Mike Werner has pointed out yet another item of haute couture for motorcyclists, a pair of Chanel Motorcycle Boots for (gulp) $600 Euros (744 USD to the rest of us, if the exchange rate holds). Just the perfect accessory to one of Mr. Chester’s haute couture motorcycles, a New York times story I wrote about earlier this month.
Maybe it’s because I started riding when I was 14 years old that I have never felt the urge to dress up on a motorcycle. Jeans, a good jacket and gloves and, most of all, a good pair of boots with traction and steel toes, have been enough for me all these years. But would I, if I could?
A friend gave me her red leather motorcycle jumpsuit — she’d had two kids and no hope of fitting into it again — I wore it for a while, but honestly, I felt ridiculous in it and went back to jeans and a black leather jacket. (The jeans didn’t do me much good when I wrecked the Bullet in India, and so I’m rethinking that.) I look at all the motorcycle fashion for women, and though I like that motorcycling is attracting more women all the time, motorcycling isn’t about fashion for me. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I admire more the style of Beryl Markham and Amelia Earhart with their understated looks, their simple slacks and shirts and scarves.
Do people ride because it looks good on them? The motorcycle, the clothing, the image? Or do people ride because of the feeling of riding? Sure, dressing up is fun. If you’re going to get into it, why not get into it all the way? I look at the photos of women today in motorcycling, with all the leather and fringe and bright colors and tucks and pads and stitching, a compare it with the photos of the women pioneers in aviation and autos and motorcyclists. I prefer the pioneer look; stylish, but not gaudy. This photo of Bessie Stringfield, taken in the 1940’s, and the one of Beryl Markham, above left, seem so much more simple and just classy.
Also, I object to the commonly held belief that motorcycling, and most other sports, is expensive and equipment-intensive. If you’ve traveled in the developing world you’ve seen how little people can manage with, from kids playing with home-made toys to young men cobbling together motorbikes and cars. I started riding at 14 years old with jeans and a heavy jacket, a pair of work boots and carpentry gloves and a helmet. That’s all I needed then, and that’s all I need today, though if somebody sent me a pair of those Chanel boots I think I might just try them on.