Belstaff is a British Heritage brand that was founded in 1924 with the intention of equipping motorcyclists in sturdy and waterproof leather. Since then, the brand has equipped not just hardened leather loving motorcyclists, but aviation specialists, movie stars, mountaineers and… Marxists revolutionaries.
Belstaff, as it grew throughout the 20th century, came to personify the wild card, unpredictable energy that exists, latently, in the psyche. Belstaff is the same kind of cool that makes James Bond attractive: it’s badass, nonchalant, hardy. It represents a character everyone wants to be, but can’t. It’s an ideal.
After dominating much of the early 2000’s, paying Kate Moss outrageous amounts of money for adverts and hiring Tommy Hilfger as a consultant, Belstaff was eventually absorbed into German luxury conglomerate, JAB GmbH, in 2014.
Three years later, after the European hiatus, Belstaff was brought back to the UK – by the UK’s largest privately owned company, INEOS, who are also the world’s second largest petrochemical manufacturing company. There were cheers of joy: Belstaff returns to its rugged English roots.
The move was, perhaps, a good idea, as Belstaff now begins to personify, not just the attractive bad attitude of British heritage, but the complexities of capitalism.
Importantly, Belstaff still stands as a representative of British cool. Every adventurous, boundary-pushing mother, from TE Lawrence to Che Guevara, is reported to have worn Belstaff; there’s also a historic association with female firsts, as Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, dripped in Belstaff during the expedition. This trip was immortalised in a short film that saw Liv Tayler play Earhart.
Belstaff’s history is iconic and varied. But what’s important is the present. There’s a new generation of explorers, boundary pushers and kings of cool; people like Levison Wood, who partnered with Belstaff in 2019 for a release of the Fieldmaster jacket. Still, Belstaff continue to build on their production excellence, manufacturing leather jackets with shearling collars that throwback to the Top Gun era, capitalising on things that really don’t go out of style.