The Next Must-Have Adventure Gear? The ‘Invisible’ Bike Helmet

The Hövding Invisible Bike Helmet

Hate traveling with a bulky, plastic bike helmet? Say hello to the Hövding Bike Helmet, an ingenious invention out of Sweden that takes up only a sliver of space in your luggage and activates only upon impact, much like a car’s airbag.

Reminiscent of the zippered collar of an athletic jacket, the scarf-like Hövding contains a folded-up “invisible” nylon hood whose trigger mechanisms are controlled by sensors that pick up on the abnormal movements of the bike rider wearing it. The sensors are charged via USB port.Admittedly, the inflated hood does look a bit dorky, despite the lovely Swedish model wearing it. Then again, helmet head could become a thing of the past once the Hövding takes off. Another stylish aspect of this space-saving design is that its shell is interchangeable, allowing bikers to match the collar with their outfits.

I would run out and get a Hövding immediately, but there are two problems. One: it’s sold only in Sweden and the United Kingdom. Two: it currently retails for around $560.

Once the price comes down for the Hövding, do you think you’d buy it to augment or replace your travel gear? Tell us in the comments!

A Few Thoughts On Italian Fashion

italian woman looking in mirrorIt’s 85 degrees outside and even hotter inside the train carriage, but a young Italian couple dressed in layers – shirts, sweaters, jackets and scarves – is adamant about keeping their windows sealed tight despite the lack of air conditioning. A poet from New Zealand named Gerry is dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, as am I, and we’re roasting. We want the windows open; they want them closed. It’s unclear if they don’t want the wind to ruffle their hair, or if they’re not as hot as we are, but the cultural difference is clear.

Italians dress for the season, not for the weather at hand, so I amused myself last week as the mercury soared near the 90 degree mark watching Italians continue to dress in what could be considered winter or spring attire. Every time I saw someone all bundled up in a down coat and scarf, despite the heat, I’d feel the need to point them out to my wife. “Look at that guy,” I’d say. “It’s in the 80’s and he’s wearing a down coat!”

Even men in uniform get in on the act. I’ve seen both soldiers and train conductors wearing colorful scarves coiled tightly around their necks despite the heat. They look cool but it makes no sense to me. Who would want a scarf tied tightly around their neck like a noose on an 85-degree day? Italian men, that’s who. The scarf-wearing soldier was also brandishing a man purse – try pulling that look off in the United States Marine Corps and you might end up in Guantanamo.Children are bundled even more, especially babies. I saw one baby swaddled in so many blankets that it looked ready to join Roland Amundson’s North Pole Expedition, despite the 80-degree weather. North Americans, particularly cold weather people like me (I’m from Buffalo), have a different sense of warmth but fashion obviously plays a role as well.

Most Italians don’t use dryers, so all you have to do is walk through a neighborhood on a sunny day to see people’s wardrobes hanging on clotheslines for all to see. They like to dress in layers and they usually look good, if uncomfortable. North Americans place more of a premium on comfort. Sure, we might go out in sweat pants, or, God forbid, pajamas, but by God, while we might not look great, we will feel good.

This past weekend in Assisi, it was fascinating to see Italians and foreign tourists mingling together on the same streets. Americans looked ready for the beach; Italians the ski slopes. At one point, we were waiting for a bus in an unforgivingly sunny spot with no shade, and I was standing near a man wearing a button-down shirt, a sweater and a down jacket totally zipped up. He wasn’t a terrorist concealing a bomb; he was just an ordinary Italian bundled up for a sunny, 85-degree day. Dressing for summer in April is like ordering a cappuccino after 10 a.m. or having pizza AND pasta – it simply isn’t done in Italy.

I can understand some Italian but I don’t speak the language. That’s a shame, because I wanted to grab the man by his down coat, shake him, and say, “Good lord, man, what on earth is wrong with you! It feels like July out here, why are you all bundled up?”

italian man in a speedoAside from the layered, season-yes, current conditions-no approach, Italian men also wear their clothes at least a size or two smaller than North American men might. I’ve also seen the odd Italian youth sporting the baggy, have a look at my underwear jeans, but for every one of them, there are 100 holdouts that like ’em tight.

Thankfully, younger Italian men seem to be moving away from the skimpy, tight speedo bathing suits at the beach, but older Italian men are still into this look. On the facial hair front, designer beards seem to be in, ditto for prominent, chunky glasses, man purses and brightly colored apparel with brand names.

And despite all the cultural differences, you still see quite a few Italians wearing outfits bearing the Stars and Stripes, and, even more common, the Playboy logo. Here’s hoping that the weather in Italy will become more spring-like, so the poor Italians don’t have to sweat it out in their spring clothing until the calendar tells them it’s time to get comfortable.

