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

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Chopper Chic

As long as I'm grouching about current styles in motorcycle clothing, let me say that a current style in bikes, that is to say, "chopper chic," sucks too. Choppers used to be cool because they expressed the ideas and feelings of an individual rider or builder; they were a rebellion against convention, an honest expression of self. Thanks to formulaic TV shows and a public that flocks to anything bright and shiny like raccoons to a tin can, choppers are now becoming so pervasive that they are rapidly becoming caricatures of themselves.

You can only produce so many Harley-clone engined, pre-fab chassis, flame painted, skull festooned bikes before they become about as unique as a Honda Shadow. You can only sell so many millions of chopper branded t-shirts before no one with any appreciation for bikes would be caught dead in one. When I see 300lb women at Wal-Mart pushing shopping carts full of junk food while wearing a West Coast Choppers t-shirt or an OCC t-shirt I'm thinking that cool has pretty much vacated the premises for those two brands.

Motorcycles in and of themselves are special machines, possesing a aura that makes them more than just machines. To use one as a fashion statement is perhaps worse than wearing a contrived leather biker jacket with an advertising agency generated brand name emblazoned on it.

The guys at a web site called Chopper Flop would seem to agree with me or I agree with them. Either way, their "Cool Guide to Chopper Style" is right on the mark, one of those things I wish I'd written except that I'd have been meaner and more ornery about it than they were.

I'm not so sure the Chopper Flop guys are not just trying to capitalize on a small backlash to chopper chic by selling t-shirts but this is America and it's our nature to squeeze a fad for every $ we can so more power to them. Heck, the day Wal-Mart calls and wants to do an official "Forty Years on Two Wheels" line of t-shirts I'm selling out just like everyone else. I'll have to draw the line at putting a skull, Iron Cross, or flames on the shirts though. I'm thinking "Oscar the Grouch" on a Bultaco would be more fitting.


Otterpop said...

I agree with you on the commercialization of choppers to a point, but most of us real chopper heads discard those West Coast Chopper Wal Mart Mammas just as easily people who wear Harley clothes and don't even own a bike, and RUBS.

There are some really exciting things going on in the chopper world though - most of us that build them don't have the money to create these chrome garage beauties. Instead we're building real machines that meant to be driven. Check out the magazine THE HORSE, Choppers and Punk Rock, Honda Chopper and our group of builders who work on just about any other make of bike, Slick's ChoppersI think you'll find that those Discovery Channel bikes aren't really representative of what's going out in the real world.

Jimmy D said...

Doug, You are right on the money again. The end of chopper culture had to be when OCC marketed a men's perfume with a advertisement in the back of Rider magazine. Maybe OCC needs to cover-up the poopy smell of their contrived "bikes".

Doug Klassen said...

Otter, thanks for the comments and links. The key point is the phrase "chopper chic" which I see as being different than being a chopper enthusiast and builder just like being a stunter isn't the same thing as being a sport bike enthusiast. People, non-riders, RUBs, etc, want to display the style of the machines with no understanding or real involvement in the substance of the bikes or what they respresent.

I've visited "The Horse" site in the past. Of the current popular builders I think I like Hank Young the best. He seems a good deal more inventive than most.

The Honda chopper page was interesting. There's an old Honda 750 chopper here in my little town, and old creation with an early 750 engine in a plunger frame of some sort. It's pretty ratty but for the right price I'd try to rescue it and revive it as a great example of '70s chopper building.

I've got no problem at all with choppers in general, they are a great expression of individuality for the guys who have the interest and skill to put something together even if it doesn't cost $50k. I do think that designs that stray too far from functionality kind of miss the whole point though, the point being the ride.My knock on OCC and their ilk is that they have become a bad caricature of what choppers really are just like stunters are of sport bikes. Perfume? I understand being it for the bucks and laughing all the way to the bank but no one should sink that low just for money.

The cookie cutter chopper companies (you guys know who they are) don't do a thing for me, they are merely turning out lifestyle accessories for wannabes who lack the creativity to do anything more than pick out a paint color.

Doug K.

Otterpop said...

Looks like we agree then - just wanted people to know that there is actually more to the chopper scene than Discovery Channel crap.

Anyway, been reading your blog for some time now and I really enjoy it. Keep up the good work.

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