Biker fashion has been around for many decades and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The style, which reached its height of popularity in the 1960s, has evolved over time and is best known for its bold looks, leather jackets and biker gang logos.
However, to truly understand how the style has evolved into its current form, we must go back and look at where biker fashion began. While men and women from all walks of life enjoy motorcycles today, one century ago only the wealthiest could afford a bike and those that could use them for leisure rather than transport.
Unlike today’s leather-clad bikers, the earliest motorcyclists wore smart tweed jackets and flat caps to protect their hair in the wind. On the more practical side, they also donned high boots to protect their feet and lower legs while riding.
As bikes became faster and more powerful, more protective clothing became necessary. Gloves and protective headwear became popular, and riders began to form clubs and wear their logos stitched in sweaters.
It wasn’t until the late 1920s that leather was introduced into bike wear. The first popular leather jacket was the Perfecto jacket designed by Irving Schott; the American military began ordering these in bulk for pilots during the second world war.
Following the war, alternatives to Perfecto jackets were popularized by men in the United States and United Kingdom with English store J Barbour & Sons releasing a specially made waterproof jacket for motorcyclists.
During the 1950s and into the 1960s the biker trend began to peak thanks to popular culture. Firstly, actor Marlon Brando wore an embellished leather jacket with skull and crossed pistons in The Wild One, this was a hit and one of the first representations of biker subculture in film.
Not long after, Rebel Without a Cause came to the big screen starring the iconic James Dean as an avid biker. With a raised collar on his leather jacket and cigarette resting between his lips, the star emulated the ‘cool’ rebellious nature of the biker. Fans often try to recreate the looks worn by their favorite movie stars and soon biker fashion also became a trend for those without any interest in motorcycling.
During the 1960s and 1970s biker jackets were adopted by other subcultures and the fringed hippie leather jacket emerged. Also, in hotter climates bikers began to opt for sleeveless denim or leather jackets with logos as a cooler alternative to the original.
Jackets are not the only biker clothing item from the 60s still popular today. For example, classic biker pants or moto jeans are a men’s wardrobe favorite. These slim fit jeans come in a variety of shades and are most often worn in a distressed or ripped style.
In addition to a jacket, biker pants pair well with a number of different footwear options, including combat boots, timberland boots and many also wear them with sneakers. Classic black biker jeans are ideal for lots of occasions, for a unique summer look light denim or white biker pants are a great choice.
This style remains part of popular culture in the modern day. For example, Justin Timberlake’s black leather jacket that he wore on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has been replicated by many designers and continues to sell out to this day.
Love Island alumni and fashion influencer Molly Mae is also a fan of biker chic, soon after she sported an oversized biker jacket on her socials, fans flocked to online stores to purchase similar items, which was dubbed the Molly Mae Effect. Biker fashion is an evolutionary trend, what began as practical clothing for riding at high speeds soon became a popular style enjoyed by both bikers and non-bikers alike.