[Photos by ЕленАндреа and Elmo H. Love on Flickr]

Seattle Ranked ‘Best City For Hipsters’ According To Travel & Leisure

hipsterSo Travel & Leisure has published a list of “America’s Best Cities for Hipsters.” This is amusing – and a wee bit annoying) to me for a variety of reasons – not least of which because Seattle makes the top of the list. I’ve lived here (actually “there,” because as I write this, I’m in a sublet in Oakland) for nearly three years. Apparently, I’m reverse-trending, because San Francisco is #3 (Portland, OR is #2).

As the sun (metaphorically – this is Seattle we’re talking about) sets on my time in the Pacific Northwest and I prepare to relocate back to the Bay Area for what I hope to be at least a couple of years, I’m filled with mixed emotions. Hipster-mocking and -baiting has been one of my favorite pastimes in Seattle, which is both ironic and hypocritical of me when you take T & L‘s definition of “hipster” into consideration:

“They sport vintage bowling shoes and the latest tech gear-but they also know all the best places to eat and drink. [The magazine] ranked 35 metropolitan areas on culturally relevant features like live music, coffee bars, and independent boutiques. To zero in on the biggest hipster crowds, we also factored in the results for the best microbrews and the most offbeat and tech-savvy locals.

It’s our take on the debated term hipster….whatever your take, you generally know hipsters when you see them-most likely in funky, up-and-coming neighborhoods. A smirking attitude toward mainstream institutions means they tend to frequent cool, often idiosyncratic restaurants, shops, and bars-the same kinds of venues that appeal to travelers looking for what they can’t find at home. There’s also an eco-conscious influence in contemporary hipsterdom.”

So let me get this straight: I’m a hipster because I care about the environment, and I write about food, thus I eat and drink in places that are too idiosyncratic for mere mortals. And jeez, I just edited a craft beer guide. And I really support my local indie businesses. Conversely, I know jack about tech, and you will never, ever see me in a pair of bowling shoes. I also want to bitch-slap the bejesus out of smirky, pretentious funksters who feel the need to categorize themselves in order to maintain a sense of self. Cliques are for high school, kids.

[Image via Flicker user Conor Keller]yellow shoesI also find it deeply ironic that a luxury magazine likes to think it knows what’s hip, because real hipsters love nothing more than a bargain, whether it’s $2 happy hour PBR’s or a sweet bowling shirt from Value Village. I can assure you the average T & L reader does not shop at Value Village.

What I find interesting, however, is that part of my mixed feelings about leaving Seattle have to do with its very hipsterness. I love street fashion, vintage, indie anything, tattoos and food artisans (hipster alert!). People watching has been one of my favorite activities in Seattle, because most Seattlites have such great style. It’s a city where the alternative-minded can grow old semi-gracefully, without looking like roadkill from Gen X or beyond. In Seattle, no one gives a f— about what you look like, or what you’re into. You can just be.

It’s sheer coincidence that last week, while reacquainting myself with Berkeley (where I lived for nearly a decade), I wondered why it is the natives here have no style (in my hipster eye view, pilled fleeces, flowy hemp clothing and ergonomic shoes are terminally unhip). I already missed Seattle’s eclectic street style, which never fails to inspire, amuse, and yes, sometimes horrify me (Boys, please stop with the neon, nuthugger skinny ankle jeans. Just sayin’).

Is this essentially a very shallow essay on an incredibly superficial topic? Yes, absolutely. But if it is a “tipping point” as T & L claims, then hell, I’m game. I’m ultimately leaving Seattle – an amazing, beautiful, vibrant city – because the climate kicked my ass (see my forthcoming post on “Sleeping In Seattle: SAD And Its Side Effects”). I’m back in the Bay Area because the economy is simmering and for someone in the food business, this is Ground Zero.

You can’t have it all, and the grass is always greener. Those cliches aren’t very hip, but they’re true. I miss all the hipsterness that once surrounded me, but I also love seeing sun, citrus trees and the Bay Area’s unbeatable food scene again. And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m trading down to a place a little less hip. I can always visit Seattle when I’m feeling frumpy.

[Image via Flickr user Andrew . Walsh]

How to Dress Like a Hipster

Gadling gear review: Clever Travel Companion secret-pocket tank top and underwear

travel clothing When going abroad, one of the biggest concerns for travelers is keeping their valuables safe from pick-pocketers. While fanny packs may be a decent option, they’re also a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist, making you an even easier target for getting ripped off. Then there are money belts, which are great fashion-wise, however, tend to get itchy and leave sweat marks when it’s hot out. That’s why I was excited when I found out about The Clever Travel Companion‘s line of “100% pick-pocket proof” clothing.

