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Belstaff leather jacket: a second skin
Friends of the brand reveal how they feel about the protection and reassurance of a Belstaff leather jacket.
Dougie Lampkin in The Outlaw
‘Zipping up my Belstaff Triumph brings me warmth – not only physically, but warmth in the knowledge that I'm protected if anything goes awry with my ride.'
So says 19-time motorcycle land-speed record holder Erin Sills. The former Facebook executive has hit speeds of over 200mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, but even on recreational rides, protection is always a priority.
At the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th, when motorised transport was in its pioneering stages, leather jackets swiftly became the choice of those adventurers operating the first aeroplanes, motorcycles and horseless carriages. Nothing matched the material for its combination of warmth and protection against abrasion.
In fact, some Belstaff wearers are still putting on their leather jackets for the same purposes as those early pioneers. Aviator Tracey Curtis-Taylor wears a Panther – actually a men's motorbike racing model, but she likes the extra shoulder space, the high buttons at the neck and the way it covers her hips in the open cockpit of her Boeing Stearman biplane: 'It is reassuringly heavy – I feel as though I'm strapping myself in, literally.' She initially wore it on her 2013 Cape Town to Goodwood flight, and she feels it has improved with age: 'It certainly has a patina from constant use and exposure to the elements, including a heavy dose of sand and dust from my crash in the Arizona Desert!'
Tracey Curtis Taylor in The Panther Jacket
Merry Michau is an adventure and fashion photographer, and a biker herself. For her, the comfort of wearing leather is connected to heritage as much as to the jacket itself: 'It makes me feel at home, in the arms of family, because my father was one of the first people to wear Belstaff on his trials bike. It's in my blood. I've had a Belstaff Triumph for years, and each time I put it on, I'm reminded of each adventure – mine's been in dozens of countries and had flies washed off it loads of times!'
Michau also wears a Tourist Trophy Pure Moto motocross jacket, with European standard elbow and shoulder protection, metal underarm vents and miporex weather protection on the seams. She says, 'It's a good feeling, knowing I have the technology within my jacket to protect me, be it pouring with rain or if I'm simply ragging my machine – and looking stylish at the same time.'
Merry Michau in the Triumph Jacket
For TV presenter Nicki Shields, who spends her life around motor racing (Goodwood Festival Speed and Formula E), her Belstaff Marving-T classic biker's jacket – with asymmetric two-way zip fastening and double buckle waist adjuster – gives her confidence: 'It makes me feel like I mean business. I walk out of my front door in it and I'm ready to take on the world. I love wearing them on camera – I sometimes have to apologise to the sound man, as the noise of the buckles can be picked up by the microphone.'
Nicki Shields. Photographed by Erica Bergsmeds.
In a world where the qualification of presenters to talk about a sport is sometimes questioned, seeing that someone has the knowledge and taste to choose Belstaff can be helpful. 'There is always a lot of mutual respect when you see some else also wearing a Belstaff jacket' says Shields, an opinion backed up by speed motorcyclist Erin Sills: 'The Belstaff logo on the shoulder strikes me every time I put the jacket on … at that moment I’m reminded of others along the trail who will notice and appreciate the quality of craftsmanship that phoenix symbol represents.'
Erin Sills in The Mollison. Molly Stinchfield Photography.
Another TV presenter, Rebecca Jackson, certainly doesn't need to prove herself in the world of motor sport – she is a British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC) Porsche Championship racing driver and has won at Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Donington Park and Zandvoort. Still, her leather jacket still acts as a sort of mental armour: 'It makes you want to stand tall and proud.'
For Jackson, it's more a case of expressing her character beyond the assumptions of what a female racing driver must be like: 'Every action-girl wants to look good while she’s kicking butt! A leather jacket, providing it is the right style, has the correct blend of sexiness, strength and practicality. Another appeal is that bikers have a reputation for being a tad on the wild side – but with Belstaff designs, it’s a refined kind of naughty, which oozes class and sophistication.'
Jackson wears a polished lambskin Burnett jacket, with a slouchier, more relaxed sihouette than many models, but with waist buckles for a personalised fit. 'It hugs you like the Big Friendly Giant,' she says. But the real joy, she ascertains, is in the detail, both fashion-led and practical: 'The zips on the sleeves are a particular favourite because they are a style feature but also practical when putting on gloves. If you look closely at the buckles you will see “BELSTAFF” embossed into the shiny metal.'
For men, too, the leather jacket provides style reassurance. Fashion and adventure photographer Alistair Guy calls it 'a classic gentleman's staple' as well as 'ideal protection from the elements'. He agrees with Rebecca Jackson: 'Belstaff's eye for quality and design in leather is second to none. Mine is beautifully made and comfortable in all conditions.'
Levison Wood, the explorer who became the first person to walk the length of the Nile, knows a thing or two about 'all conditions'. For him, a leather jacket is the perfect compromise between adventure gear for the outdoors and something much smarter for city life. 'I wear a dark brown Belstaff Weybridge, in hand-waxed leather, which is going to look even better with age. It’s durable, with additional shoulder and elbow padding, as well as being warm and good in the rain – it has protected me from some pretty unsavoury weather conditions. But I like feeling more smartly dressed – it saves me from looking as though I’ve just stepped off a mountain.'
Alistair Guy in The Outlaw
Dougie Lampkin, world motocross trials champion seven times outdoors and five times indoors, just loves the physical feel and fit of his dark grey Outlaw, which he wears for casual riding. 'It has confirmed that you can have comfort and functionality,' he says. 'It gets softer each time I put it on, and the fit makes it feel like it is part of my body.'
It is that natural symbiosis between clothing and rider that encapsulates the allure of the leather jacket. Curtis-Taylor says it best: 'These are jackets custom-made for action, as well as being style statements. They are luxurious to wear and become like a second skin.'