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Explore Motorcycle Apparel in the UK: In-Depth History of Fashion & Function

by Maximo Moto 11 Dec 2023 0 Comments

Motorcycle apparel in the UK has undergone a remarkable evolution, seamlessly blending fashion with function. This journey, deeply influenced by cultural shifts and technological advancements - has transformed protective gear into a style statement. From the practical, heavy-duty attire of the early 20th century to the revolutionary leather jackets of the 1950s culture and onto today's high-tech, safety-oriented designs, motorbike apparel reflects riders' needs and spirit. 

two motorbike riders are riding in a beautiful uk weather

This history is not just about clothing but a vivid story of social change, technological innovation, and an enduring passion for the freedom of the road. The history of motorcycle clothing in the UK, blending fashion and function, is fascinating - evolving trends, technological advancements, and cultural influences mark it. 

Here's a Brief Overview of Motorcycle Apparel History:

Early 20th Century - The Beginnings: Motorcycle apparel in the early 1900s was more about function than fashion - riders wore practical, heavy-duty clothing, often repurposing/remodifying military gear, to protect against the elements and injuries. Leather was a popular choice because of its durability and protective qualities.

early 20th century motorcycle apparel

1950s - The Rocker Culture: The 1950s saw a significant shift when the "Rocker" subculture emerged in the UK. Leather jackets, often adorned with metal studs and patches, became iconic, symbolising revolution and freedom. Brands like Lewis Leathers, which started as a sportswear company in the 1890s, became popular among these riders.

motorcycle the rocker culture 1950

1960s and 1970s - Safety and Style: As motorcycle racing gained popularity, the need for protective motorcycle apparel became evident. This era saw the introduction of padded leather suits and helmets that offered better protection. Meanwhile, the fashion aspect remained strong, with vibrant colours and personalised designs.

motorcycle apparel 1960s'70s safety and style

The 1980s to 2000s - Technological Advancements: The 2000s were marked by significant materials and design advancements because synthetic fabrics like Kevlar and Gore-Tex were introduced to offer improved protection, weather resistance, and comfort. Motorbike apparel became more sophisticated, incorporating modern design without compromising on protection.

motorcycle apparel look between 1980 to 2000.

21st Century - The Modern Era: Today, motorcycle gear in the UK blends style, safety, and technology. There's a wide range of options, from classic leather jackets to modern high-tech motorcycle riding gear, with armour and weatherproofing properties. The influence of pop culture, fashion trends, and growing safety concerns continue to shape the evolution of motorbike clothing.

motorcycle apparel in 21th century.

Throughout its history, motorcycle apparel in the UK has been influenced by cultural trends, technological advancements, and the evolving needs of riders, striking a balance between fashion and function.

Why is Motorcycle Apparel Important?

The importance of motorcycle apparel is not just a matter of style or preference but a vital aspect of the rider's protection. According to the World Health Organization, motorcyclists belong to the most vulnerable road users, who make up more than half of all road-related fatalities. In the UK, motorcycle crashes and related accidents have caused over 5,000 reported deaths and severe casualties during 2012. 

Motorcycle enthusiasts are more susceptible to accidents and injuries due to their lack of visibility and protection than other vehicles. Motorbikes are smaller and more challenging to see, especially in blind spots or changing lanes. They also provide little protection in case of collisions or falls, exposing them to other vehicles, road surfaces, and obstacles.

That's why wearing proper motorcycle clothing can significantly reduce the risk and severity of injuries. Motorcycle apparel can provide the following:

Protection from abrasion and impact: Motorbike gear is designed to withstand tearing and puncturing and absorb or distribute the force of an impact. It can prevent or minimise damage to the rider's skin, muscles, bones, and organs.

a rider is wearing maximo moto bela motorcycle suit.

Protection from weather and environmental conditions: An adequate motorcycle clothing can also protect the rider from weather and environmental conditions, such as wind, rain, sun, cold, heat, dust, and noise. They also prevent dehydration, extreme cold, sunburn, or fatigue.

a male bike rider is wearing a motorcycle suit while riding in snowy area.

Visibility and identification: Motorcycle riding attire enhances visibility and identification on the road, particularly in low-light or crowded situations. It often features bright colours, reflective materials, or distinctive patterns to attract attention and prevent collisions.

a bike rider is wearing a hi-vis motorbike riding suit in a dark weather

What are the Different Types of Motorcycle Apparel and Their Features?

Motorcycle apparel can be classified into different types depending on the material, style, function, and level of protection they offer. Some of the most common types of motorcycle clothing are:

Helmets: Helmets should fit snugly and comfortably and be certified to a recognised standard, such as ECE 22.05 or ECE 22.061.

Jackets: Jackets should also feature armour or padding in the elbows and shoulders and optionally in the back and chest to provide extra protection.

Pants: Pants should also feature armour or padding in the knees and hips and optionally in the shins and thighs to provide extra protection. 

Boots: Boots should be sturdy, durable, and waterproof and have a good grip and traction on the sole - also have reinforcements or protection in the toes, heels, ankles, and shins to prevent injuries from impact or twisting.

Gloves: Gloves should be snug, flexible, and comfortable, with a good grip and sensitivity on the palm and fingers. They should also carry protection or padding in the knuckles, fingers, palms, and wrists to prevent injuries from abrasion or impact. 

maximo moto motorcycle clothing gear such as suits, jackets, gloves, boots, pants, and more.

What are the Legal Requirements and Standards for Motorcycle Clothing in the UK?

Motorcycle clothing is crucial for safety and compliance with UK legal requirements. Riders and passengers must wear helmets that meet British Standard BS 6658:1985, UNECE Regulation 22.05 or 22.06, or any other European Economic Area standard. Protective clothing must meet Personal Protective Equipment Regulation 2016/425 and EEA Mark, including jackets, pants, boots, and gloves. 

motorcycle clothing safety standards in uk


Motorcycle apparel in the UK has evolved from practical attire to a powerful fashion statement deeply rooted in the culture and identity of riders. The journey from rugged early gear to sophisticated, technology-enhanced outfits showcases fashion, protection, and rider comfort changes. As the landscape of motorcycle apparel continues to evolve, it represents the timeless spirit of the motorcycle community and the relentless pursuit of innovation. This intertwining of style, safety, and culture ensures that motorcycle apparel remains crucial to the UK's motorcycling heritage.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1: Can motorcycle gear be fashionable and still provide adequate protection?

A1: Modern motorcycle apparel by Maximo Moto is designed to be both stylish and safe. Many brands combine fashionable designs with protective features like reinforced materials and built-in armour.

Q2: Is leather or textile better for motorcycle apparel?

A2: Leather is a classic choice because of its durability and abrasion resistance, while textiles offer versatility and are lighter and more weather-resistant, depending on personal preference and riding conditions.

Q3: How do I ensure the right fit for my motorcycle gear?

A3: Before purchasing gear, ensure a snug yet comfortable fit, paying attention to whether the helmet, jacket, and pants fit at different riding positions and opting for adjustable features for a customised fit.

Q4: How often should I replace my motorcycle gear?

A4: Regularly inspect apparel for wear and tear, especially after a fall, and replace helmets every two years or immediately after a significant impact.

Q5: What should I consider when buying motorcycle gear for different weather conditions?

A5: For cold weather, look for insulated gear and layers. In warmer conditions, opt for ventilated apparel. Waterproof gear is essential for rainy climates. Modular gear that can be adapted for different conditions is a versatile choice.

Q6: Where can I find high-quality motorcycle apparel in the UK?

A6: High-quality motorcycle gear can be found at specialised motorcycle apparel stores and online retailers like Maximo Moto.

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