I’ve been thinking about the renaissance of the British label Belstaff for a few weeks now. I’m not sure why it was on my radar again after their “Legends of Belstaff” mini-film starring Ewan McGregor, which was less a film and more a photo shoot in motion with models as SS officers occupying a British Country House, was making the rounds early last autumn. I think it might have been that I was subconsciously looking for a replacement for my formerly beloved Balmain Homme, the motorcycle jeans and distressed knitwear of which had been my go-to inspiration in dressing myself over the past few years. Now that hotshot new Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing has put the skinny rocker silhouettes aside and taken his inspiration from Cuban patio furniture or some shit, it was time to find another designer who does wildly expensive clothes that are classic and worn-in and that you can wear around L.A. without looking like you’re trying too hard. (More after the jump.)
After some decades in obscurity and financial difficulty, it seems the Belstaff star is again on the rise. The company was founded in Stoke-on-Trent in 1924, producing high quality motorcycle jackets and counting among its enthusiasts over the years such varied personalities as Lawrence of Arabia, Che Guevara and Steve McQueen. Hollywood has recently taken notice as well, using authentic looks for Leo DiCaprio in The Aviator and Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart and the latest collections by new designer Martin Cooper, formerly of Burberry, have garnered critical praise. If their advertising budget is anything to go by, they must be doing better in the financial department, too.
I personally feel the men’s collections are more solid but given the challenge a women’s collection built on motorcycling heritage proposes, Mr. Cooper has done an admirable job. Whatever is coming down the runways, Belstaff is really based on a few iconic motorcycle jackets that inform nearly everything they do. 1948’s Trialmaster is a belted, four-pocket jacket in hand-waxed cotton canvas and the Roadmaster is a slimmer update. They have been adapted to women’s styles and the clothing range has expanded to include other garments, including some killer knitwear, plus shoes, boots and bags.
One rainy day over the weekend, I ventured over to Barneys to have a look at their selection, imagining that they must at least have a range of the motorcycle jackets, and the place was a fucking disaster. There were about four hundred anxious looking women hanging around the shoe salon on the ground floor, and when I reached the men’s department on four, I was faced with rack after rack of all kinds of mixed up stuff with garments hanging off hangers and sometimes spilling onto the floor.
I made a beeline out of that mess without even stopping to smell the holiday candles from Trudon, with which I’m slightly obsessed. With Scott at the wheel, I made it back again today and, though the place was still very much in disarray, managed to find the single Belstaff jacket that they had, a black waxed cotton Roadmaster with meticulous detailing. It was a great fit and, at $850, one of their less extravagant price points. It looks like I’ll have to wait until my next New York trip to check out the rest but with Balmain out of the picture, at least it’s something to look forward to. My picks from the most recent collections are below, and please note that I hate the sandals in the men’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection.