Ah, the sweet smell of leather!
How do you know if you’re a bit addicted to motorcycling? When you start having clothing custom made… I bought a leather jacket that looked like a woman’s jacket 4 years ago on a screaming deal because it fit better than any other jacket I had tried on prior. After some wear and conditioner it is now a bit more manly. Regardless, it fits comfortable and has carried me through 2 crashes and thousands of miles. I have come to expect at least 10 compliments from passerby on the jacket throughout the riding season. It’s been the conversation starter with those of the female persuasion more times than I can count. I love that jacket! This past winter though, things got a bit colder than I’m used to, which brings me to the bottom half. The riding pants I had been given didn’t fit me, but they did work. I was tired of looking like most of my body weight was stuck on my legs. I also love leather and so decided that a set of leather over-pants would be ideal. I couldn’t find a set of pre-made pants that fit me and they were all black. I don’t like black. Black is so over done. So I saved and saved, and had a set made. They were officially 7.5 times as expensive as the jacket they were meant to match…. That doesn’t bother me one bit though, because they keep me warm down to 20F and I could always put in a liner if I wanted to ride in colder weather.
Made out of thick Bison hide we measured almost 2mm thick, they certainly are heavy weighting in at a solid 5lbs. Along with the jacket, that’s 10lbs of animal skin I wear anywhere from 1 hour to 10 hours a day, depending on the ride. I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I know it keeps me safe! They have “stripper zippers”, as I like to call them, down the length of each leg and magnets in the flap that covers the zippers for a tight seal against the wind. Velcro just wouldn’t do. They have no belt loops, but instead a “trim belt” with 3 adjustable snaps on each side to adjust for varying layers of clothes underneath (yes, I had very cold weather in mind when I commissioned these). These will also be useful in a few years when the occasional pound that might come my way starts to accumulate. In all fairness, with proper care, these pants will outlast me in my lifetime, so never mind the expense, they will be the last pair of riding pants I ever buy.
See, at the core of the issue, I’m lazy. I don’t want to get to work in the mornings half-cognizant and have to change out of riding gear into work clothes, or change back at the end of the day when I’m ready to just get out of there! I’d much rather just whip off the pants when I’m standing at my cubicle, with a gigantic smile on my face and watch my co-workers respond with eyes wide in brief shock, before they notice the pair of jeans I’m wearing underneath. The first time was fun, now it’s just common practice and they are used to it. I’m going to have to get more clever and keep them on their toes! I have also found out who (male or female) in the office thinks I’m worth looking at, for when I put them on I tend to bend down at the hips to clasp the button at the bottom, and I’ve caught a few glimpses here and there. So, they even help to perpetuate narcissism! All jest aside though, I might not be a great looking guy, but I do think these pants are beautiful!
So where did I get them? From Brick House Leather, a local one-lady shop. Her name is Kelly, and she is an old-skool American-proper gal. Riding a Harley herself, she doesn’t give a hoot what you ride, as long as you’re respectful and polite. I took a pair of brand-spanking new WalMart jeans to her which fit over my usual daily-wear. She took them apart and cut out the leather panels to match. After 3 more fittings, they were done. She only went a tad over my desired budget but kept me up to speed throughout the entire process, and never did any work without my approval first. Needless to say, the entire experience was worth much more than she charged. Tops to Brick House Leather!
She also provided me with these:
The soap is very similar to the old-fashioned home made farm-type soap. I’m sure most urbanites have not a clue what that looks like. It doesn’t foam, it doesn’t produce suds, but oh man, does it clean well! Cleaning instructions: Draw a warm (not hot) bath. Soak the leather jacket/pants in the bath. Using the soap as a scraper of sorts wash/massage the entire piece of clothing. Be careful not to scrape the leather with anything as hard or harder than a finger nail. It is at it’s most vulnerable at this point. Hang it on a properly sturdy and curved hanger and rinse it off with your handy dandy removable shower head. If you have not one of those, draw another bath. Beware, the amount of crud you’re going to wash out of the leather is absolutely disgusting! Let the leather dry for at least 2 days, more in a humid climate. If you want to speed it up, you could use a hair dryer or fan to move the moisture away. It needs to be warm and dry to the touch. Make sure not to put the hair dryer too close. If the air gets too hot for your fingers, it’s too hot for the leather.
Apply copious amounts of conditioner with your bare hands. If your hands tend to be dry like mine, they will be amazingly well moisturized after this process. Both the products are made out of natural materials Kelly procures in raw forms from local farmers. It is so environmentally safe that you could eat it. I wouldn’t do that though. Neither taste very good and the soap makes it difficult to produce “S” sounds because the tongue keeps slipping around… She did tell me she doesn’t add any flavors, so I should have known better. Once the leather has been thoroughly coated and the conditioner has been worked in, spray it with a light dusting of water and wipe clean. The leather shouldn’t be sticky to the touch and bead the water beautifully, making the leather healthy and water proof. Feel free to rework the seams with a second coating of conditioner. If at any point maintenance isn’t kept up on the leather and the conditioner gets completely worked away in an area, it is recommended to rewash and re-condition the piece. Once the conditioner has been applied, it is easily maintained by wipping it down with a wet cloth and re-applying as necessary. At this point, the leather will shrink a little, back to it’s original size. In fact, after a friend tried these products upon my recommendation, he found that his jacket fit much too tightly for his taste and proceeded to yelling at me over the phone about having ruined his jacket. I calmly asked him how much weight he had gained since he bought the jacket 4 years earlier (the same day I bought mine, actually). He told me to shut up and I smiled.
YES, this is more work than today’s new leather jackets with their fancy graphics, dyes and armor require, and probably more work than most people are willing to put into their leathers. I’m not even sure if the new dyes will allow conditioner through. I’m sure it could be used on the neck of the jacket though, where it always seems to wear through. I find the time spent keeping my gear in good nic is brain-down-time where I can just relax for 30 minutes or more, getting lost in my thoughts and such – for the jacket that is. I’m not sure how long the pants will take, yet. In the end, it’s rare to see some completely natural leather, and to feel completely at home in my second skin, so to me, it’s worth it!