Many people ask
us about the name Harlot.
Certainly, an old word for prostitute might seem like an
odd thing to name a company after. We actually
have a good reason that makes sense to us. It
involves the history of women on bicycles and a little tongue-in-cheek fun.
In the late 1800's women began to
These first brave women were often ridiculed, as bicycling was
generally considered unsuitable for women at the time.
With the unladylike body position, the need to alter the
conservative dress code of the era, and the possibility of
falling (bruises were so unsexy back then), cycling was seen as
an activity of loose women or harlots.
As more women started riding, it
became apparent that there needed to be some serious changes to
their long, heavy dresses in order to make it more safe to ride
bikes. This led to the "rational dress" movement that
protested against any clothing for women that "deforms the
figure, impedes the movement of the body, or in any way tends to
injure the health. It protests against the wearing of tightly
fitted corsets, of high-heeled or narrow toed boots and shoes;
of heavily weighted skirts, as rendering healthy exercise almost
impossible ". As you can imagine, this movement
infuriated many conservatives. Women who wore bloomers or
other forms of altered dress while riding their bikes were fined
and treated like prostitutes.
Critics warned that the
"unfettered liberty of bicycling would intoxicate women to
immoral acts" and that the bicycle "promoted immodesty in
women". As Clare S.
Simpson noted, "The independent mobility of cyclists raised
genuine alarm for their physical, if not moral, safety; simply
put, the bicycle could easily take women to unsavoury places
where they might be endangered physically, or morally. Drawing on
previous knowledge of the kinds of women who deliberately made
themselves conspicuous in public, that is, prostitutes, there
would be a strong tendency to conclude that cycling women
were far from respectable: not exactly prostitutes, perhaps, but
possibly women of loose morals or with an undeveloped sense of
Women just put their
chins up and pedaled on.
In 1893, a supporter of women
cyclists said "Woman
has taken her stand, and her seat in the saddle. I am tolerably
certain that the net result will be that woman will take her
true position as man's equal."
In 1896 Susan B Anthony
said "Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I
think it has done more to emancipate women than any
single other thing in the world. It gives women a
feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice
every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel, the picture of
free, untrammeled womanhood."
It's true - I enjoy listing my title as Harlot President. I like to
say I'm heading over to Harlot Headquarters, our warehouse. And the
"harlot" embroidered across my bum gives me a little extra spunk and
sassiness when I hit the trail on my bike. I started this company in
2004 because I loved to ride but didn't feel there was
cycling apparel available that was "me". I wanted
clothing that was comfortable, functional, and also had
some style. Sometimes it seems the
cycling world could use a bit more gleeful sauciness. After all, bikes
are fundamentally a form of sheer, exhilarating, ageless fun. Lighten
up and ride!
Jennifer Steketee, Harlot President