Go online and search for the perfect biker wardrobe and you’ll get hundreds of images of black leather jackets, vests, ripped jeans, t-shirts, boots, and a variety of helmets. Your social media feed will fill with pop-up ads for tees with slogans like, 100% Biker, Born to Ride, Wild and Free, and Life’s Better on a Bike.
But what are the essential elements of a biker’s wardrobe and how has that style changed over the years? What screams rebellion as you take off on the open road to the next biker rally like Daytona Bike Week or Sturgis?
First, we need to take a step back to the early 1900s when motorcycle riding was an expensive hobby for primarily wealthy men who rode in tweed suits and flat caps. As racing increased in popularity fashion evolved into motorcycle sweaters followed by more mainstream gear like the iconic leather jacket.
But not all biker wardrobe choices are created equal. There’s “protective” safety gear that will hold up if you sustain a roadside crash, and then there’s the biker clothing you just added to your Amazon cart. A hard-core biker’s wardrobe doesn’t come cheap. A full-face helmet runs on average $200, a leather jacket goes for almost $400, protective boots will set you back $200, a good pair of pants $150, and leather gloves about $75. That’s almost $1,000 for ONE outfit. According to The Badass History of Biker Fashion on www.bikerringshop.com, “the leather biker jacket is crucial to biker fashion, and the first thing that comes to mind when you think of bikers.” But did you know the jacket originated during WWII as protective outerwear for the military?
The Perfecto named after the designer’s favorite cigars, was the first true leather jacket made in 1928 by a man named Irving Schott who was trying to create a functional leather zippered biker jacket more out of necessity than a fashion piece. He sold the original Perfecto for $5.50! Schott’s jacket had zippers and pockets mimicking the style of biker jackets today. The Perfecto became a mainstay in the biker community after Marlon Brando wore the piece as a leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club in the movie, The Wild One in 1953. In the years that followed, leather jackets grew in popularity not just in the biker community but with musicians like The Beatles, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols.
Like jackets, motorcycle vests were originally worn for protection during WWII, but quickly became a staple in biker fashion. Vests offered a more comfortable option during warmer weather giving more ventilation and mobility. Personalized vests grew in popularity branding motorcycle clubs and further bonding the community. Skulls were seen on jackets and vests and soon became a symbol of immortality, power, and rebellion in the biker wardrobe.
But what if you can’t afford the best protective gear or are simply looking for more casual options for the next biker rally? At festivals in warmer climates like Daytona, you’ll see everything from women in tanks, short faux leather or jean shorts, bikini tops and head wraps, to men with torn jeans, bandanas, and personalized biker tees ordered online or available from vendors at the event. Companies like www.bikerlifeusa.com and www.hotleathers.com partner with rallies like Daytona Bike Week and Sturgis offering a selection of men’s and women’s apparel. Although protective gear is a must when riding, hanging out at a biker festival pretty much anything goes! So, grab your boots, tees and leather shorts and remember, it’s not the destination, it’s the ride…but make sure you arrive in STYLE!