Three months ago, Chris and I put our heads together and created the first in this series of Silodrome Selections. The subject we chose was motorcycle jackets and it featured the likes of Icon and Roland Sands. The feature was immensely popular, and as we chatted to people in the comments and via email, we received several recommendations of lesser-known companies that produce ‘vintage’ motorcycle jackets.
This time we’re focusing on six companies that we didn’t mention, or didn’t know about, first time round. It’s also worth noting that some of these jackets don’t have an option to add modern protection. So you may want to check out our feature on motorcycle armor. It includes vests like the Icon Stryker and Spidi Defender, which can be worn under these jackets to make them an order of magnitude safer.
Lewis Leathers Monza Britain’s oldest surviving motorcycle clothing company was founded in 1892, so they know a thing or two about leather. Their jackets were the #1 choice of the cafe racer generation in the late 50s and early 60s; you could say they’re the motorcycle gear equivalent of a Featherbed Triton. The £700 Monza was released in 1972 as a departure from the ‘rocker’ style, and sports shoulder and elbow padding, waist straps, an offset front zipper and two front pockets. You also get a suitably vintage-style corduroy-lined collar. Lewis Leathers’ jackets don’t come cheap, but each one is made to order using your own personal measurements. And, we’re told, they last forever. [Buy]
Mister Freedom Mulholland Master This is one of the more handsome waxed-cotton jackets on the market, though it’s as rare as hen’s teeth. Designed by LA brand Mister Freedom and made by Sugar Cane of Japan, each jacket is constructed using 100% cotton “jungle cloth”—a tightly woven cross-grain fabric developed for US Marines stationed in warm climates. The $900 jackets are windproof, water-repellant, breathable and tear resistant, and are fastened with nickeled brass hardware. If you need to cover long distances in warmer latitudes, the Mulholland Master is worth a close look. [Buy]
Vanson Sport Rider MK II Based in Fall River, Massachusetts, Vanson is a company with dedicated fanbase stretching around the globe. Outside the core USA market, Vanson jackets are worn by innumerable Japanese custom Harley enthusiasts—who revere the rash-proof 1.5mm thick competition-weight leather construction. The Mark II is an update to the classic Sport Rider and has a concealed and adjustable waistband. It comes standard with shoulder and elbow armor, and spine armor and a zip in-zip out thermal vest can be purchased as extras. The $649 jacket is a little more understated than most from a style perspective, which will appeal to some riders. Vanson’s race heritage shows in the pre-curved sleeves, and a leather wind flap hides a built-in license pocket. [Buy]
Aero Leather Cafe Racer A tiny but dedicated company based in Scotland, Aero has been producing very limited numbers of classic horsehide jackets for 30 years. And owners that I’ve talked to swear by them. Interestingly, it’s illegal to kill horses for leather in the USA, so all US horsehide has to come from animals that have died of natural causes. Aero jackets are made from certified US hide, which (I think) makes them “cruelty-free”. This could be a big selling point if you’re concerned about such things. The £625 Cafe Racer jacket can be ordered with either brass or nickel zippers, and comes in a two- or four-pocket configuration. Aero jackets can reportedly handle anything you subject them to, including Scottish winters, and like most of the jackets featured here, they look better as they age. If only that were true of all of us… [Buy]
Langlitz Leathers Sidewinder Ross Langlitz started Langlitz Leathers in 1947 when he couldn’t find a jacket with enough protection for speedway racing. Using a Sears jacket as a template, he created a range called “Speedway Togs” and was overwhelmed with demand. Today, the Portland, Oregon company deals direct with US customers and offers six styles of made-to-measure jackets, including the Sidewinder shown here. Based on the slimline Timberline vest, it has a simple straight front zipper and windflap. You also get a dress collar, western-style front and back yokes, shoulder and elbow pads, and side laces. Storage is ample, with a map and two chest pockets, and smaller pockets on the left bicep and right wrist. Every jacket comes with a return-if-not satisfied guarantee, as you’d expect with a jacket costing $1,000 and upwards. In Japan, where Langlitz has a fervent following and 35 dealers, jackets often change hands for $3,000 or more. [Buy]
British Motorcycle Gear (BMG) Montana One of the most highly-rated vintage-style motorcycle jackets we’ve come across in our travels. The leather is a supple 1.2-1.4mm grade ‘A’ semi-aniline cowhide, and the Montana also comes as standard with CE Level 1 Knox shoulder and elbow armour. (CE Level 2 certified back armor costs an additional $39.95.) It’s also fitted with chunky YKK zippers and has pre-curved sleeves with rotated shoulders. With an MSRP of $399 the Montana is the cheapest of the jackets listed here. Because it can be kitted out with full armor, it’s a popular choice in the UK—and in much of the English-speaking motorcycle-riding world too. [Buy]
We’re always interested to hear what you think about these vintage motorcycle jacket selections. So please tell us about any manufacturers you think we should include, and if your own favourite jacket isn’t listed here, drop us a line in the comments below. We’ll check it out.—James.