Motorbike Wear: From Fashion to Safety

Motorcycle fashion wasn’t always inspired by James Dean or Marlon Brando.

However, their iconic looks come to mind when people think of motorbike wear. So, does every motorbike rider own a black leather jacket or Harley Davidson gloves? Regardless, motorbike fashion has certainly evolved over the years.

Early Motorbike Fashion

When motorcycles first became popular in the early 1900s, men were still socially required to look presentable, even while riding a motorbike. This meant that the tweed suit was the go-to outfit of choice. Men accessorized with a flat cap to keep their hair neat and wore full-length riding boots. 

A Time of Transition

As motorcycles became faster and more advanced, motorbike wear became more sophisticated in nature. Soon, gear with new protective attributes was created, such as equestrian-inspired gauntlet gloves that helped protect the skin. Motorcycle police and military personnel commonly wore these. 

After Harley Davidson was founded in 1903, tight-fitted competition sweaters made of bright wool and embroidered with the Harley brand name came onto the scene. By 1910, riding trousers, leather skull caps, and aircraft-spec goggles were added to keep riders further protected. The WWI era premiered the popularity of thick horsehide overcoats. However, in 1928, the first leather jacket was designed by Irving Schott of New York City, which he named Perfecto after his favorite cigar. 

Time to Take Safety Seriously

The year 1935 brought about some serious changes to motorbike gear. After Lawrence of Arabia (T.E. Lawrence) died in a motorcycle accident, the question of head protection arose. At the time, British WW2 dispatch riders were required to wear cork or tin crash helmets.

The debate about head protection led to the first full-face, cork-lined helmets in the 1960s. These eventually morphed into the advanced helmets you see today.

Motorbike Fashion Then and Now

The nostalgic ‘Moto’ jacket will always be part and parcel of motorcycle fashion. In fact, jeans, boots, and the black leather jacket will always be classic motorbike wear. That said, modern riders also don face masks, high-tech uniforms, and fluorescent-colored clothing today. In fact, savvy riders focus not only on looking stylish but also on staying safe on the road.