Review: Belgian Boys Club Flandrien Tshirt
(2016) Someone in my immediate family was once a member of a college fraternity. When this family member visited me at college, he expressed his satisfaction at locating the same Greek letters near my dorm. After a brief conversation, I had learned of some secret handshake the bros apparently have to identify one another. My off-the-cuff response was to have him show me the shake; perhaps, I thought, it may come in handy in the future. He immediately refused.
A few years ago I created a computer document titled One Hundred Things to Do Before I Die. It’s my bucket list. I haven’t checked it since making it, and I didn’t make it to 100 things. Certainly attending a Spring Classic in Belgium is on that list. My goal would be to blend in with the locals. To look like I belong there. I would certainly try to avoid looking like an idiot abroad with many people asking if parts were loose up top.
I feel like I just got one step closer to being in the club and blending in at the same time. Just the other day a DHL deliveryman asked for my signature (the club stature is starting already with people asking for my autograph), and I tore into the shipment with excitement. There was the Belgian Boys Club Flandrien Tshirt. First the autograph to the DHL guy, now an official entry into the club. I’m one flight (and two seasons, but who’s counting?) from taking a pen and scratching something off my list.
The shirt is white with proper fuzzy lettering in the college style in the States. It’s cotton with a small amount of stretchiness built into it. But here’s how my imagination soars: I imagine pulling the shirt on the morning of the Tour of Flanders. It naturally remains white through the Belgian weather. I am holding a Kwaremont Beer while standing at the Muur van Geraardsbergen, which is happily making its return for 2017. But here’s the best part, no one knows I’m not Belgian.
All I have to do is stand there, sip occasionally, look at my phone as if someone is about to call, cheer for the roughly five minutes as the race passes through, then run the 100 kilometers to the finish line for Tom Boonen’s signature under the word Flandrien on my shirt. This is so perfect; it’s impossible for it to not work out.
But here’s the thing: Say I don’t wind up going to Belgium for the Tour. Say I don the shirt on any given day from now until race day. I will walk down the street seeing people screw up their faces trying to figure out what my shirt means. I will also see people who certainly know what my shirt means. We don’t need some special handshake. We already speak the same language. I may not be a Flandrien, or a Wallonne, or a Belgian for that matter. But cyclists, particularly the Spring Classic specialists and their fans, have their own way of communicating, and I’m completely ok with that.