I recently paid a visit to Brooks Leather Sportswear in Massachusetts to learn about the brand and see some of their popular motorcycle jackets. Brooks has a manufacturing facility just outside of Brockton, a warehouse in Plymouth and ties to Fall River manufacturing, where jackets can also be made. Currently there are 6 employees making jackets in the Brockton facility.
What is interesting about the company is how they live the culture of motorcycling. Owner Jamie Goodson used to be a road racer, Mike Reddish, VP of Sales and Marketing, races flat track and Duane, the warehouse manager does motorcycle restoration (more on that later). They are all very active in the riding community.
I had the chance to sit with Mike, who gave me the rundown on their Made-in-America products. There are 6 jackets, 4 styles of vests and 2 styles of riding chaps that are made in the USA. They also have an import line that includes leather jackets, textile mesh jackets, gloves and rain suits. As always, I appreciate the fact that the company website and catalog are very clear about which garments are made in the USA.
A close-up look at the511 Road Warrior jacket
Brooks offers a 5 year warranty on all Made-in-USA apparel. Leather for most of the jackets is imported from South America. They use American YKK zippers and allow you to customize the jacket hardware (silver, black or brass) and even size (for a nominal charge) if you don’t fit the typical body shape.
If a customer has an older jacket that is worn and needs repair, it can be sent back to the company and, for $100, get a fully repaired/restored jacket. The company goal is, when you buy a jacket from Brooks, it is going to last 25+ years. If you have a 40 year old jacket where the zipper failed, send it in and it will be repaired.
The Side Laced Vest, a classic.
Jackets are made with either a corrected finish or naked aniline leather. Corrected finish means the leather surface is abraded to remove imperfections before the surface coating is applied. A decorative grain pattern is then embossed into the surface hide. Naked leather is the natural state of the leather including all the unique markings, wrinkles and minor scars you would expect to find on an animal’s hide.
The leather for the jackets is split down to 1.3 mm (3.5 oz) in thickness. It not only looks great but it is truly functional as an abrasion protector if you were to go down.
The 511 Road Warrior jacket.
While I was there I checked out the 511 Road Warrior, their original design, and the style 711 which is the type of jacket Marlon Brando wore in “The Wild Ones.” You know what I love about a leather jacket? It’s the smell of leather, the weight when you hold it and the way it makes you feel when you try it on. You just want to reach out for the throttle and go.
Jackets are reasonably priced; $399 to $499, and the guys will make sure you are happy with your purchase. While the current business is mostly through dealers, they are happy to help customers directly who cannot locate a dealer in their region. AMA members receive a 10% discount, as do U.S. military from all branches and periods of service.
The Brooks Lightning, due out soon.
There is a new jacket coming out called “The Lightning,” featuring diamond stitching, stylish zipper pulls and 60’s styling. Also a new club vest, “The Outlaw” is on the way.
When I interviewed Mike, we met at the company’s other business called Commando Specialties, which specializes in restoration parts for older British bikes.
While there, I couldn’t help but notice the Norton gas tanks off to the side. I learned that, back in 1974, Jamie purchased a new Norton 850 Commando from Comerfords in England while he was in college, shipped the bike back and still owns and rides it today. It is currently on display at Larz Anderson Auto Museum’s “Beauty of the Beast Motorcycles” exhibit in Brookline, MA.The jacket worn by Ed Kretz
At the exhibit, you can also see a “Then and Now” dispay of Brooks jackets, featuring an original racing jacket worn by the great AMA Hall of Fame motorcycle racer Ed Kretz, Jr,. #33 and a newer, classically styled jacket.
Mike, was a great guy to talk with (he owns 20 bikes). Before I left I asked him how he feels about wearing a helmet and while he admits to taking it off once in while at bike events in the states where it’s legal, he is in favor of wearing one. So am I.
P.S. For those who can’t get enough of the history of American companies, here’s the story of Brooks Leather Sportswear: Back in 1956, Sandor Weiss a leather worker, came to America from Hungary and started making riding jackets under contract for a motorcycle accessories firm called Buco (Joseph Buegeleisen Co.). Buco had started in the 40’s, making accessories for motorcycles, and eventually wanted to offer riding clothing for their customers. Vintage Buco & Brooks riding gear are, to this day, very collectable.
Sandor, however, wanted to make his own name and started in 1959 to produce jackets under the Brooks label in Detroit. Eventually Sandor retired and the business was run by his 2 sons. When they retired, ownership was transferred to Jamie Goodson, one of the co-founders of Vanson Leather. That’s when the firm made the transition to “Made in MA”. Brooks manufactures not only for itself but also private labels.