The Art And Craft Of A Leather Jacket
Leather jackets have long been a signifier of effortless cool. The uniform of non-conformists from The Ramones to The Wild One’s Marlon Brando and the King of Cool himself, Mr Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, leather has transcended fads to become a timeless wardrobe staple. Aside from its unequivocable style credentials, it’s easy to see why the fabric is enduringly popular. Quality leather is tough and durable, and only gets better with age – if looked after well, that is. It can be maintained, unlike many other luxury fabrics, and its breathable properties help regulate your body temperature in all kinds of weather. Essentially, it’s the ultimate all-rounder. This is why it has formed the foundation of many of our key pieces since the business began.
Before establishing Belstaff in 1924, founder Eli Belovitch made his name manufacturing reclaimed rubber and waxed cotton fabrics for tarpaulin and military paraphernalia. Eli and his son-in-law Harry Grosberg struck gold when they began fashioning their weather-repellent fabrics into garments. Early Belstaff jackets became a touchpoint in Britain’s burgeoning motorcycle-racing scene – worn by participants of the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Race and the Scottish Six Day Trials. Riders taking part in the latter gruelling course found themselves navigating steep gullies, slippery rocks and streams in the Scottish Highlands, and therefore required hard-working clothing to allow for full range of movement while withstanding the harsh conditions. The outerwear provided for these racers would have been early versions of Belstaff’s most iconic piece, the Trialmaster, which made its official debut in 1948, but there is evidence that Belstaff also made leather jackets around this time too.
Our signature Trialmaster silhouette went on to inform Belstaff’s first official leather range, with the Trialmaster Panther – a slick, waxed leather counterpart to the cotton classic, and a style that still forms part of our core collection today. All the distinctive motifs are there in the functional four-pocket design with a flattering fit and high-collar, but the hand-waxed calf leather with artisanal finishing gives it a sharp yet rugged aesthetic. Bold colourways have brought the jacket to a new customer searching for a statement piece in the burnished gold variation or a lighter lambskin model made from vegetable dyed supple black nappa leather, but the classic black version and deep brown versions offer understated elan in its truest form.
While the Trialmaster 2.0 is rooted in moto history, it’s our Gangster jacket which is today more closely associated with a traditional “biker” aesthetic. Introduced in 1969, the Gangster’s elasticated side panels, buckle collar closure and tailored silhouette reflect the rock’n’roll subculture of the era, and the style has become a byword for adventurous spirits with a bit of an edge.
What makes these jackets quintessentially Belstaff is the exacting construction and finishing process, unique to us, which ensures jackets are of the highest quality. Since 1997 we have been working with artisans in Italy to craft our waxed leather jackets. Skilled craftsmen and women sew roughly 90 leather panels together by hand for each piece, before treating the fabric with Belstaff’s signature heated wax. The resulting patina adds depth to the surface of the leather, and, most importantly, protects the surface from the elements. The waxing process takes well over an hour, and showcases our dedication to the finer finishes of every garment we produce.
Waxed fabrics are the cornerstone of Belstaff outerwear pieces, but as our collections have evolved, so too have our roster of alternative fabrics and finishes. The slick café-racer inspired women’s Marianne jacket is crafted from vegetable-tanned nappa leather to give a polished appearance, and the statement Harper women’s jacket – based on traditional racing leathers – is brought bang up to date with its bold appliquéd “go faster” stripes and contrast piping on the pockets. If it’s a vintage feel you’re after, the Dennison, a longer style featuring raw-cut bridle leather trim and plush hand-waxed shearling nods to our aviation heritage. Alternatively, for pure moto maverick style, the Cheetham is a true winner, offering serious style along with CE-approved Level armour and a diamond stitch reinforcement at the shoulders and elbows.
No matter how many trends come and go, the leather jacket remains an undisputed style icon and a solid investment piece that – with the right care – will last to tell all your tales.