Wheels Of Grace Magazine

Volume 10, Issue 4

Issue link: http://cp.revolio.com/i/1074597

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Page 15 of 36

WheelsOfGrace.com | Volume 10 Issue 4 | 15 Motorcyclists at the beginning of the 20th century certainly reflected the status quo of fashion in American society. But the clothing worn by motorcyclists was not all "conventional." There were items designed or adapted to meet the particular needs of the motorcycle rider. For instance, the unprecedented speeds achieved by the motorcycle resulted in harsher wind effects than those experienced on more common and slower means of transportation. As a result, long- wristed, sturdy gauntlets were created to provide extra protection for the wrists and lower arms and especially to prevent wind from blowing up the coat sleeveƑa curse for the early rider and one that could not be prevented by traditional short-wristed gloves. Because motorcycle riding shared traits with horseback riding, the high boots and wide pants (or jodhpurs) of equestrians were adapted for motorcycle use. Jodhpurs allowed freedom of movement for the knees and hips. And the high boots provided the necessary protection from the heat of the engine and the constant barrage of debris thrown up from the dirt roads that were an inescapable part of travel in the first decades of the 20th century. Long-distance riders and racers took the protection provided by high boots one step further by creating the "puttee," an ultra-heavy, strap-on lower leg shield that offered the necessary armor against the relentless punishment dished out by dirt tracks traversed at high speeds and dirt roads on long runs. Harley-Davidson and its dealers also promoted the purchase of specially designed riding suits, as described in a 1916 ad: "...[here] is a natty suit, obtainable either in government khaki or mole-skin cloth, that is exactly what most riders want. It incorporates several ideas that were suggested by men at Why so formal? the factory who have had much experience in road riding under varying weather conditions." Khaki was an extremely durable material and moleskin cloth was known for its warmth and, as advertisements said, "while not classed as waterproof, moleskin will stand a pretty fair shower." This made these suits extremely practical riding gear. But these suits and other Harley-Davidson clothing, while designed with rider comfort and safety in mind, were not meant to make the rider stand out from the rest of society. Instead, Harley-Davidson knew the business necessity of appealing to the general populace, which put great value on neatness and propriety of dress. As the company wrote to the dealers: "The advantages to the dealer of having his riders neatly dressed have been described so often that upon this subject every-one undoubtedly agrees. In line with our policy of practicing what we preach we are seeking to co-operate with dealers in improving the style of riding suits." In spite of the emphasis on neatness, practicality and conventionality, it is a mistake to assume that early Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders did not value individuality and adventure. Early riders were, after all, taking a risk with a new and relatively untested form of travel. And they certainly showed their spirit of adventure in trying a new sport and a new way of getting away from the weekly routine. Even if their clothing was conservative, their spirits were not. Change happens gradually, and as the motorcycle became more accepted, riders found new ways to stand apart from the crowd. And their clothing, as can be seen from the riding gear of today, has changed, too. The April 1916 issue of The Harley-Davidson Dealer promoted early riding gear with an article titled "Neat Appearing Riders Are Very Big Asset to Dealers." Part II by Maria Schoeberl, Archivist CALL FOR DETAILS A REALTOR THAT SHARES YOUR PASSION REALTOR The Biker/Chris Perez For all your real estate needs TNG Real Estate Consultants (714) 493-7869 CALL FOR DETAILS InvestmentsByChris@gmail.com

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