Brooks Leather …….The History of Motorcycle Apparel
The initial development of the leather motorcycle jacket began with companies like Schott who opened in 1913, and began producing motorcycle jackets during the 1920’s. In Detroit, the Joseph Buegeleisen Co. started business in 1933 providing motorcycle accessories & saddlebags, and began producing motorcycle jackets in the 1940’s. Other early jacket makers/retailers include Indian Motorcycles with only one model jacket, the “Ranger” for men, and the “Rangerette” for women. The woman’s model had the pocket and zipper opposite of the man’s model. Both jackets were produced during the 1940’s until the bankruptcy of Indian in 1953.
Harley Davidson also fielded quality leathers in the early days, starting to make apparel in 1912. The 1940’s “Cycle Champ” for men, and the “Cycle Queen” for the ladies were the epitome of the style and function during the 1940’s. The “Pistol Pocket” holster shaped design on Harley Davidson jackets was also used by such makers as: Buco, Hercules, Beck, and a number of others. This was a popular 1940’s design element that carried over into the 1960’s with the Sears Oakbrook model. Another old style design incorporates a storage pocket in the back, accessed by a zippered opening on the left side, not unlike the pockets on many hunting jackets. This style was used by companies such as: Buco, Blatt, and Grais. These design elements required many more man hours to produce. As labor costs increased, jackets were simplified in order to compete with products being imported and sold for mass consumption by non motorcyclists of the early rock & roll period.
An additional factor in the design of the motorcycle jacket was the influence on fashion provided by Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones” in which Marlin Brando wore a Schott “Perfecto”. Another popular brand was Buco, the trade name of the Joseph Buegeleisen Co. in Detroit, Michigan. Many jacket manufacturers followed suit.
Indeed, Brooks started in business in Detroit in 1959 as a subcontractor for the Joseph Bugleisen Company (Buco). Brooks was founded by Sandor Weiss, a Hungarian immigrant and shoe maker, who fled the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956. Sandor’s entrepreneurial drive created an enduring legacy spanning 55 years of a family run motorcycle leather company. Their first release was the style 511 “Road Warrior” jacket with two outside top pockets…still manufactured by Brooks today, a venerable classic!
In 1963, Sandor’s son, Leslie joined the company. His younger brother Steven, graduated high school in 1964 at a time when Brooks was in full swing. Steve subsequently joined the company in 1972 and went to work with his brother at the fast growing Brooks. The boys took over the day to day running of the company when Sandor retired in 1977.
Brooks customers included Harley Davidson, Penton, Chrysler Corp. (Viper Jacket), The Detroit Red Wings, and The American Quarter Horse Association, to name a few. Jackets made for Harley Davidson were labeled Harley Davidson, not Brooks. Styles included the 500, a 511 without the zip out liner, the 502 pants that could be worn over a normal pair of jeans and padded MX pants for the Aermacchi-Harley Davidson dirt bike riders.
Brooks created a new marketing campaign by hiring Stone & Simon of Detroit as their adverting agency in 1977. The result was the famous “We’ll Take On Anybody In Leather” campaign. This effectively cinched their market recognition for American made leather in the domestic market during the 80’s. With full page print ads in national publications, including Playboy, Brooks Leather helped define iconic American leather images from “Easy Rider” to “Captain America”…. all dressed in trend-setting leather. In 1978 the famous Brooks gold and black label changed to a new logo still used today. The two sons as partners operated production facilities in Detroit. Production hovered around 5,000 Brooks jackets a year (1982) with it’s trademarks, Brooks, Riders Only and Club Elite.
Upon the death of Leslie and Steve’s subsequent retirement, production relocated to Brockton, Massachusetts. The factory was managed by Jamie Goodson with production manager Jay Winter. Accomplishing a seamless transition, Brooks subsequently sold ownership interest to Jamie, arguably “The Dean” of America’s Motorcycle Apparel Industry. Jamie’s career has spanned nearly 40 years creating hallmark brands such as Protech, Raider, Texport, and Vanson Leathers, as well as private label programs for many nationally recognized proprietary brands.
Continuing the tradition of manufacturing racing jackets and pants for motorcycle racing, Team Brooks with Rider Ryan Ambrose, is a top finisher in today’s active vintage racing scene, and 2012 AMA Vintage Grand National Champion. Racing provides an excellent R&D opportunity to test Brooks’ suits and gloves under the most extreme conditions for comfort, function and durability. We can say with confidence that Brooks’ products are track tested!
Brooks is also happy to be a sponsor and participate in the 2014 Moto Giro USA www.motogiro-usa.com and of the Pewter Run www.pewterrun.com celebrating the first fifty years of motorcycling in America.
Also, this coming weekend, Ryan Ambrose and Team Brooks will be competing at the Barber Vintage Festival www.barbervintagefestival.org
Today, under Jamie’s leadership Brooks Leather production proudly remains “Made in Massachusetts” with factories in both Fall River and on Boston’s north shore. Celebrating Brooks’ heritage, our current offerings feature motorcycle apparel including Jackets, Gloves, Chaps, Vests and Rain Suits, with sales directly to brick and mortar retailers. Brooks Leather has also launched comprehensive Private Label programs to provide sourcing for both “Made In USA” and imports to prominent retailers and major catalog merchants.
Brooks Leather Sportswear is a subsidiary of Commando Specialties, LLC headquartered in Plymouth, MA. The current CEO is Jamie Goodson can be reached at 508 503 1633.
To view the complete line of Brooks Leather, please go to the website.
BROOKS LEATHER SPORTSWEAR
123 Industrial Park Rd. Plymouth, MA 02360
Toll Free: 1 877 366 4659