Tuesday, May 28, 2013

If You've Ever Tried To Figure Out Why Bikers Always Wear Black ...

"I'm Only Wearing Black Until They Invent A Darker Colour"
The vast majority of the mass population at large imagine that bikers and other so-called 'undesirables' and 'social misfits' usually wear black attire to make some kind of social statement.

They love their mothers, really.
The BRMC's in 'The Wild One'.
Others think that black clothes are deliberately adopted to make one look tough and sinister. Where conventional straight society sees white shirts as a sign of success it is supposed that the 'underclass' adopts black in opposition just to be different.

Well it may surprise many - including a lot of bikers - to learn that the adoption of black clothing goes way back in time and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with social statements.

They started it.
People whose trade involved working with 'dirty' machinery wore black, or dark, clothing to hide dirt and grease. The common term 'blacksmith' referred to a smithy, one who works with metals, and 'black', specifically meaning iron. It was the common practice for smithy's to wear dark clothing to hide the soot, slag and grease deposited on their clothes over the course of their everyday work. Nothing has changed much over time and even today it is quite common for metal workers to wear dark work clothes such as the dark blue and sometimes black worn by maintenance workers in industrial plants.

Brando. Was there *anyone* cooler?
As the matter of dark clothing relates to bikers who don't do any metal work the practice of dressing 'darkly' was popularized because old motorcycles were notoriously 'dirty' machines slinging oil and grease in all directions when they were ridden so light colored dusters were definitely not the thing to wear on one's bike. Thus, dark clothes are simply a matter of practicality when one works on or operates machinery that generates a lot of oily dirt. It's as simple as that.

But the other main reason is that the exposure to the elements on a bike and the danger of crashing meant that good, tough clothing was required - and still is. Early on, it was found that leather was the best thing, and in the thirties (after WWI) and fifties (after WWII) the best stuff available cheaply was ex-Royal or US- Air Force pilot clothing. This was initially a dark brown but usually so aged when it came into biker hands that it was veering toward black anyway. 

Oh, yeah, him.
'Rebel Without A Cause'
So black was the colour, leather was the material.

Then Marlon Brando made a movie - so did James Dean - and you know the rest.

But there is no real social statement being made - and there never has been - except in the minds of those who believe wearing black means something special which it doesn't.