I tried a solid black tank top with hidden pockets, as well as a pair of underwear with pockets. To be honest, with or without the pockets I would definitely buy this tank top. It’s not too tight, not too loose, made of 100% cotton, and actually feels like a second skin it’s so comfortable. Even after walking around in it for an entire day it didn’t stretch out or chafe my skin. The pockets make it that much better, as the zipper is literally right above your stomach, allowing for easy access to all of your important documents while still keeping them safe from thieves. You can wear it as an undershirt or as a shirt on its own.

underwear The underwear, which are actually more like boy-short bathing suit bottoms, are also extremely comfortable and made of 94% rayon and 6% spandex. When I first saw them I was a little worried they’d tug, slide up, or show through my pants; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they did none of these things. In fact, I forgot I was even wearing them. What I really like about this product is there are two zipper-pockets right in front, making it really easy to quickly get to your things while also eliminating the nervousness back-pockets cause of never really knowing if your stuff is still there.

The Clever Travel Companion has created an extremely useful yet comfortable set of clothing options for travelers, especially when you also think about the extra accessories you now won’t have to pack. Secret-pocket tank tops and t-shirts cost $39.90, while the women’s underwear costs $29.90. There are also products for men, including long johns ($39.90) and men’s underwear ($29.90).

6 ways to crash New York Fashion Week

new york fashion week

Twice a year, Manhattan’s streets are flooded with high heels, red lips, and designer clothing as the world’s fashion community descends upon the city for New York Fashion Week.

The week-long event, officially called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (nod to sponsors), runs from February 9 to 16 and will feature presentations by some of the world’s most famous fashion designers of their Fall/Winter 2012 collections. The runway shows are invitation-only, with most seats reserved for press, buyers, and friends of the designer. The after-parties are equally exclusive, with tight guest lists and strict door policies.

But although it’s a mostly closed event, it is possible for New York visitors and residents to get in on the action. Here are six ways to “crash” Fashion Week from outside the industry.

1. Park yourself at Lincoln Center. Since 2010, the hub of New York Fashion Week has been Lincoln Center, after the organizers abandoned the traditional tents at Bryant Park. Throughout Fashion Week, the plaza outside the center is a flurry of activity, with a constant stream of people entering and exiting while paparazzi fight for photos of celebrities and socialites. Bundle up, grab a spot, and feel the energy.

2. Check out Fashion Week’s other venues. Milk Studios, in Chelsea, is the unofficial second main venue of Fashion Week, hosting shows for designers like Peter Som and Cushnie et Ochs throughout the week. Other designers choose to hold their shows at more off-beat (and open) locations. Victoria Beckham, for instance, will be showing her latest line at the New York Public Library, while the 3.1 Phillip Lim show will be held on the Highline. A full schedule, with locations, is available from

3. Visit the FIT Museum’s new exhibit. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology will host the first-ever exhibition celebrating the work of the Council for American Fashion Designers from February 10 to April 20. Titled Impact: Fifty Years of the CFDA, the exhibit will feature more than 100 garments from the council’s most impactful designers, including Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, and other fashion heavy-hitters. Admission to the museum is free.

4. Explore the Garment District. The Garment District, located right smack in midtown, is the historic center of New York’s fashion industry. A daytime stroll will find you in the midst of truck deliveries, rolling clothing racks, and anxious interns running errands, and the energy multiplies during Fashion Week. Stay alert, and you may even recognize a familiar face; I spotted designer Anna Sui during a recent visit.

5. Reserve a room at a stylish hotel. It used to be that New York’s most fashionable nightlife was centered around the Meatpacking District, but not any more. This season, Fashion Week’s notorious after-parties will be held in venues across Manhattan, and many of the most stylish hotspots are hidden in hotels. While reserving a room won’t guarantee entrance to the events, it might certainly help. Start with the Ace Hotel, the Hotel Gansevoort, the Gramercy Park Hotel, the brand new Dream Downtown Hotel, and the always risque Standard Hotel.

6. Watch on Facebook. The democratization of fashion continues on Facebook, where people around the world can snag front row seats to shows from designers like Michael Kors, Betsey Johnson, Narciso Rodriguez, Jill Stuart, and BCBGMAXAZRIA. Sure, it’s by live video stream, but until you’re a famous fashion blogger, it’ll have to do.

[Flickr images via Art Comments, Paul Lowry and Jimmy Baikovicius, other image via Fashion Institute of Technology]