The New Classics of Motorcycle Style
We talked to the five guys behind three of today’s best motorcycle apparel companies.
Style in the motorcycle scene doesn’t change a whole lot. You’ve mostly got leather, denim, boots, gloves, and helmets to play around with, and fashion here tends to be—first and foremost—functional. But motorcycle culture is also about self-expression. So while bright green, high-visibility jackets and bulky, waterproof pants might keep you safe, they’re not stylish, and that’s no good.
To hear more about what’s driving the state of motorcycle style, we sat down with the founders of three companies manufacturing some of the coolest gear you can get: Asher Driggers, founder and creative director of Grifter Company, which sells the most fashionable motorcycle gloves on the market; Daniel and Jon Feldman, the brothers that started Feltraiger, a menswear brand with some seriously nice denim pieces; and Bill Bryant and Harold “McGoo” McGruther, co-founders of Biltwell Inc., which produces the most attractive helmets out there.
Asher Driggers — Grifter Company
Maxim: When’d you get Grifter started?
Driggers: A little over a year ago. I told myself I’d start a company, and I fell in love with the glove concept. It’s a simple product that you can make really cool, and there aren’t too many variations on a glove. I mean, a glove’s a glove. There’s only so much you can do to it, and I like those parameters. I can go crazy with weird shit, but “the glove” gives me parameters to work in. And there was a gap in the market. There really weren’t any cool gloves.
Maxim: What makes your gloves cool?
Driggers:I mix selvage denim, which is really popular and comes from the ends of a roll of denim, where it’s strongest, with leather. The selvage line is that added detail that, when you flip your glove up and see it, sets my gloves apart from the mass-marketed crap other companies make.
Maxim:Any major problems you’ve run into?
Driggers: There’s this fabric I use for our Mexican blanket gloves. The trials and tribulations of not knowing enough or where to source fabric—that’s hard. I used Google. And eBay. And shit like that when I was first starting out, not even that long ago. There were times that, for my Mexican blanket gloves, I was paying $14 for a half-yard of fabric, simply because I couldn’t find the fabric anywhere else and people wanted the gloves. But I didn’t care because I knew if I sold it, it would build my brand.
Maxim:So you’ve got a pretty solid business plan then?
Driggers:Most people that run a business have a plan, but I don’t. Shit’s blown up so quick for me that it’s hard to gauge. I’m in a good place right now. If business doubles, I’ll still be in a good place. If I triple, then I’ll need to figure shit out, but right now I’m just going with it and creating cool, creative shit people like. And it’s really fucking selling, so that’s all that matters to me, as long as I can keep up with production.
Daniel Feldman and Jon Feldman — Feltraiger
Maxim: Tell us what your shop is about.
J. Feldman: We started Feltraiger, our all-U.S.A. menswear brand, a little over five years ago now. As you get older, you try to find those pieces you can own for years and years, and pass down to the next generation. We wear our dad’s old varsity jacket, our grandpa’s old Air Force jacket, and we wanted to create a brand that made those timeless classics that every man should have in his wardrobe.
Maxim: Where’s the shop?
D. Feldman: We have retail store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We want to open more retail shops in Los Angeles and south Florida and get our online business going. We also want to grow our international business. We have distribution in Japan, and we’re trying to get out a little bit further.
Maxim: How did motorcycle culture influence the growth of Feltraiger?
D. Feldman: Five years ago, I had just gotten my first motorcycle, a shitty BSA that barely ran. I didn’t know that motorcycles and the world around it were cool. I didn’t know a single person in Brooklyn who rode a motorcycle. I moved to L.A. a year ago, and now every one of my friends has a motorcycle. I feel like this generation is made up of kids that grew up skateboarding. Now those kids are older, they have a little more money, and started buying motorcycles since it’s sort of the same lifestyle, the same world. Things like this are more accepted than before, and, now that they are, it helps the brand. The core of our business is creating a quality product that’s American-made, and I think the motorcycle culture is inherently American.
J. Feldman: We call Feltraiger the new American classic. When we see trend boards and things like that, we put on horse blinders. We just push that classic, cool vibe.
Bill Bryant and Harold “McGoo” McGruther — Biltwell
Maxim: You started ten years ago, and your timing was perfect. Did you see the oncoming wave of café racers or…?
McGruther: We weren’t trend humping. I describe myself as too stupid to know what’s cool and what’s not. We both loved motorcycles and thought our customer would be like us—a tired or nagged-out surfer or BMX’r—that reached a point in life where they had a career, a kid, a wife or ex-wives but still craved doing fun shit on two wheels and would get on a bike. And we had the chance to do something on our own we took it. We were tired of singing for our supper.
Bryant: Yeah, we were tired of working for other people. We wanted to put what we had learned in our years into place without being told what to do by some 28-year-old MBA that knew everything. Biltwell was an expression of that, both in the product design and how we run the company.
Maxim: What were the first products you designed?
Bryant: Our first parts were motorcycle parts. Helmets came a year or two after that. We kind of stumbled into them.
McGruther: Helmets were one more extension of what we liked at the time and have evolved since then, but what we knew we didn’t like at the time—big, clunky motocross helmets.
Bryant: Or little tiny pudding bowls that don’t do anything.
McGruther: Our roots are ‘70s and ‘80s motorcycle riding, and we wanted something trim and comfortable. One of our strengths and weaknesses going in was that we didn’t know much, but we knew what we liked.
Maxim: So, looking at your entire helmet line, you really like retro?
McGruther: We try to stay timeless in our aesthetics.
Bryant: Trends come and go, obviously, but we want to stay insulated from that and ahead of the game as far as helmet designs. Whether there’s metal flake or not. Whether there’s matte finishes or not. We try to lead that industry by doing the things we think are neat ourselves. We look back at old magazines and talk to old dudes and collect old parts to draw inspiration for different looks but keep the construction modern and contemporary.
Maxim: Being the best helmet company out there—that’s your end game?
Bryant: Man, our end game is to provide jobs for the people we work with. We have 16 people fully employed right now, and everybody eats and sleeps inside because of this brand. Now the decisions we make are significantly more impactful than they were eight years ago. That responsibility won’t go anywhere and probably grow. We don’t care too much about growth, but we want to make it something sustainable and something we’re proud of.
Maxim: Any parting words of wisdom?
Bryant: Ride motorcycles and have fun. Get out and actually do something. Motorcycles aren’t social props; the gear isn’t part of your lifestyle-enhancing image. They’re tools to take you to interesting places and meet neat people and do fun shit.