Following on from the previous entry which covered the conception and birth of motorcycle fashion, it’s time to take a look at the next era in the history of gloves, helmets, jackets and, perhaps most exciting of all, riding chaps.
Picking up where we left off at the beginning of the 1930’s, we see what may only be described as a continuation of the 1920’s for the first half of the decade. The steady popularization of the leather bike jacket created by Irving Schott spread from the United States’ East Coast to just about every part of the world in possession of the motorcycle technology, and let’s be honest- it’s easy to see why.
This sense of travel and indeed community became synonymous with motorcycling from these early days, with notable world events all contributing to the forming of the modern image of motorcycle culture.
One such event, though extremely tragic, was pivotal in advancing the universal safety regulations, as well as, no matter how inadvertently, the fashion of motorcycling as a sport and as a way of life. This was the death of T.E Lawrence, or as he’s more commonly known ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, the decorated British Army Officer who was killed in road accident while atop his Brought Superior, just two months after leaving the service. An internationally renowned figure, his death prompted a rethinking of motorcycle safety conventions and standards.
As well as helmets for motorcycles becoming commonplace around this time, coveted waterproof wax biker jackets and full suits were introduced by British company Barbour.
By the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, the military motorcycle runner was far better equipped than his WWI predecessor. Dressed to the nine’s in his newly developed two-piece leather suit, incorporating both a biker jacket and riding chaps, protective helmets made from either cork or tin were also abundantly available. This marked the true international progression from cowhide to leather.
As with most areas of mechanics, motorcycle technology flourished in the years following the Second World War. The 1950’s saw the full integration of biker chaps and riding jackets into a combined suit- with renowned racer Geoff Duke becoming the first rider to wear a one-piece.
With riding chaps now all but redundant in racing circles, the 1960’s marked the loss of another as-of-yet-unchanged staple in motorcycle fashion- open faced helmets.
Produced by Roy Richter of Bell Auto, interestingly the very man responsible for leading the way with the initial production of open faced helmets, the first of the full face helmets arrived in the form of the now iconic Bell Star.