Book review: “The Art of the Jersey” looks back at a selection of cycling jerseys from as far back as 1952, right up to 2015. The jerseys are ordered chronologically, each presented via an individual colour photograph of its front (lying flat), together with some brief accompanying information. At the start of each chapter, the author, no doubt aided by the fact that he works for a cycling clothing company, is able to talk about developments/advances in materials and printing technologies used in producing the jerseys of the corresponding era. In particular, he explains that such advances allowed for more intricate and elaborate designs from the 1980's onwards, and thus the vast majority of the jerseys covered are drawn from this timeframe.
The balance struck between images and text works well for a book of this nature. The companion text for a jersey notes the manufacturer as well as frequently containing interesting notes on the associated team and its sponsors, though it has a slightly repetitive feel at times. The inclusion of comments on key riders to have worn the respective jerseys, and some of the things they achieved while wearing them, is a great idea as this will bring memories flooding back for many cycling enthusiasts. The action photos showing a small number of the jerseys being worn in competition are also a nice touch, but there are sadly relatively few of these.
Many of the 228 jerseys highlighted seem to be taken from the author's personal collection, and though the selection is certainly interesting, it isn't particularly comprehensive. While it would of course be unreasonable to expect to see every cycling jersey that ever existed, there were some surprising omissions. For example, there is not a single jersey from some very well-known and important teams such as Française des Jeux, Casino, AG2R, TVM, Cofidis, Europcar, GAN, Astana, BMC, Phonak, and Gerolsteiner. In addition, teams such as (Deutsche) Telekom, Festina, Banesto and Lampre each make only a single appearance with jerseys that many readers probably won't consider to be the "classical" designs most associated with those teams. There are perhaps a few too many versions of some jerseys (for example, Giro d'Italia leader's jerseys numbering into double figures, many of which look very similar), as well as some curious selections of commemorative jerseys and other jerseys that never belonged to any team. Replacing some of these with examples of those from a number of the aforementioned omitted teams would have improved the breadth of the selection.
From the perspective of a cycling enthusiast, this attractively presented book is enjoyable and certainly does a solid job of filling a void, as it isn't always easy to get that cycling jersey fix. However, it would have benefitted from a more structured approach to selecting the featured jerseys, and may not be comprehensive enough to live up to some cycling fan's expectations.
- Review by Dr. Mark Parsons, cycling enthusiast