The Evolution of Motorcycle Style.
From gentleman’s pursuit to panther trademark, a history of the motorcycling aesthetic and its revolutionary effects on culture and fashion.
The Tweed Suit
In the early days of motorcycling, riding was an expensive activity pursued almost exclusively by men of means, and motorcycles were less a form of transportation than a way to spend a sunny day in the park. Propriety dictated that a gentleman be presentable when he went out for a spin, and since tweed suits were the standard countryside uniform of the the late-nineteenth century, so it was for motorcyclists as well. The only item of clothing shared by the common man was the full-length boots worn to protect the feet.
The Flat Cap and Gauntlet Gloves
The first to really establish a motorcycling uniform were the police and military riders of the early-twentieth century. By that point, motorcycles had become fast enough that more protection was necessary. Taking a page out of the equestrian handbook, riders began wearing gauntlet gloves along with their full-length boots to keep the wind out, as well as provide a little extra skin protection should they go down. A less protective addition to the motorcycling wardrobe was the flat cap, most often worn by couriers and police officers.
El suéter de competición
A finales de la adolescencia y principios de la década de los '20, el motociclismo de competición se hizo popular gracias a las mejoras en la confiabilidad y el manejo. La prenda elegida por los corredores fue el suéter de competición. Hechos de lana de colores brillantes, los suéteres eran ajustados para evitar ondearse en el viento, y tenían el nombre de la marca de motocicletas o del club bordados en la parte delantera con letras de fieltro. El suéter de la competencia se convirtió en una insignia de honor para los corredores de motos y clubes, y sigue siendo popular entre los entusiastas de la vendimia hoy en día.
The Leather Jacket
As motorcycles got faster, the need for protective clothing grew, and many bikers turned to the thick leather horsehide of World War I-era military overcoats. In 1928, Irving Schott, a jacket maker in New York City, created the first leather jacket specifically for motorcycling. Named after his favorite cigar, the Perfecto, the jacket originally retailed for $5.50. In time, Schott’s black leather jacket would become synonymous with motorcycling.
The Wad-Cotton Motorcycle Jacket.
In England, motorcycling means dealing with inclement weather, and while leather is great for protecting the skin, it doesn’t keep out the rain. In 1935, J. Barbour & Sons, a company that had been making hunting jackets since 1894, created the first waterproof wad-cotton jackets just for motorcyclists. The jackets had four pockets, the upper left angled specifically for maps, and they quickly became the wet-weather motorcyclist’s protection of choice, and remained so until rival company Belstaff created the now iconic wad-cotton Trialmaster in 1948. Famous motorcyclists from Che Guevara to Steve McQueen to Ewan McGregor have been known to rock both of these classic jackets.
The Engineer Boot
No one knows for sure when the engineer boot first appeared, although some have dated it as far back as 1928. It was likely developed sometime in the ‘30s, with two companies, Chippewa and West Coast Shoe Company, as its earliest manufacturers. The engineer boot was made with a stovepipe leg fashioned over an English riding boot, and was created for engineers working on America’s railroads during the Depression. It wasn’t until the ‘40s, however, that the boot became the footwear of choice for motorcyclists. To this day, if you’re going for the classic biker look, you can’t do it without a pair of black engineer boots.
When Brando first appeared on movie screens as Johnny Strabler in the 1953 classic The Wild One, few people in America had ever actually witnessed a biker gang. Aside from the ridiculous canvas cap (which real bikers never wore), Brando nailed the uniform of a ’50s biker: the black leather Schott Perfecto jacket, the blue jeans, the engineer boots. It was a look that would go on to inspire rebels, teens, musicians, and outlaws for generations to come, not to mention an entire culture of motorcycling in the U.K. called “ton-up” boys, who gave us, among other motorcycling iconography, the café racer.