Style File: Fashion revs up - Biker jackets

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Dressing for the pitstop can be full of pitfalls (and pratfalls) but Lee Holmes pinpoints the key moto-inspired menswear pieces to put you in style pole position

The leather jacket stands the test of time as a style perennial. But it’s also a bit of a minefield. After all, “leather jacket” encompasses a multitude of styles and sins. Considering spending your hard-earned cash on a leather trench? Remember The Matrix and back away. Brightly coloured padded leather catching your eye? Watch Thriller and realise the error of your ways. What was questionable on Michael Jackson in 1983 has in no way been rehabilitated for 2013. Clearly, not all leather jackets are created equal.

Perhaps, then, on the surface at least, the jacket that’s the most appealing is the most classic: the black leather biker or motorcycle combo. Google it, and be enticed by the constellation of cinematic stars past and present sporting the louche look with rakish aplomb. Probably the most famous image of all is Marlon Brando astride a Harley, sporting a beyond-classic Schott Perfecto in 1953’s The Wild One. When his character, Johnny Strabler, was asked what he was actually rebelling against, his disdainful reply of “whadda you got?” instantly confirmed both attire and actor as talismans of youthful dissent.

There’s a catch. Marlon makes it all look all-too easy. Both he and the Schott are a hard act to follow, regrettably leading many a man down the biker jacket route for all the wrong reasons. Remember this; for mere mortals like ourselves, no amount of revving around on a motorcycle looking mean, moody and sweaty in a black leather cap is going to turn you into a modern-day Marlon. Real life just doesn’t work like that.

Instead, look to labels such as  Belstaff or Matchless for a more grown-up take on the leather motorcycle jacket; incredibly versatile, these  21st-century bikers can be dressed up with a shirt and tie, or down with a simple T-shirt and jeans. Still not impressed? Eschew leather entirely and opt for the waxed version from Barbour – think Steve McQueen  astride a Triumph bike – which is actually a damn sight easier to pull off.

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