. That’s pretty significant. I bonded with the brand over Instagram and eventually they tracked down this illusive kit on my behalf. It was the first of what would be many signs of support from a growing brand. I’m grateful to call them my friends (and now, neighbours).
Frustrated professionally and, to an extent, with the sport of cycling for its lack of imagination, co-founder John Polson established Black Sheep in 2014 to have some fun. No intentions. No goals. It was just a creative outlet. An opportunity to create. To craft. A chance to make cycling kit which reflected people’s personal style and stand out from the masses.
Black Sheep are known for being different. You stand out from the crowd. Initially, that’s what got us a lot of notoriety. The Floral Finn, which came in Season Two, was pretty out there for its time. But it wasn’t just the kit that caught people’s attention. It was also the stories we told. We tried to challenge people, challenge the consensus of what cycling is all about. But do it in our on own way.
Black Sheep isn’t anti-establishment. Anti-establishment is doing something for the sake of being different. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Black Sheep is different, but it’s not crass, not immature, not repulsive. We do things in our own way. We tell stories in our own way, and at times we’re not afraid to be close to the bone or a little bit tongue in cheek. Stretch the boundaries; dare to be different.
For us, cycling kit is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s only one part of Black Sheep. What inspires us, gets us going in the morning, is what does Black Sheep mean outside of that? What does it mean to the person that’s waking up in the morning, making the decision to wear Black Sheep kit over any other brand? Why is that decision made? “I wanted this brand to be inclusive. I didn’t want it to be elitist,” says John. I wanted anyone to feel like they could connect with Black Sheep.”
Making our community feel a part of this; a part of our story was no coincidence. That was a definitive choice by us. In essence, Black Sheep began not intending to be the next greatest thing in cycling. It was formed to be a creative outlet, and that outlet is the stories we tell.
“What makes Black Sheep so incredibly inspiring to be a part of is the deep connection we have with our community,” says Nik Howe, Creative Director. “The enthusiasm with which people court our product or engage with our stories is truly infectious and resonates throughout everything we do.”
Each of our Nine LIMITED Seasons to date have been truly unique: defined by theme, mood or direction. Everyone has an interpretation of art and design which is entirely unique to them. But hopefully, by us telling the story behind the inspiration for our kits, it gets you thinking. It reflects on your personal experience. It makes our LIMITED range more than just a cycling kit. We want you to have an emotional connection with the designs we create.
Season X marks the end of LIMITED as you know it. But it’s also the beginning of a new era. We still want to create that sense of exclusivity. That sense of owning a kit that very few others have. But we want to take the LIMITED Release to a whole new level – expand our storytelling, take you deeper into the subject and drive that emotional connection of what makes you and us tick.
We’ve only just tapped the surface.