~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Identity Crisis, Part Two

A while back I expounded on the current sorry state of motorcycle clothing fashion. That there is even such a thing as motorcycle clothing fashion is a sorry thing in my estimation. Anything that one could call honest style peaked with the waxed cotton Belstaff Jacket. It has been down hill ever since and I am saddened to report that after reading this month's Cycle World it is clear that things have only gotten worse.

Women will want you if you wear this jacket. Trust me.

"Icon," a brand conjured up by motorcycle parts wholesaler Parts Unlimited, has the above ad on page 31 of Cycle World. A black leather jacket with large, doofus skulls on the front and sleeves, Icon calls it their "Skull Motorhead Jacket." Numbskull Motorhead Jacket would be more appropriate. Note also the subtle imagery of the big pipe at the guy's crotch. Oh yes, wear this jacket and you'll be tough, a stud. Just as you always imagined, women you have never met before will want you. Icon has their name emblazoned in red above the main skull. Nice touch for all those who find their personal identity in a clothing brand.

Racer replica jackets are one thing if you are indeed a race fan, a Harley logo is one thing (but usually over done too), but ridiculous half skulls on a $600 jacket are just dumb. This may be the ultimate poser jacket. I hope I never run into some guy wearing one of those things because I know I'll laugh and then he'll decide he has to live out his poser fantasies and try to kick my butt and he'll probably succeed because I'll be laughing too hard to defend myself. It won't matter of course 'cause he'll still be a dumb poser in a silly $600 jacket.

So I've been shopping on and off for a few months searching for a replacement for my old Spartan riding jacket. After 20 years of use the front zipper is on it's way out and worse, the jacket has no features. My gosh, how can you have any kind of riding jacket these days without features? What kind of motorcyclist am I?

Ah, features... features like pockets big pockets that would make Captain Kangroo proud. Pockets specifically for cell phones, endless zippers, fabrics that are stronger than leather -- lighter than cotton, warmer than wool, cooler than a cucumber -- zip out liners, zip off sleeves, enough armor to protect a rhinoceros, and a price tag that would make you think it was all spun from gold. And lest we forget: Style! Oh yes, style. Blazing colors, slashing colors, exotic stripe patterns created in shabby tattoo parlors or by people learning to do bad imitations of Von Dutch. Then last but not least, the ultimate feature: The jacket maker's name emblazoned everywhere.

OK, of course some of those features are actually good things which is part of the reason for me shopping for a new jacket instead of getting the old repaired. My old jacket lacks certain features that I can no longer live without.

The tattered Spartan, which by the way has exactly one small logo on the cuff of the sleeve (where it would be under a glove when riding), is a little lacking in the pocket department. It also has no vent zippers, a feature that I miss when a day starts out below 50° and winds up in the 80's which is not uncommon here in Arizona. The jacket that works so well for cool-to-cold weather quickly turns to a denier nylon cooking bag as the sun climbs in the sky.

So shopping we go...what to buy? The challenges are many. First, I want vent zippers on the sleeves, chest and back. That leaves out the vaunted Kilimanjaro Jacket which lacks the sleeve vent zippers. At least the ones in stock at the cycle accessory store lacked them. I tried on the Kilimanjaro and liked the fit, the Capt. Kangaroo pockets, it's reputation for keeping people warm and dry. Very nice but again, no zippers where I wanted zippers. Fairly tasteful logo usage though. I was tempted. $249. Within budget. Decisions, decisions. Where to compromise on features? Should I compromise on wanted features?

The local Cycle Parts store carries tons of the Frank Thomas brand stuff, stuff to which I have an aversion because Frank's name is all over everything and my name doesn't happen to be Frank Thomas. OK, I admit it, I liked one of the Frank Thomas designs real well, it met all my criteria but the weight of the outer shell which seemed a bit light for colder weather. Despite what you might think, it can get darned cold here in the desert in the winter.

The price of the jacket was right: $169 marked down from $199. I actually pretty much talked myself into the FT jacket but got sidetracked yakking with another rider who was also there shopping for a jacket. He was a late forties guy riding a red limited edition Hayabusa and looking for a flashy red jacket to go with it. In talking to him it seems that he possesses more throttle restraint than I; he'd had the 'Busa for several months and not been pulled over yet or even worried much about having only gotten the big Suzuki up to 130 mph on one occasion. You have to admire a man with that kind of discipline. For me it would be "Buy a 'Busa, go to jail." As Dirty Harry said, "A man's got to know his limitations."

So Frank made a sale to the Hayabusa guy with a little help from me (just because I don't like something doesn't mean that nobody else should). I suppose if I rode a red Hayabusa I might get flashier too. No wait, I rode an even flashier red Aprilia Falco and I remained just as stylistically boring as ever. Anyway, I talked to the other guy long enough that in the back of my mind I also talked myself out of the solid black version of the FT jacket like he was buying. I left Cycle Parts to jacket shop elsewhere. Sorry Frank.

