There are three biker jackets etched on the marble walls of history. Why are those jackets so notable? Because those jackets fit the images of the wearers. The wearer of the biker jacket is often seen as anything but a “goody two shoes”, and most who wear the coat are rarely thought od as totally evil. There are few exceptions to this rule, as we see those people as mostly ones that live on the edge. Our inner selves scream to be like them. No jackets can come close to comparing the lasting impression of the ‘rugged good-guy’ than the jackets worn by Evel Knievel, James Dean, and Marlon Brando.
Not many who were around in the era of that magical red, white and blue (mostly white) jacket and cape fly over buses, fountains, cars, and just about anything that would would hold still, will not soon forget that we also watched to see if those garments would land unscathed. We also watched because Evel Knievel dared us to. Evel was bravado brought to life. Famous for his crashes and daring, Evel was The P.T. Barnum of the 1970’s. Here was a man self promoted his own bogus legend by pretending he was several different members of the press so that he could get his first Las Vegas jump. For the rest of his career, Kneivel played on our need to be thrilled. We would cheer when he landed and gasp when he failed, either result would have us talking for weeks. How many of us built ramps in the allies and streets to jump our banana seated bikes across, because of that leather jacket and the man who wore it?
James Dean’s jacket’s voice screamed directly from the dark edgy 1950’s disenchanted ‘restless youth of America’. In an era that was the beginning stages of the cold war, America’s youth began to question authority and why do those who have authority have it. Not having the answers to the questions they had, some youth became disenchanted with the American dream. They became rebels. The rebel that Dean represented was one on the edge, but had a true heart. His is the jacket that makes women melt at the “bad boy” image. The guy that races for the sheer excitement, and loves with unbridled passion. His jacket is the protector of the rebel spirit.
Maybe the “coolest” biker jackets is the one sported by Marlon Brando, a.k.a. Johnny Strabler, in ‘The Wild One’. ‘The Wild One’ was the original biker film. But, the movie was layered with characters that on the surface were mindless beasts, and under closer examination had very humane qualities. Johnny Strabler being the most human of them all. The wandering rebel, looking for his soul and trying to hide it all in the same snarl. Johnny was the penultimate chaotic good character, never meaning to do much harm and trying to do right as he saw fit. His jacket was well worn and just the look of it said it had many stories to tell, some not too wonderful but not all together hateful. When we see that jacket, we think of how we would ride with Johnny, bit would feel uncomfortable if he came into our cafe.