Motorcycle leather jacket

Motorcycle leather jacket

 

The mystique of the leather jacket as a symbol of the “rebel” and the “outlaw” was born, according to history, in 1947, when a group of bikers appeared in Hollister, a small city in California, causing panic among its inhabitants. LIFE magazine published a photo of the meeting that seemed like little more than a big party to get together and drink. But the United States, terrified by the gang phenomenon, lived this incident as the beginning of something really dangerous that threatened the American way of life.

 

 

The Beginnings. Motorcycle leather jacket

Motorcycle leather jacket

 

At first, motorcycle riding was not a sport for ordinary people; rather it was a hobby for well-off people who rode their rudimentary machines in a tweed suit.

The earliest jackets used were not much different than those worn by aviators, they were made of brown leather, usually horse leather, pigskin, or sheepskin, buttoned at the front and equipped with two front pockets. It offered protection against cold and bad weather without hindering driver mobility or increasing wind resistance.

Some preferred three-quarter coats made of horse leather, with a belt and lined with thick wool or sheepskin.

As the performance of motorcycles evolved, so did the equipment required to drive it, in 1920 the first leather pants to be worn with leggings appeared, this accessory inspired by the versions worn by European troops, protected riders of water, mud and engine oil. Leggings were abandoned in the 1940s and replaced by thick leather boots.

Before the introduction of hard helmets in the late 1940s, motorcyclists wore the same calfskin jacket model as aviation pilots, even until the late 1950s it were sold in the Harley Davidson and Buco catalogs.

In the 1940s and ’50s, leather lumbar belts appeared to provide back support.

At first, motorcycle riding was not a sport for ordinary people; rather it was a hobby for well-off people who rode their rudimentary machines in a tweed suit.

 

 

A growing industry. Motorcycle leather jacket

Motorcycle leather jacket

 

England was ahead in the design and manufacture of equipment for motorcyclists, as stores such as Harrods and Dunhill had begun to provide this type of clothing for motorcycle lovers.

Brands like Barbour and Belstaff, founded in 1924, offered protective clothing made from waxed cotton, designed to be waterproof but capable of “breathing.”

Belstaff, who would later provide Che Guevara with the Trialmaster canvas jacket when he made his motorcycle trip through South America, began manufacturing leather models in the 1930s, along with glasses, gloves, hats, and helmets and messenger bags.

A large number of motorcycle clothing manufacturers emerged in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Vanson, Langlitz Leathers, Buco, Trojan, Sears, Leathertogs, Hercules, Montgomery Ward, and finally Schott, who in 1928 introduced the 153, the perfect motorcycle jacket, the Perfecto, which has not yet been replaced.

England was ahead in the design and manufacture of equipment for motorcyclists, as stores such as Harrods and Dunhill had begun to provide this type of clothing for motorcycle lovers.

 

 

The second skin of bikers

Motorcycle leather jacket

 

For a charming peculiarity of fate. Policemen in the United States, dressed in leather, wore more or less the same outfit that would be adopted by young rebels, even criminals, just a few years later.

The Cycle Champ, made from horse skin and considered the most successful Harley-Davidson jacket, appeared in 1947, as did the Cycle Queen, designed specifically for the female motorcycle rider population.

Starting in the 1960s, when motorcycle racing began to attract more media coverage, manufacturers allowed themselves to be imaginative. Vanson, established in Boston in 1975, took over from major manufacturers like Buco and Beck, which disappeared in the 1970s.

These new manufacturers created new designs in over 50 color shades, skinny jackets, two-tone leather pants, fur patches, embroidered stars, and more.

A protective garment yes, but it was much more than that; the leather outfit remains to this day synonymous with freedom and adventure.

For a charming peculiarity of fate. Policemen in the United States, dressed in leather, wore more or less the same outfit that would be adopted by young rebels, even criminals, just a few years later.

 

 

Bad boys

Motorcycle leather jacket

 

In the 1950s, the black leather jacket, worn by “thugs” and motorcycle gangs, was associated with insubordination and rebellion. More than any other item of clothing, it seemed to give the wearer a unique sense of power, like modern armor.

The teenagers who rebelled against the consumer society adopted it as a kind of uniform. In 1953, Laslo Benedek’s The Wild One propelled Marlon Brando to iconic status for an entire generation and also introduced the gang phenomenon to the general public.

The film was banned in Britain until 1967. Actors who wore this type of clothing on the big screen embodied the perfect look for young people who wanted to escape the rituals that govern their entry into the adult world.

The heroes of the 1969 road movie Easy Rider wore two types of leather clothing: Dennis Hopper wore a fringed buckskin jacket and Peter Fonda wore tight black leather pants and a jacket with the American flag on the back.

Later, in 1983, Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish, it was Mickey Rourke’s turn to play the “motorcycle boy” Rusty James, who fascinates everyone in the community in which he lives, especially his brother, played by Matt. Dillon.

In the 1950s, the black leather jacket, worn by “thugs” and motorcycle gangs, was associated with insubordination and rebellion. More than any other item of clothing, it seemed to give the wearer a unique sense of power, like modern armor.

 

 

A worldwide phenomenon. Motorcycle leather jacket

Motorcycle leather jacket

 

Motorcycle and gang phenomena were not limited to North America.

From Stockholm to Singapore, gang exploits began to alarm authorities. Studies and surveys published in 1959 showed that juvenile delinquency had increased by 106 percent over a five-year period in the United States and by 75 percent in just two years in England, where several regular prisons were converted into juvenile reformatories.

In Paris, there were an estimated eighty gangs made up of almost 10,000 teenagers.

In England, “ton-up” boys dressed in leather crowded into London’s suburban cafes like Snitch’s, Ted’s and the famous Ace Café, which would be the set for the 1963 film The Leather Boys.

During the spring and summer of 1964, the beaches of Hastings and Brighton, on the south coast of England, became battlegrounds between Mods and Rockers, which inspired Frank Roddam’s 1979 film Quadrophenia, with music by The Who.

Motorcycle and gang phenomena were not limited to North America.

 

 

Two gangs and the Hells Angels

Motorcycle leather jacket

 

“In an extremely simplistic way, mods and rockers represented the two key attitudes of British youth in their efforts to deal with the identity crisis created by the new state of affairs,” wrote Farid Chenoune in his book Des Modes et des Hommes.

“By stepping out of society with their fierce nostalgia for a mythologized past, the rockers symbolized the rejection of these new opportunities. On the other hand, the Mods liked everything that was modern and new, in other words, consumable.”

As the rockers donned their jeans and leather jackets and perpetuated the cult of motorcycles and rock ‘n’ roll, the mods rode on the elegant Vespas and Lambrettas, clad in Clarks Desert boots and anoraks, three-quarter faux coats. in length, knit polo necks and clean jeans.

In the United States, the fashion adopted by the Hells Angels was probably the most extravagant expression of leather clothing. The insignia by which they could be identified was a winged skull wearing a motorcycle helmet.

At first, the Hells Angels, on their Harley-Davidson with their huge front forks, formed a gang in Los Angeles whose members were given colorful nicknames like “Discharge Charlie” and “Torpedo Billy”. The Hells Angels would be properly organized after 1954, circulating in large groups on the roads of California.

In the United States, the fashion adopted by the Hells Angels was probably the most extravagant expression of leather clothing. The insignia by which they could be identified was a winged skull wearing a motorcycle helmet.

 

 

 

 

Source: “The leather book” of Anne-Laurie Quilleriet

Klauer & Iannuzzi | 2020 | Motorcycle leather jacket