AS ONE of Britain’s most decorated Olympians, he inspired a new generation not only to take to two wheels, but stash away the razor in the back of the bathroom cabinet.
But now, the hirsute mutton chops which acted as a focal point for Sir Bradley Wiggins’ image as an unlikely folk hero have been consigned to the barber’s floor.
In a stark style move, which will have British cycling fans fearing a modern update of the Biblical legend of Samson, the celebrated athlete has shaved off his iconic sideburns.
The 32-year-old unveiled a harsh new look at a press conference in Italy ahead of the Giro d’Italia.
Gone were the thick rouflaquettes which charmed even seasoned French fashionistas during his historic Tour de France victory last year, while his Mod-ish locks had been reduced to a buzz-cut ordinarily sported by disgruntled schoolboys clutching brand new pencil cases as they return to class after the summer break. Having long regarded his whiskers as good luck charms, Sir Bradley offered no explanation for his drastic image overhaul, short of reassuring the assembled press pack that he was no stranger to chopping and changing.
“I change my appearance all the time,” he insisted. “I’m a bit like the Scarlet Pimpernel.”
However, some observers believe the new cut may signal the cyclist’s desire to project a new public persona, courtesy of his well-documented unease with life as a celebrity.
Angela Marshall, an image consultant and owner of Appearance Management, suggested the loss of the chops was a sign that Sir Bradley was determined to shift the focus on to his racing.
“The sideburns, the Mod look, and his love of that whole look emphasised his creative, romantic personality rather than his cycling,” she explained. “Now, he is trying to create more of a serious, sporty look ahead of the big race he’s going into. I would say he wants to be seen as sharp, focused leader, and it’s going to give him a completely different image and attitude.
“He has said many times before he doesn’t like celebrity, and perhaps he’s determined to show this other side to him.”