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Decked out: Motorcycle Apparel A to Z

Do you look like a biker?

Through its almost one hundred year history, the motorcycle has encouraged a sprawling subculture with its own traditions and heritage. And like any subculture, the aficionados of biking, or "riding", bring their own modes of dress, speech, and politics to their beloved pastime. Dressing the part, especially, is sometimes difficult to do with any credibility, and there are few things more outlandish looking than a biker who's "trying too hard" - biking is all about the cool of nonchalance and self-confidence. To fake bravado, or to seem overzealous, is to invite ridicule.

When gathering your riding apparel, give consideration to what type of image you would like to project. Your biker personality, in this sense, is largely a thumbnail sketch of your overall temperament and demeanor. If you're the mellow type to begin with, elaborately detailed jackets and chaps are probably going to leave you uncomfortable and scratching your head in confusion. If you're the more aggressive type, the finely detailed leather jackets and vests are probably more your speed. If you consider yourself old-fashioned, consider getting something vintage or vintage-styled. To further examine these points, let's look at each type of apparel a bit more closely.

The laid-back biker is going to have simply-cut jackets, faded blue jeans, and perhaps a simple helmet with no shield. These are the people commonly drawn to biking because of its heritage and sense of continuity and purpose. There is a real discipline and self-determination to biking culture, and the mellow biker is going to be drawn to that sense of independence within a set of guidelines. He or she will dress appropriately, whenever possible and always on the bike. Coordinating with his apparel will be simple saddlebags and bike accessories that show his or her austere nature. These might sometimes includes a simple Western bola or concho, but for the most part remain simple and straightforward.

The more aggressive personality biker will favor boldly colored leather, perhaps with elaborate stitching and overlay design, and sometimes include totems or emblems on his saddlebags, bike, and accessories. The aggressive biker might also sometimes sport a leather cap or bandanna, as proof of his devotion to his beloved bike. These are also the true "biker dudes" you see at bike shows, the people that, like the slogan says, "Live to Ride... and ride to live."

Finally, the old-school biker is sort of a cross between the two. Perhaps this is the rider who grew up watching Steve McQueen movies or reruns of "The Wild One" on late night television, and dreamed of the freedom McQueen and Brando possessed atop their bikes. The old school biker will almost certainly take to the traditional, high-cut and studded biker's jacket, and favor simple saddlebags and bike custom pieces over flashier or more austere parts alike. For the old-school biker, it's important to get everything not exactly right but get everything exactly like it was.

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