We come across a lot of interesting, and occasionally questionable, characters while trolling the fashionable side of Instagram, but never one like this. Meet Chris Tolley (www.instagram.com/tolleyalways). The 24-year-old Allston resident works in high-end retail, but spends his free time riding and competing on BMX bikes. He’s been all over the country with his BMX team. When he’s not riding bikes, he’s photographing them and creating video. While he zips around on 100-mile-plus rides, he’s daydreaming of Dior Homme and Jil Sander. The man has very good, and very pricey, taste. Time to take a spin with this stylish cyclist.
Q. You’re a tasty contradiction of fashion and BMX. Try to remember the moment your BMX obsession began.
A. It began at 12 when I rode my cousin’s bike. I’d tried skating before, but it didn’t take. So when my cousin said try bikes, I figured it’d be a good alternative. I rode a dirt jump we carved out of a hill in someone’s yard for about five hours and it was one of the best memories I have. Five knee surgeries, three broken bones, two concussions, and a shoulder surgery later, and I’m still trying to ride every chance I get.
Q. Is there a cult of BMX? And is there a sub-cult of fashionable BMX racers?
A. There’s actually a BMX brand named Cult and they have one of the biggest followings in BMX. But in terms of BMX cliques, there are hundreds across the country. If there are BMX-ers into fashion, I’d love to meet them. In BMX, the furthest fashion goes is graphic T-shirts with cats and pentagrams on them. It’s all relatively utilitarian pieces. When I’m riding BMX I wear skinny jeans and tall tees.
Q. Is the love of fashion a by-product of working in high-end retail?
A. I was into fashion long before I started selling. It started when I thrifted my first designer piece for $30 (a navy Gucci shirt that I still have) in 2007. I was amazed with the fit and quality. Cultivating your own aesthetic is a lot of fun and I’ve been playing around with it for six years now.
Q. You go on some incredibly long rides. Do you have a favorite route for your 100-mile treks?
A. From Boston to Wachusett Mountain is probably my favorite. It’s a solid 115 miles with a 5,000-foot elevation gain. It’s beautiful once you get out of the city, and you have 30 minutes of descent on the way back home.
Q. Time to play “castaway.” You’re stranded on a desert island. You can only wear the clothes of one designer, listen to the music of one band, and read the work of one author. Which do you choose?
A. As far as clothes go, Dries Van Noten jumps out. His Spring/Summer 2014 line is full of incredibly luxurious sheer fabrics and dark floral prints. I figure that would be pretty comfortable on a beach, right? You can’t really beat a see-through gothic Hawaiian shirt. If I had to choose a band it would be the Knife. They’re wonderful Swedish siblings that make some of the most interesting electronic music. I’ve been obsessed with Vladimir Nabokov since I read “Lolita.” Every time I re-read something by him I always find something I missed.
Q. What was the best gift you received for Christmas this year?
A. This was the first Christmas I spent without my family and subsequently the first one where I didn’t have any gifts to open. I received my Christmas gift back in July when my parents helped send me to the French Alps to ride road bikes during the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France.