Monday, January 5, 2009

Belstaff, Movies and Leather




Every once and a while I am called upon by the film industry for some consultation. I really enjoy this work because they tap me for "expertise" on how to create authenticity for their historical period clothing. There is nothing that I enjoy more than a film that captures the verisimilitude of a period vis a vis correct and fabulous costuming. Last year I worked on Amelia Earhart staring Hillary Swank. The costumers needed authentic vintage jackets to recreate the look of the 1930's and I was happy to share my interest, knowledge and collections with the film makers. Many of my jackets were used in the movie. The other main contributor to the film was Belstaff. Belstaff and other companies are often called in to make historical recreations to fill the size gap differences that cannot be achieved because modern men and women are often much larger then the people of the 1930s. In the case of Earhart, her original flying jacket (which was made by Abercrobie in the 30s) would be next to impossible to find so the film staff or private contractor would have to make a copy.



I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" yesterday and I was for the most part impressed. There are many stunning examples of original period jackets in the film. You could not have a better model than Brad Pitt to wear a jacket and he is an excellent 30s and 40s period archetype persona. The wool plaid jackets and leathers were for the most part stunning and accurate. The film has a gritty feel and look and the costumers go to great lengths to find accurate clothing. Belstaff contributed several jackets to the film and if I had found a picture of their 1930s shawl collared sheepskin and horsehide button up barnstormer jacket I would have posted it. Kudos to them for creating not just the nice tight cut but the jacket look fit seamlessly into the film. This did not hold true for their other creation pictured above. The four pocket jacket seemed frilly and out of place on Pitt in the film. It did not fit the character or the time or place of the film and it would be highly unlikely that the character of Button would have owned this jacket regardless of the look of the jacket. Oh well, marketing opportunities often outweigh the desire to be "authentic". Seems a shame though as films like "The Motorcycle Diaries" and even the most recent "Indiana Jones" with Shia LaBeouf really capitalize on historical iconic referencing with their fantastic recreations of early motorcycle jackets. I'm giving the leather a 50% score in the film oscillating between brilliant and banal!

14 comments:

  1. Ah! I'm so glad I ran into this site. It's very informative when it comes to vintage leather jackets (I've had this *cough* fetish since I was a teen in the eighties).

    Thank you for sharing all your knowledge of this. As an avid motorhead, this will certainly come in handy when I scout out for my next vintage motorcycle jacket.

    --Einzelganger

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  2. What style of jacket was Pitt wearing in the motorcycle scene? I've been trying to figure it out by ignorance of all things leather jackets.

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  3. He was wearing the belstaff fashion jacket above with the 4 pockets. It is a repro version of their original English riders jacket which in the rebrand of the company denudes the original quality of the jacket. Also it is the wrong style for the period and country in the film.

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  4. Nice post.

    And I was thinking the shawl collar shearling jacket was Lost Worlds, or Aero even.

    I really liked the black button-front work jacket...

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  5. Have to say that Belstaff have really done a dis-service to what was originally a quality brand.
    The current jackets seem cheaply put together,and the use of annodised metal buckles and studs is shocking.
    I have been dealing in vintage for many years and have a collection of original belstaff and barbour jackets.The stitching and brass hardware are what made these jackets endure.I also find the use of period style labels(black prince,as an example)on items that bear no resemblance to the originals,a little 'tacky'.
    Quality should never be sacrificed over style.After all,quality is what Belstaffs brand was built on.

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  6. I have to agree with you on that one. It seems that the new trend is to buy old business' relaunch them, rebrand them, through the current "system" at them and forget the history of how they became great brands. I guess that is what will differentiate the good the bad and the ugly!

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  7. I wish I could raid movie studio's closets!!!

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  8. Come on people... the brand was dying..it sounds kind of snobish to say how wonderfull it was (when almost nobody was buying it) and how crap it is now (because it's well known)... It is tacky as well that Black Prince is doing new designs, isn't it the normal thing to happend? at the end of the day if brand don't evolve they desapear. Is it better to leave them die because somebody want's to feel cool? I bet most of this highly opinionated people wouldn't have so much interest if it wouldn't be popular...

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  9. Well I would see you are partially right..or perhaps I partially agree with you...brands must evolve to some degree in order to remain successful..however..they often die not because of the product or even because of the brand...other companies fill the space..other brands copy, consumers remain uneducated, price becomes more important the quality,..belstaff was killed by cheap import crap...the revival of the brand is a sort of ploy to create "instant success" the key is to remain true to the brand.

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  10. I hope that you may be able to help me with a little history on my grandfathers old Belstaff jacket. My Grandfather was a motorcycle fanatic beginning his business selling and repairing bikes just after the war. This jacket may have been from the days when he was a messenger circa 1950 onwards but I can't be sure. He regularly took part in motorcycle and sidecar trials and I found an old list of competitors in one of the pockets!

    I have a number of photos that I hope will be useful. Additionally, the jacket is incredibly heavy, wool lined with a 'rubber' outer and a press stud gusset for riding. There is only one label which you can see in the photos. It has been stored in a garden shed for many years and has some damage to the lining and staining to the outer fabric but apart from that all the press studs work fine and the jacket is in good condition.

    I hope you find it interesting and can help in any way.

    Kind regards,

    Jason Ziel
    jziel@btconnect

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  11. Hello,

    I am driving my wife crazy because I am looking for a new leather jacket but because I am picky,want quality and unique look(all the motorcycle types all look a like). What I want to ask you is where can I find a good unique looking good quality leather jacket for $500 and under? I like the few( I don't have $2,000 though), magnoli's wanted,but sinse I cant see it, I'm afraid to spend it. Ive looked at Belstaff,Silvia y Mario from Argentina but I'm afraid I will be disappointed. What would you suggest? I like the old style from 30's and 40's and Bally's new add with the guy from Inglorious Basterds but I again don't have several thousands.Suggestions?

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  12. Hard to recommend a good jacket under 500...I would suggest hunting on ebay..you could buy an amazing used jacket for under 500!

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  13. Hello,

    I am trying to find a good quality leather jacket for under $500. I have been looking everywhere and at most styles. I have looked at Silvia y Mario in Argentina, Magnoli in NZ, and the FEW(yes I know their $2000 or more).Both Magnoli and Silvia look good but I'm afraid to pull the trigger due to not seeing the style or quality of the leather. I have also looked at Wested Leather but the low prices make me wonder as well. I like the old 30's and 40's style coats but also like a unique Caramel or russet mandarin collar motorcycle that doesn't look like everyone else's. One that would be noticed as good quality. Any suggestions? I have looked at Belstaff and really like the new Bally add with the guy from Inglorious Bastards, but again like the FEW, I don't have thousands to spend. Can you help me?

    Todd Marshall
    tmwvu04@msn.com

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