Decades before cowhide leather jackets became the staple of punks, rebels, and bohemians, motorcycle culture was the territory of the distinguished elite. A true “gentleman’s pursuit,” motorcycling was a hobby available only to the wealthy and sophisticated 1%.
The Werner Brothers received their first motorcycle patent in 1900, and at the turn of the century, this new and exciting form of transportation became a subculture in and of itself. Motorcycle style at the time was derived from equestrianism, with tweed jackets, tall riding boots, flat caps, and gauntlet gloves all commonly seen on riders out and about.
This pastoral aesthetic, quaint as it were, did not last long. This is typically understood to be for two reasons.
The Evolution of Motorcycle Sports
By the early 1920s, the first competitive motorcycle races had normalized the sport for Americans, and Harley-Davidson and its competitors were quickly striving to design faster and more efficient models to meet the increasing demand. At the same time, German motorcycle manufacturers were beginning to hone in on the market, too, and by 1928, they had far surpassed the Americans in their craftsmanship and profit.
Since these new modern motorcycles were designed to reach higher speeds, the sport became more dangerous. It also gradually became less exclusive, as the motorcycle shifted from a symbol of elitism to the trademark of the wayward.
This occurred predominantly through the creation of outlaw motorcycle clubs, or organized groups that were not affiliated with or sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). Some outlaws pursued criminal activities. Others simply celebrated nonconformity and freedom.
How Motorcycle Fashion Changed
Since motorcycle gang members were typically lower-income, nomadic, and fully committed to their alternative lifestyle, they shunned many of the former aspects of the motorbike aesthetic. More appropriately, they adapted them, bringing many of the old trademarks down to a more accessible level. Today, biker chic is instantly recognizable and arguably more mainstream than it ever has been, an evergreen trend in both men’s and women’s fashion.
In 1928, the same year the Germans took over the motorcycle market, a New York designer named Irving Schott designed the first leather jacket durable enough to withstand rain, dirt, and that cruel mistress known to every veteran biker as road burn. The invention took the motorcycle subculture by storm. Bikers began to wear thick leather garments every time they hit the road, not only because it looked cool, but because the protective gear actually helped save them from injury.
Which Gloves Should You Purchase?
A lot had been said about the best types of motorsports jackets. The general consensus remains to this day that cowhide is the best choice, as it is resistant to grit, rain, and sun damage. Cowhide leather, also known as bovine leather, is recognizable by its pebble grain appearance and heavy weight. Its texture is perfect for heavy, thick, protective motorcycle jackets.
But what about other types of protective gear? With motorcyclists 28 times more likely to die in a crash than in an enclosed vehicle, it is certainly important to take as many preventative measures as possible. Statistics say that helmets, protective gear, and cognitive awareness are the top three most important things a biker should rely on to ensure he or she doesn’t end up in a serious accident.
If you do get in an accident, you’ll be grateful you’ve invested in a good quality pair of gloves for motorcycle riders. Cowhide gloves not only protect your hands from road rash. They also help you keep a firm grip on your handles, which can mean the difference between life and death if you find yourself spinning out.