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Celebrating an Icon
Not all moulds need to be broken. An occasional tweak of their DNA, perhaps, but no more. The wheel, for instance, has never cried out to be reinvented, but wet-weather tires were a welcome addition. The same is true of the Trialmaster, the single item of clothing that has come to define Belstaff more than any other.
The jacket has had a long and notable history. Launched in 1948, its striking design gave utility a sharp sense of style and brought beautiful form to function. However, while clothing adventurous men and women through history, the Trialmaster has enjoyed a journey of its own – one of subtle shifts and slight adjustments. For while fashion changes, style simply evolves.
Originally created to help bikers cope with the grueling conditions of the Scottish Six-Day Trials, the first Trialmaster jacket arrived as a fully formed classic. The four-pocket design with slanted map pocket was a stroke of genius, providing practicality with a design aesthetic that was just right.
As time wore on, colour was added, with reds and greens starting to shade the classic silhouette. These jackets were given a personal touch as the ritual waxing necessary to preserve the waterproof finish changed the tone over time and gave an individual, custom finish. Throughout, the pivotal armholes, pre-curved sleeves and weatherproofed finish remained constants guaranteed to ensure the same, impeccable fit and give comfort while riding.
The 1980s saw quilted shoulder reinforcements and a straightening out of the distinctive pocket line with the Trialmaster Professional. The eye-catching detail to take its place was the Belstaff branding over the right chest pocket. Bolder experiments with material and colour followed, as black nylon with orange blocking put innovation and safety centre stage. Over the next decade and into the 2000s there were further adaptations: Belflex nylon jackets in vibrant greens and lively reds with reflective piping saw the classic silhouette throwing contemporary shapes.
Then, in early 2018, the Origins Trialmaster Evo jacket returned to a more muted palette, this time in Tri-layer stretch nylon to lend more movement, increase comfort and take the adventure to places it hadn’t been before. The jacket had come a long, long way from the Six-Day Trials.
Throughout this journey, the Trialmaster has gained an impressive legion of dedicated fans, among them, famously, the actor and motorbike enthusiast Steve McQueen. And while we can never be sure whether the story about him turning down a date with co-star Ali McGraw in order to wax his Trialmaster is true, what it tells us about the tactile bond people feel with this unique piece of clothing is undoubtedly true.
That bond endures to this day. Waxed cotton is back, as are many key features of this timeless piece, in its latest incarnation. There are still notable changes, of course – the tweaks over time. The new Trialmaster is a lighter, easier wear. It’s longer and more fitted, reflecting its widening appeal from off-road to off-the-road. Where once it was made with motorbike trials in mind, it is now a multi-faceted design classic aimed at adventures of all kinds. That said, there’s the familiar leaning line of the map pocket, the brass press-studs, the signature check lining and a return to a clear understanding of what made this jacket a classic. Much has changed, it’s true, but nothing has been lost.