Ace Café Style

Simon de Burton continues his exploration of 1960s biker style and the enduring influence of, among other notable items of outerwear, the iconic leather jacket.

Riders outside the Ace Cafe. Getty Images
Riders outside the Ace Cafe. Getty Images

It's hard to believe it today, but there was a time when the mere sight of a leather motorcycling jacket could prompt fear and loathing among anti-bikers. Anyone who wore one was typically marked out as an unpredictable, anti-establishment hooligan who cared only about rock’n’roll music, himself and, of course, his two-wheeled steed.

But the classic, crossover leather - such as the Ashworth Jacket, part of Belstaff's new autumn/winter collection - has a rich and noble history dating back to the 1920s when its distinctive overlapped front first became popular.

Within 20 years, the basic design had become available with decorative add-ons such as epaulettes, fringes and studs, and wearers began customising their jackets with carefully painted patterns (the 'chequered-flag' look was especially popular as it denoted speed) and bedecking them with enamel pin badges and patches.

And, with their tailored fit, bright quilted linings and stand-up collars, 'biker' jackets soon caught on as fashionable garments in their own right when they were adopted for their cool factor by stars ranging from Elvis Presley and James Dean to Brigitte Bardot and The Beatles.

Belstaff's autumn/winter collection harks right back to that funky era, playing on both the look of the classic leather and its practicality while lending attention to the detail and finish that bring out the very best of the design. Belstaff has recognised too that the 'any colour, so long as its black' ethos made famous by Henry Ford has not always applied to bikerwear - with the result that latest pieces include vintage-look one-piece racing leathers in rich chestnut brown and jackets with a colourful touch.

Belstaff AW15 Collection

But it isn't just the practical, hard-wearing leatherwear beloved of bikers that has ended up dictating street style. Waxed-cotton garments, originally favoured by motorcyclists for their water-resistant, mud-repellant qualities, have also caught on around the world - largely as a result of Belstaff's reinvention of the genre that returned waxed cotton to the spotlight as a highly adaptable material from which elegant, beautifully fitted but still practical garments could be made.

Typical of such pieces are the Trialmaster and Tourmaster jackets included in the 2015 autumn/winter collection - and with some chunky Belstaff knitwear to keep you warm underneath, even the thought of the open road on a frosty morning shouldn't prevent you from climbing into the saddle. Or maybe just taking a seat at your favourite café is more your bag?

Simon de Burton writes for the Financial Times, The Telegraph and The Spectator

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