Motoring Style

Despite having no motorcycle of my own — or even my own car, for that matter — I’ve been really into leather motorcycle jackets lately. Above are two photos from one of my favorite StyleForum members, CrimsonSox. He has a knowledge of classic men’s clothing that’s not matched by many people.

The first photo is from Vanity Fair, and shows a version of a motoring outfit in 1907 (check out the goggles). I imagine this was probably worn in open top cars, but one of the interesting things I recently learned was that motorcyclists at the beginning of the 20th century wore a coat and tie when they rode. Something perhaps not too different from this. Some men had leather jackets custom made for them (mostly styled after aviation jackets, such as the A1), but the idea that you really needed serious protective gear (i.e. a real, dedicated motorcycle jacket) didn’t come until the 1930s or 1940s, when motorcycle performance started improving and more men rode them. 

Anyway, the second photo is of a Brooks Brothers store in 1915. Apparently the second floor was used for their “motor clothing department” (clothes to be worn on motorcycles or open-top unheated cars).The first paragraph reads:

We have a complete assortment of everything in the way of clothing, furnishings, and accessories for automobile use, and are prepared to furnish anything in this line in the fashions now practically settled, and deemed correct, many of them being of our own exclusive design.

The idea that you could walk into Brooks Brothers in 1915 and buy a motorcycle jacket — one that was “in the fashions now practically settled, and deemed correct” — is just really, really awesome to me. 

Oh, and Voxsartoria has an even higher resolution image of that second photo. 

(Photos via CrimsonSox’s Twitter)

“But then, earlier this year, I went to a pop-up shop in West Chelsea and I realized it had gone too far. A dozen or so new and old Maine brands, L. L. Bean included, had set up booths in a giant garage and were selling everything from rugged flannels and earflap hats to saddles and benches made of re-claimed pine planks. It was evocative of Maine, but somehow not. The plaid button-downs and the river-guide shirts were as itchily familiar to me as the smell of a leaf pile in the backyard. But the Edison bulbs? The hand-stitched leather wallets? That wasn’t really what I remembered finding in the general store in my dad’s rural town of Stoneham (population: 250).” — Chris Rovzar on America’s fetishization of Maine
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I look at my tie rack. And I think, ‘Should I wear a tie?’ Because I don’t want to wear a tie. But I have all these nice ties. And you have to decide whether you’re going to wear a tie before you pick your shirt, you know, because some shirts don’t really work with ties. But you have to also sort of know the color of the shirt you’ll end up with so you know what tie would go with it. So I’m looking at the ties, thinking I don’t necessarily want to wear one of these, but also thinking about which shirt would go well with the tie I don’t want to wear. And it’s kind of dark because it’s the morning and I get this feeling that there’s maybe a tie that I would want to wear hidden behind all these other ties that are sort of meh. So I’m basically paralyzed. Anyway, in these moments I used to feel terribly, horribly alone. But then came 2006, and with it menswear blogging. And now, with this oral history, I have learned that not only am I not alone, but also people are making a living having the same thoughts I have from 7:58 to 7:59 a.m. every morning.”

Vanity Fair’s oral history of the time they read the oral history of menswear blogging. A pretty hilarious read. (Also, he should pick a navy grenadine tie.)

“The minute a man is overdressed, he is badly dressed.” — Charles Bryant, Anderson & Sheppard’s managing director in the ’60s and ’70s. (Taken from this great article about Anderson & Sheppard)
“Whereas, in the 80s, he had hewed faithfully to the fashion conventions of the time, collecting expensive basketball shoes and wearing his hair in a rococo power mullet, in his last decade he pointedly dressed in a suit nearly every day, favoring Brooks Brothers and the custom tailor Henry Poole of Savile Row. “I think it bothered him that people his same age, of similar means, were wearing sweat suits and Twittering,” said James. Though he still kept up with new music—Hughes had been a legendarily voracious record buyer in the old days, admired by rock snobs for the acuity of his soundtrack picks—he now viewed it as his primary duty to be, in his younger son’s words, “the curious, engaged grandpa in the seersucker.”” Vanity Fair’s David Kamp on John Hughes (thanks Rich)