Immigration, England and Canada...

One of the greatest and oldest leather jacket manufacturers was Lewis Leathers in England. I had never been exposed to Lewis' jackets because of the high cost of quality and the fact that few North Americans owned British jackets. I bought my first Lewis jacket ten years ago and immediately fell in love. In Rin Tanaka's first motorcycle book there was a healthy chapter on British jackets and of course a tiny section of Canadian makers. Once I held a Lewis jacket in my hands I was an instant convert. Thick European hides and tight fitting manly designs and that unique square map pocket differentiate Lewis' jackets from the competition. Lewis' jackets are highly revered in Japan, making it pratically unaffordable to purchase one on Ebay.
Recently I spent some time interviewing the owner of British Manufacturing Company or Brimaco...possibly Canada's oldest leather jacket maker. Jerry gave me a long history of his company going back to his Great Uncle who emigrated from Germany to London and from London to Montreal to open Brimaco around 1895. British society and the empire was exceptionally tollerant toward Jews in the period. The British were the first to elect a Prime Minister of Jewish heritage in 1874, Benjamin Disraeli. Because of the horrid living conditions elsewhere in Europe the finest tailors of the day dispersed amongst England and the colonies bringing their expertise with them. During this time early industrialization and the invention of the sewing machine gave rise to the boom of the "Schmata" business.
Jerry told me that he would visit motorcycle competitions in England and California to see what designs were popular. He was directly influenced by Lewis Leathers and Bates of California. Obviously there was cross fertilization between English designs and North American makers. These are pictures of a classic Lewis Leather Jacket and a very early Brimaco jacket from the 1940s. See how the Brimaco is a hybrid of a Harley Davidson jacket cross combined with some details that are clearly European in inflection. Canadian jacket makers were not boring, nor were they copiests. Each maker had their own unique styles. Jerry who ran Brimaco clearly brought inflections of design details back to Canada from his Hebrew "cousins" in England.



  1. just found this blog. thanks for all the great info about vintage leathers. i'm a big fan of leather jackets, and have about 15-20 new and vnitage pieces. many of them were purchased on trips to toronto when i was a student living in michigan. one of my favorites is a bristol grey and black cafe racer made in montreal that i bought at a shop in kensington market around 2001. i was wondering if you had any information about vintage bristol leathers? i've been to their current website, but unfortunately they look like they don't really make the same kind of stuff now that they made in the 60s...after reading about brimaco on your blog i realized that there is perhaps a rich tradition of leather motorcycle leather craftsmanship in quebec.

  2. Well..ironically I do have some great information regarding Bristol. Bristol was owned by Jerry's brother. Jerry and his brother had a falling out as brothers do and Bristol was formed from Brimaco. As brothers sometime fight, one great motorcycle jacket company was split into two! bristol had much more of a stylistic influence in the 1980s with padded jackets. Kensignton market is a real gem!

  3. Hi.

    Great blog, which I just discovered. Can I learn more about the "tight fitting manly design" aspects of the Lewis jacket,or others like it?

    Did Lewis also make leather pants?


  4. Lewis made and makes beautiful pants...the company has been relaunched with all the authenticity of the original company

  5. what a fabulous collection. I like seeing these wornout jackets. Just so nice.

  6. Hi
    Just come from London and had a visit to Lewis Leathers Showroom. I made some photos from Derek's and hiroyuki's personal collections. this is a real museum. Worth a visit...
    New leathers are disconcerting because of "plastic" calf effect, but after one year they become jewels.
    I 'll make a post next week.
    Long life to your excellent blog.

  7. every tannery has a different approach to tanning, formulas and finishing. I own many deadstock leather jackets...some of them start out plastic-y and some start out with an open poor finish. Usually it the related to the colour and the style of finish. Some go with a bright thick urethane finish..others go with an aniline dye finish. Its very confusing..but you would be amazed to see how some leathers start out new and finish up after a year of wear!

  8. Derek is a great guy...he has lent me many photos and stories...we go way back to the early days of ebay!


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