Up the road a ways is a mega store bike dealer, just the kind of place where I hate to spend money but they do often have a good selection of accessories. Into the chrome and glass candyland I went to see what was to be had today. Much to my delight they had some jackets on sale including Tourmaster's Cortech GX touring jacket in an assortment of colors and including my preferred black/gray non-color. Much to my surprise they even had one that fit me. I'm built sort of odd and getting a jacket to fit is a chore. Just an FYI: the FT stuff runs 1 size small and the Cortech 2 sizes small unless you're skinny or have biceps like Barney Fife.

The Cortech jacket is heavy textile, zippered vents on the sleeves and body front and back and zippered cuffs too. The gray patterns on the jacket were barely ok, not too over done but not as understated as the black and gray Kilimanjaro I'd tried on. Marked down from $249 to $149 the Cortech seemed the way to go, something of a bargain in fact, so I did.

A rubberized 3D Cortech logo is sewn to each sleeve, the collar flap, and the back of the jacket and I don't much care for them but at least they are not garishly done like the Joe Rocket stuff or someone else's name that isn't mine (you-know-who). The logos might even be reflective so there might be a useful safety aspect to them.

Jacket purchased, I tossed it in the car (raining today, no bike), and headed for home. Arriving at the palatial 40onTwo Estate I looked the jacket over for cleaning instructions and then I realized that our Cortech friends had actually out Frank'ed, Frank Thomas. Egad. How did I miss that? Every blessed zipper has a nice strong zipper pull on it just as it should but every zipper pull is clearly the Cortech logo. Count them.... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...mutter, mutter....14..FIFTEEN freaking Cortech labels adorn the jacket! Fifteen! Tourmaster, was that really necessary??

Why friends, cannot manufacturers show simple pride in their work like Spartan did with their single label on the sleeve? Why do they think that every motorcycle rider out there wishes to be a rolling billboard for every company from whom they buy an accessory or article of clothing? It's absurd. Hey, motorcycle clothing people, why don't you put your corporate annual report on the back too?? Your stock prices?? Maybe pictures of your wife and kids and cat? I'm sure lots of idiots would buy it. As H.L. Mencken famously said "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

Before I counted all the logos I had tossed around the idea of cutting of the main Cortech logos just out of orneriness. After realizing Tourmaster's attempt to turn me into something resembling a Cortech Christmas tree with little logos dangling from every limb, I'm not only going to remove the main logos but every zipper pull is going to get removed and replaced with something else even if it's just an expired dog license tag from one of my dogs. I'd rather wear my furry friend's name than some ego maniac corporation's logo.


Jeff "Madscientist955" said...

Great little piece. While I can agree with you on some aspects of it I do have to admit that the Icon jacket and the matching helmet I find cool. Maybe it's the fact that I'm only 25 and while style and getting the girl aren't the most important things in my life (I have no style and fortunately do have a wonderful woman)I can't help it, I do like the icon line of clothing. At least most of it. Now part of the reason companies like Icon put their logo everywhere is because they sponser riders, mostly stunters in Icon's case, and those sponsered riders act as advertising for the company. So, if Nuckelhead sees Pro stunter Bob sporting a certain Icon jacket, and then finds out that he can be just like him because Icon sells the exact same jacket, with all labels Icon now has the money from the Nucklehead and more advertising that they actually got paid for. Is it ethical, who cares. It's making them money and that's the game. Besides, Icon does happen to promote the stunt scene and encourage the riders to wear protective gear which will help out the image of all sportbikers and stunters alike. And I happen to like the design. But please, don't give them ideas like putting their annual report on the back, they might be taking notes and I really don't want them to get any more ideas.

Doug Klassen said...


Thanks for the comments. It's my solemn obligation to my motorcycle forbearers to be as good a curmudgeon as I can be now that I'm as old as the old guys were when I was young. I'm merely taking my turn at being a grouchy old farht just as you will in 25 years or so. It's part of the fun, actually.

When I started out the old guys were railing against those "#@%&! Jap ring-dings" and sissyboy stuff like electric starters. Lord knows where motorcycling will be when you're my age but I'm sure whatever is happening will mystify you just as a lot of the crap today does me today.

In 2030 as I sit drooling in the old folks home, too old to ride or even remember what I had for breakfast, I'll be counting on you to berate and make fun of the new trends of that day. Don't let me down.

(Most likely if I were 25 today instead of sneaking up on 55 I'd probably like the Icon or Joe Rocket stuff too.)


Sam said...

Hi, I like your blog.

For everyday riding, I wear a black leather Harley jacket, but it has no decoration at all and even the HD logo is only on a small metal badge about the size of a fingernail. It looks good and fits well.

If you don't want leather, I recommend Aerostich. Understated, functional, and comfortable. I have one of their Roadcrafter 1-piece suits which is the best thing for long tours, IMHO. But they have plenty of jackets, too.

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