While he isn’t being one of the OG mountain bike photographers, Geoff Waugh runs Dirty Jerseys, a celebration of race kit through the ages.
If you’ve no idea who Geoff Waugh is, then shame on you. He’s one of the photographers that stalked the World Cup circuit back in the day and populated everyone’s favourite soil-based magazine with his celluloids. You can catch our interview with the man himself here.
Away from capturing wonderful pictures of people, Geoff also heads up Dirty Jerseys, a celebration of mountain bike race kit.
Who is Geoff Waugh?
A retrogrouch adrift in a sea of stinky Lycra.
How did Dirty Jerseys come about?
Dirty Jerseys is just another idea that came from the necessity of finding new projects to keep myself sane and occupied as a freelancer. I had thought about for about three years before kicking off.
It was a retro MTB page on Facebook that finally gave me the spur to get off my arse. The hardest bit was coming up with a name. There are plenty of fitting names for road jerseys but it had to connect to off-road somehow to make the distinction.
Why do you think people are fascinated by race kit?
Are they? I really hope so!
Obviously it has the whiff of nostalgia. They might have raced in identical kit or, most probably, replica kit and remember all the dusty trails and scabby knees. Some just look so good.
For instance one of my all time kits was Schwinn Toyota. Red, white and black with chequerboard flashes. Dave Cullinan wore red, white and black Vans when he was on the team and looked the bollocks. The bikes looked great too.
Or say, the Dos Equis Barracuda team- they looked wicked but I’ve yet to see a jersey surface anywhere other than the wall of Juergen Beneke’s office!
For me it is a big element of that but also the art and design of MTB jerseys. When most of us veterans started riding/racing MTBs they only kit available was the same Lycra that the roadies wore. In time the designs changed to reflect the new and distinctly separate sport. One with its own attitude.
Look at the Brixton Cycles Bontrager ‘rasta’ jersey. Brilliantly simple and instantly recognisable. It does its job well. Shape and materials of manufacture advanced too. I mean some of the late 90s downhill jerseys are big enough to be spinnakers on a round the world yacht. The manufacture is very patchy too.
Trying to lay jerseys flat to photograph brings that home. Twisted seams anybody?
How many jerseys do you own and how do you go about acquiring them?
Oh boy, shall I count? Nah, get outta here. I want to stress though, I am not a collector. I have none of my own jerseys from back in the day; all discarded. But I have quite a few now; let’s say I try to keep them in a sealed box because the smell of man musk can get be a little overpowering.
When I set out to make this project I searched eBay and other sites, and contacted the riders themselves, since that’s what the stories are about. Thing is most often the team jerseys are different from the replicas. Sponsors changed and patches were hastily sewn on. Or there was a UK and International team so the sponsors will differ again. Or the kit changed mid-season for whatever reason.
I have had people saying ‘oh, so and so’s got a World Champs jersey from such and such a year’ but that’s not what I want. The story is the jersey that he or she was wearing when they did that world-beating ride. Not the podium jersey. There are exceptions, for example I have one of Rachel Atherton’s Trek Racing jerseys from her incredible 2016 season. It contains the rainbow stripes but was not the World Champs’ jersey.
What’s your favourite jersey that you own?
Tough, but if pushed I would say the 1993 Ritchey jersey donated by the legend that is Thomas Frischknecht. Frischi was The Man in the early to mid 1990s and that jersey itself is instantly recognisable.
I have the purple and orange Answer Manitou jersey which makes me think of the bikes. Then I have some that I like because they are pretty. A Salsa piece for example. I don’t own one, but the book will include the Mud Dock team jersey. I always thought Mud Dock looked the shit when they pulled into the race venue in their big truck. The kit was khaki camo with orange graphics and they were sponsored by San Miguel.
Who else was backed by a beer company? Oh yeah, er, Trick Racing had Coors – but no contest eh?!
What’s the best jersey you’ve had in your hands, but had to give back?
I reckon the Alpinestars Honda jersey one off that Greg Minnaar rode in at Fort William in 2005. The graphics are real metal after Alpinestars discovered a way to print it onto the cloth material. I had a rainbow and sequins skinsuit that belonged to Paola Pezzo, the former World and Olympic champion. I had to send a carrier to Spain to collect and return for those two prizes.
Is there a jersey in the collection that might not be in the top three but has a ridiculous story behind it?
Not that I can recall (I have a lot of em) but there is one with a crazy story involving a very well known XC rider who once had a mole and a moustache.
Is there a Holy Grail jersey you’re chasing or would kill to get your hands on?
Yes. More than one. Any jersey from John Tomac. A Klein or JT Racing bones jersey from Tinker Juarez. One of Greg Herbold’s mad Axo suits from the early days. I have had short email conversations with JT and HB but nothing has come of them. I understand people are busy. It’s almost like I have to jump on a plane to hunt those down. And I wouldn’t discount that happening.
One I really wanted – because I have a shot of him in it – is the muscle skin suit Cedric Garcia wore when he was on the Cannondale team. He had one, Anne Caro had one and Mario Cipollini had one, which is the one that most people would have seen. But Cedric tells me they were auctioned off for charity not long after the season. I want a Sunn Chippie jersey too from Nico or Anne Caro.
Can you think of a jersey you would never have in your collection because it’s so awful?
I want to say anything by Primal Wear but I know I am being sent a Primal full length skinsuit which cannot be ignored! I really didn’t like those Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones jerseys but each to their own. And who wants to ride around dressed like a massive baked bean tin?!
How far off is the Dirty Jerseys book?
The 64 million dollar question. I have had a love hate affair with it. I shelved it for a while because I wasn’t getting the response I hoped for. I got pretty depressed with all the false promises to be honest. I know I have missed two advertised release dates and that is the reason. But recently the spark has returned and I have been beavering away again.
To be honest I am a magazine guy and not a book publishing guy and the two are very different beasts. I am still taking advice on the way to go and am open to all suggestions in that respect. If someone wants to jump on board as a sponsor or whatever get in touch!
Where next for Geoff Waugh? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?
The only helpers I need in respect of this project is a sub editor to pick up on my grammar, spelling and factual errors. Memories are short and the internet only goes back so far. And then a good designer to make the package look great.
I had a little chat with a guy called Swifty recently. Switfty is responsible for most of the Acid Jazz designs and Straight No Chaser designs through the 1990s and beyond. His eye is right for my book. We’ll have to see if his fee is the same!
Anybody to thank at this point in the journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?
I’d like to thank the inventors of Febreeze for all their hard work. And John Chennells for letting me muck out his stable. Also people who have had the trust to send me their precious jerseys on the strength of a Facebook message. They will all get a mention in dispatches.