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Classic Biker Fashion
You’d have to have been living under a rock somewhere if you hadn’t noticed the popularity of utility garments, particularly biker-friendly jackets, on our city’s streets.
It’s nothing new. Non-bikers wear biker jackets, non surfers wear board shorts – the list could go on forever. But a lesser-known tale is the way that bikers themselves have been quick to adopt the style of military surplus for their own utilitarian ends.
A classic case in point is a piece of kit that has become a biker classic: the Barbour ‘Ursula’ jacket.
The story goes that the very stylish WW2 Submariner Lieutenant Commander George Phillips (below), the captain of HMS Ursula, was unhappy with the waterproofing properties of standard-issue navy kit. He therefore went ahead and commissioned a bespoke piece of kit from outerwear company Barbour of South Shields. The waxed, water resistant suit he got eventually became known as the ‘Ursula Suit’ and proved hugely popular across the Royal Navy.
After the war thousands of garments derived from the Ursula ended up in the hands of bikers. The same thing happened, of course, to leather flying jackets, tight fitting pocket t-shirts and a host of other garments that have gone on to make fashion history.
The popularity of brands like Barbour and Belstaff, who of course have made the biker-fashion crossover in a spectacular fashion of late, can be put down to the return to of utility as a prime value in these chastened times.
Look out for next month’s fashion feature thread for more archaeology of fashion and automotive function.
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