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4th December 2015

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Famous Last Words 33: Waxed Cotton Celebrity

On becoming Beckham. Did you know that wearing a waxed cotton motorcycle jacket transforms you into a style icon? Neither did Frank Westworth...

David Beckham is a football player of considerable ability and fame. Apparently. I’ve never actually seen him kick his stuff, not least because I last watched a football match in about 1963 when my granddad took me to Ewood Park to watch Blackburn Rovers thrash Liverpool. Be that as it may, I am aware of the man, his strange haircuts and excellent body illustrations, as well as the identity of his wife and improbable names for the offspring. In fact, I know nothing at all about his profession but an unwelcome amount about his non-professional life. And only very recently I learned a new thing; David Beckham is a motorcyclist.

Well... That may or may not be true. What happened was that I found myself gazing in wonder at a picture of Mr B and a BMW. This is the power of modern media. Mr B was clad, fetchingly as you would expect, in a motorcycle jacket, he was standing next to a motorcycle and oozing motorcyclistness. Good lord, I thought. I am become as Mr B, for I too have a motorcycle I can stand next to. How very cool of us both. We are therefore almost exactly alike. I came over all warm and cuddly, in a gruff, manly, abrasive way. Then I read the copy attached to the image. Mr B was not in fact sharing his delight in his racy German plaything. He was extolling the virtues of motorcycle style. That’s fine. I am a man of noted style myself. But waxed cotton? In 2015?

Famous Last Words 33: Waxed Cotton Celebrity

I read more, fascinated by this (and it beats working), and discovered that waxed cotton bike gear is being trumpeted as a great style thing. How? Ignoring whether it is actually weatherproof, and ignoring whether wearing a waxed cotton suit will transform the ugliest of tubby talentless tragedies into a magnet for the opposite sex, who and how decided that this was to be the next great thing? How very strange. Something peculiar is happening.

You cannot be unaware of the relatively recent Royal Enfield, the Continental GT, not least because its red and shininess has graced the pages of every bike magazine within earshot of Chennai, where it’s assembled. Royal Enfield, being professional chaps every one, send out packs of pics to show editorial idiots like me what the bike looks like and what the riders of the bike look like. Journalists are simple souls and need their hands holding, as you know. I can reveal that the new riders of the new RE ride it because of its style. Which is just as well, as if they’d wanted to ride it to go fast and make a lot of antisocial noise and fuss, then disappointment was their only destination.

From this we can understand that dressing up like a traditional 1960s motorcyclist in pretend 1960s bike gear and pretending to ride what pretends to be a 1960s motorcycle is somehow a great new thing; a great new thing upon which young fashionable things will unload sufficient wonga to recoup the no-doubt stratospheric costs of the advertising campaigns. Let us hope that this happens, otherwise lots of people in the advertising and fashion worlds will be sacked … and we most certainly would be beside ourselves with grief if that happened, would we not?

Ignoring the relatively recent Continental GT, mainly because I have yet to actually ride one, even though I do of course know far too much about them due to media power, can we consider the waxed cotton jacket? The very phrase fails to drip off the tongue causing emotional twitches, unlike ‘black leather jacket’, which raises images of tough-looking young things with sneers, angst and pimples, as well as sagging Bonnevilles. The waxed cotton jacket does none of that. At least not for your ’umble scribe. When I think of waxed cotton I think of cold morning stiffness, strange smells and grubby activities. Is this in some way attractive to city-dwelling commuter persons? How very … odd.

Famous Last Words 33: Waxed Cotton Celebrity
Waxed Cotton Guzzis on ...

Advertising is a good thing. It provides free entertainment for us all. I always enjoy looking at motorcycles in their own adverts, too, and will never forget the better slogans, like ‘Long-legged And Easy To Live With’ and ‘Anything Else Is Less’. I have no concerns at all with advertisers who drape beautiful people around the bikes in case the machines themselves aren’t sufficiently eye-catching. But isn’t it all becoming a little too subtle, too involuted? We have a formerly famous footballer advertising clothing which relies upon a motorcycle connection for its appeal, a motorcycle being advertised to appeal to those who might be attracted by the clothing, and… where is the reality in all this? Where is the promise of the open road, of the experience, the fulfilment, the delight? Of riding a motorcycle, not standing next to one, pimped up like a Christmas turkey? Why is actually riding the things unfashionable, when being associated with them is the reverse?

Sebastian Vettel is a racing driver of considerable ability and fame. You may know this. You may not know that he is also a fan of classic motorcycles. And at least he wears a decent black leather jacket when riding someone else’s Rudge...

Famous Last Words 33: Waxed Cotton Celebrity

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