“I’ve noticed a lot of men – especially younger men – in motorbike clothes this autumn. But I’m worried that if I follow suit I’ll look like one of those guys who wears a Ferrari cap and jacket on the bus. How can I pull it off?”
But as with any item packing a history, the reference shouldn’t slide into costume. Pair your jacket with accordion trousers and buckled boots and your edginess dulls to fancy dress. Equally, a white crew neck tee and Levi’s is iconic, but be prepared to be referred to as “The Wild One” all night if you opt for it in your local. If you’re at all nervous about biker gear’s connotations, then my two rules would be to buy heritage, then give it a twist. The biker jacket you’re probably envisioning, with its high hem and off-centre zip, is Schott’s Perfecto. A favourite of the Ramones and Brando himself, it comes accessorised with two fingers to The Man as standard. But even though it seems your sympathies lie more with Chief Harry Bleeker than Johnny Strabler, the jacket’s not off-limits. Just switch the tee for a button-down and knitted tie, for a look that takes you places a Triumph won’t.
If that’s still overkill, reach for non-biker pieces from brands proven on the road. Barbour’s motorcycle jacket found fame 75 years ago, but now appears in iterations that feature the original’s patch pockets and throat clasp in a quilted fabric that doesn’t demand pairing with engine grease.
Alternatively, ditch two wheels entirely. Racercar builder Ginetta recently launched a lifestyle arm designed to clothe the driver once he’s hung up his overalls. Which means tailored jackets in waxed cotton that keep the rain out when you’re standing in the pit lane, and perhaps the warmest cable knit we’ve ever tried on, ideally suited to fighting the cold until the final lap.
“I don’t live near London, so there’s a distinct lack of tailors around. I took a suit I bought recently to a seamstress, but wasn’t at all impressed with the results. Is there any way of getting something tailored if you don’t have one nearby?”
These qualms are understandable. The relationship you develop with your tailor is one that becomes more intimate than that you share with anyone you haven’t woken up next to. They know the minutest details of your body, from which side you dress to whether late nights mean you’ve been resorting to Just Eat. But as with any relationship, finding ‘The One’ can be challenging. Since there’s no tailoring Tinder, ask to be set-up. Local menswear stores will be able to steer your towards their favourites. Online reviews can offer some peace of mind, but test before trusting them with your new suit by calling to ask if they can adjust the length of a jacket sleeve from the shoulder. It’s a highly-skilled move beyond uppity dry cleaners. Next, visit and ask to see a sample. If you see clean stitching (and an equally tidy store) get a pair of too-big trousers shortened. A good tailor will recommend adjustments to the waist and seat, and listen if you ask for a different break on your shoe to his default. If he’s a hem fascist, move on. Should he not butcher your strides, introduce more complicated alterations. It’s here that a great tailor stands out by suggesting fixes you’ve not seen, or ways to hone your look. Just know that when he’s down on one knee he’s checking your inseam, not popping the question.