Monday, May 2, 2011

Gasoline Cowboys!

I want to interrupt my Viva blogs to talk about a vendor that was vending at Booze Broads and Hotrods Saturday. Gasoline Cowboys is a company that contracts with Dehen, who have been consistently producing the highest quality wool motorcycle sweaters since 1920. These are not just reproductions, they are the real deal! Made on the same machines and cut to the same pattern that were produced from the 20s to the 40s. You can click the link above to look at the sweaters and club jackets that they sell.

The following is from their website:

Founded in 1920 by William P. Dehen, who made his mark by making hardy woolen sweaters for the American sports man. Today Dehen is still family owned, now well into it’s third generation. This is in no small part due to their obsession with quality and service.
The Gasoline Cowboy project originated from the desire to bring to the market Dehen’s unique Motorclothes and Raceware. Honoring the original designs for their simplicity and authenticity, these hand made products with trims and specialty embroideries are manufactured from the original Dehen designs of the 1930's and 40’s. This includes the shape and cut of the clothes which is often slimmer and closer fitting than the current contemporary cuts. This authenticity is what gives the Gasoline Cowboys range a different style and feel from mainstream modern clothing.


Club Sweater “Fort Sutter M.C.” circa 1940
courtesy of Rin Tanaka
Before WWII, Motorcycling was seen as a sport. The A.M.A. (American Motorcycle Association) sanctioned competition racing, hill climbs and recreational events such as the Gypsy tours. Many motorcycle clubs sprang up and each wore it’s own distinctive riding apparel, usually a colorful wool turtlezip sweater complete with decorative name and town embroidered on them. Likewise racers were sponsored by either the motorcycle manufacturer or by local dealers who would outfit their hero in tough sweaters for practical reasons of promotion and easy recognition on the track.
At this time the motorcycle manufacturers aimed their advertising at the outdoors man and the adventurer. The image they presented in their advertising always cast the motorcycling sport in it’s best light. The industry politely ignored the fact there were plenty of badly behaved young men blasting across the countryside raising hell and making as much racket as possible.
As war clouds gathered, racing and motorcycling in general was put on hiatus till hostilities ceased. When peace broke out in 1945, American servicemen were demobed. During the war, they had earned regular pay, but found little to spend it on. Once back home with wallets full of cash many of this generation bought motorcycles.

Club Sweater”Tri City MC” circa 1950
courtesy of Rin Tanaka
The A.M.A. also realized that the war had exposed many Americans to motorcycling; veterans came back with experiences of military Harley Davidsons, Indians and the more sporty British bikes. Also back home, shortages of metals and fuels had encouraged people to ride instead of drive. Eager to keep these new riders, the A.M.A. sanctioned competitions and organized Gypsy Tours with renewed enthusiasm.
Life in the Armed Services, however, was not a particularly good place to acquire social graces. Many felt bored with civilian life after the perilous war years and some chose to seek out other adrenalin junkies. This resulted in the forming of hundreds of small motorcycle clubs with names like the ‘Lucky 13’s’ the 'Top hatters', ‘Ramblers', and the ‘Bombers'. Members wore club sweaters; rode in formation not unlike the bomber squadrons and partied together.
However, these new motorcyclists drank harder, and were more rambunctious than the pre-war riders, this culminated in the infamous July 4th Hollister “riot” made infamous by Hollywood in the film "The Wild Ones”.
As Marlon Brando rode off into the sunset perched on his motorcycle wearing his leather jacket he changed the face of motorcycling forever. Whether his “Johnny” character was true to life or not, it mattered little as his portrayal of the brooding nomad, the outcast, was the perfect tonic for America's exploding youth culture. Motorcycling had always attracted larger than life characters but now it was linked intrinsically with outlaws and rebellion.

Club Sweater “Portland AMA” circa 1938
courtesy of Rin Tanaka
Slowly the motorcycle sweaters were put away as the GI’s grew older to be replaced by cutoff denim and buckskin worn by the younger Easy Rider generation and then later, the biker anti fashions of the 70’s and 80’s.
Throughout this time, Dehen never stopped making these high quality race sweaters which were always a special order item; custom pieces made specifically for individual clubs. At Gasoline Cowboys our mission is to bring this line of Dehens motor clothes to a wider audience with designs available individually as well as serving larger custom orders.
When choosing Gasoline Cowboys you are choosing a rare option – to buy hand made apparel, direct from an American heritage brand - Dehen of Portland.

My hope is that I can get one before my big trip to the UK. That will then require me to buy some motorcycle boots....poor me! 


Erin said...

I would totally rock one of these! I have an '07 H-D Street Bob! Thanks for sharing!


Pfffffffewwww so rad !!!!!! :)


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