About five years ago I picked up a suede leather fringe jacket from a head shop/vintage clothing spot called Grunts 'n Postures in Salt Lake. It's a great piece, just like the one Dennis Hopper wears as Billy in "Easy Rider".
The problem is I can never wear it.
Thing fits fine, and looks good, too. The problem is it's such a unique article it begs a level of biker credibility I just don't have. Even as a classic T-shirt and jeans guy, most of the people I know wouldn't buy me in the fringe jacket. My favorite piece of clothing can really only come out on special occasions, like Halloween or Arbor Day.
The jacket in question...
I've always been an eclectic fellow, but in order to pull off the fringe jacket look, I would have to mount an image reinvention akin to all those guys in high school that left their sophomore year in TC T-shirts and shorts then came back the next fall in black cowboy hats, floor length dusters and butt-tight Wranglers. And I'm not sure that's something I really want to do.
It's kind of sad that this is the way our culture is, but it's an unfortunate reality. If I started wearing the jacket, I'd probably have to wear the requisite cowboy hat and boots with it, which would be fine until I had to ditch my Mafia don suit and ties every Sunday for pearl buttons and a bolo tie.
Of course, since my jacket is less "cowboy" and more "hippie", I'd have to adopt the swagger of the modern-day hippie, start eating tofu, get tattoos and join PETA. I could only listen to Jack Johnson, and I'd have to swap in the Maxima for a Harley (if not a mid-eighties Subaru coated with "Visualize Whirled Peas" bumper stickers). Picking up a Harley would probably be OK if not for the fact that I haven't ridden a bike since I killed a bunch of rabbits at the age of eleven. *
The only justifiable venue for the jacket--next to a guy channeling Uncle Rico.
The reason I'm going off on this rant is because I just got back from Yellowstone, and once again found myself surrounded by platoons of pseudo-Hell's Angels I've come to identify as "Fikers"--fake bikers.
On first impression, you would think that Yellowstone had become the Second Coming of the Haight-Ashbury District, when Hell's Angels chapters mixed like oil and water (see Altamont Music Festival 1969) with sunflower-coiffed hippies drawn from the world over. But a closer look reveals the truth: Yellowstone is the ultimate destination of every accountant in America that leads a double life on the weekends as a Fiker.
Real bikers do show up, mind you. But you have to know how to spot them. Close examination of the Fiker will reveal a conservative haircut, little or no facial hair, and a definite lack of genuine biker traits, like guns.
Both the true biker and the Fiker are willing to flip you the bird, but the Fiker will help you pull out of your parallel parking space when he and his Fiker chapter have surrounded your family sedan with their $20,000 Harleys.
The real bikers drive Harleys, too, but they don't wear Harley merchandise. Fikers wear every piece of Harley gear they can get their hands on. Your typical biker will wear a random black leather jacket, a bandana, and a six-year beard. The Fiker wears a shiny helmet, is clean-shaven, and wears a black leather Harley jacket with matching chaps. I think both parties give the "two fingers at a 55 degree tilt" biker salute, though.
I really don't have a problem with the Fikers, they're just people that want to have a good time and shake up the monotony of the 9-to-5. It's just that credibility issue I can't get around. The whole point of the biker lifestyle, for better or worse, is to toss off the bonds of civilization and live a life of miserable freedom and grit on the open road. The culture wants to become the counter-culture, which makes it culture, and the counter-culture resents the fact that most of them had to integrate back into the culture to survive. And even though Harley Davidson played an integral part in the birth of that counter-culture, now they're commodifying it. It's just weird, man.
It's just like the Jack Palance character in "City Slickers" (speaking of commodification). The real cowboy is a vanishing breed, but we can always visit the dude ranch to pay tribute in the Wranglers we picked up at the mall.
Is it wrong? Is it reversible? Is it the spawn of a technological culture that has turned every aspect of world history into a retro fashion? I don't know. I just know that I won't put on my fringe jacket unless I really mean it.
Would a real biker drive this?
*I used to have a neighbor named Phil who's family moved into my suburban Bountiful neighborhood from the rolling ranches of Fountain Green, Utah when I was ten years old. All day long Phil (a year older than I) would ride around his yard on one of those mini-motorcycles that wasn't street legal, but was probably the last connection he had to a life of freedom back in Central Utah. One day he invites me over for a test-drive in an act of unprecedented kindness. Five minutes later I'm in his backyard sitting on this thing while he shows me how to use the clutch, brake, etc. I keep nodding like I have any idea what he's talking about. He stops, I gun the gas, and shoot forward in a straight line that ends with me dramatically plowing through his family rabbit cages. I leave flustered with the image of a dozen stunned rabbits in my mind, never to interact with Phil again save in our church basketball games. A year later I find out the rabbits all died the next day.