I love a well-cut suit as much as the next Bond-fan. But I have to say: vintage sportswear also holds a special place in my heart. That’s where pieces like the Steve McQueen waxed motorcycle jacket come in.
What is it about vintage outerwear that I find so appealing? It’s hard to put my finger on. I definitely find the history behind heritage brands like Barbour and Belstaff fascinating. And because I spent a good portion of my younger years climbing, hiking and kayaking, I certainly learned to appreciate well-designed, bombproof clothing. Trust me: when’s it’s -30 on day three of a week long climbing trip, a zipper blow-out can ruin everything.
Then there’s the legacy these early designs have left behind. When you check out a book like The Vintage Showroom (or visit their website), you quickly realize that very little about these jackets has changed over the last 80 years. You can also see how vintage military outerwear and civilian sportswear continue to inspire brands today. The earlier designs were just that good.
If I had to sum it up, I would say what I like most is that these pieces perfectly bridge the gap between “utilitarian equipment” and “stylish clothing”. They’re designed to be used … hard. And the more beaten up they get, the better they look. I’m sorry, but (IMHO) you can’t wear a new jacket like this and look “cool” or “stylish”. It’s the wear and tear that tells the story. And that not only gives the jacket character. It’s also a reflection of YOUR character. In the end, isn’t that what “style” is all about?
The Steve McQueen Waxed Motorcycle Jacket
Well, there are two. At least we can be certain about that. Here’s the story as I understand it.
Barbour was the team sponsor for the International 6 Day Trials in East Germany in 1964. And so, as a U.S. team member, McQueen wore their A7 jacket. Most of the iconic pics of McQueen wearing a waxed motorcycle jacket come from that race. So he definitely did wear a Barbour.
But rumor has it (and many websites claim) that McQueen actually preferred a Belstaff jacket for personal use and wore that brand in many of his other races. One of his favorites was a Trialmaster, a model that comes both with and without a belt. What we do know is Belstaff bought one of McQueen’s personal jackets at auction in 2006 for $35,000.00. And the jacket they bought did not have a belt.
And then lawsuits ensued, and blah, blah, blah. Basically a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with looking cool.
All you need to decide is this: do you like the jacket with the belt or without?
Features wanted for the Steve McQueen Waxed Motorcycle Jacket
- Heavy (10 to 12 oz) waxed cotton in black or dark brown
- Almost 3/4 length cut
- Short lined collar with strap and buckle closure
- Four bellows style pockets with brass snap closures. For the sake of accuracy, the left chest pocket should be on an angle.
- Belt? No belt? I’ve included both options below and I’ll leave it to your personal preference.
Best Options for the Steve McQueen Waxed Motorcycle Jacket
Pros? Just about everything, including the price and the fact it’s sitting with 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon after 17 reviews. Cons? Some reviews state that the fit in the shoulders is kind of tight and the cut around the waist is a little loose. The fabric is 12 oz waxed cotton and all the hardware is brass. Those of you in the UK can order from Amazon, where it’s also available in Brown for £64.99. If you’re in the States? You can go directly to the Speedwear website to order one for $89.77.
Vedoneire 3050 Wax Jacket: £99.99 to £135.00/$124.98 to $134.96
Do you find the belt-less look of the Belstaff Trialmaster more appealing? Then this alternative from Vedoneire is definitely worth a look. I actually own this jacket. And after more than two years of steady use, I love it even more. The quality is amazing for the price and it’s breaking in very nicely. HOWEVER … it’s definitely cut on the slim side. I ordered a medium and there’s no doubt it’s a slim fit. But that works for me.
The links above go to Amazon UK/U.S. But You can also order the Black or Brown directly from Vedoneire. That’s what I did and I had no problems. Shipping from Ireland to the U.S. was quick (about 5 days) and there were no extra customs charges. Plus, the customer service at Vedoneire was really nice and very helpful. Added bonus? If you sign up for their newsletter, you get 15% off your first order.
If you’re really on a budget, you could get by with this option from Target. The 100% cotton fabric appears to be uncoated. And I certainly wouldn’t expect it to break in like the more expensive alternatives. The jacket is also available in big and tall sizes for $54.99.
Next Black Waxed Jacket: £40.00/$145.00
Wow! That’s quite the price jump from pounds to dollars! Next is down to sizes small and medium right now. But the jacket does execute some design twists on the classic style quite well. The fabric is 100% waxed cotton.
Game Speedway Wax Motorcycle Jacket in Black or Brown: £87.65 to £92.88
A made-in-the-UK, 12 oz waxed cotton jacket that’s modeled after the Belstaff Roadmaster and Barbour A7? For less than £100? And it has 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon? Sounds like a good deal! Especially when you consider the two poor reviews are about the cut of the jacket, not the quality. Seems it fits a little on the large size. Which should work for you bigger fellas out there. The jacket comes in brown or black. Amazon UK is stocking sizes small to XXL. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Game has made this option available in the U.S.
If you wait around for sales, you can usually find some solid deals on Barbour International wax jackets. These not only come close to the styling of McQueen’s Barbour, they’re also the same brand.
Starting from the top left and going clockwise:
Gauging Jacket: on sale for £191.19 at JulesB.
Raceway Jacket: on sale for £242.09 at JulesB.
Minerva Jacket: £298.99 at Jules B.
Original Jacket in Black: $359.00 at Amazon U.S.
It’s a little harder to find Belstaffs on sale. But we’re looking for two main designs. The first is the Trialmaster (on the left below). This is basically McQueen’s (supposed) favorite. The second is the Roadmaster (on the right). The most reasonable price I could find from a trusted source (there are many fakes out there!) was at MatchesFashion.
Do you have any alternatives for the Steve McQueen waxed motorcycle jacket? Share away in the comments below!