THE 13 REBELS MOTORCYCLE CLUB | 1953’s “THE WILD ONE” INSPIRATION

13 Rebels MC member Arden Van Scykle

13 Rebels MC member Ardin Van Syckle. We’re talkin’ standup guys, not hoodlums– former flyers and servicemen in WWII looking to keep the rush alive. They were solid citizens who loved the sport and brotherhood of riding– accomplished racers, builders and all-around honorable men.

1953’s iconic biker flick The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, was loosely based on two actual California motorcycle clubs of the day having a highly charged clash in the small town of Hollister, CA.  Brando portrayed 13 Rebels leader Shell Thuet, while Lee Marvin’s character “Chino” was based on “Wino Willie” Forkner of The Boozefighters.  Fact is– the gangs were not rivals (although “Wino Willie” was an ex-member of the 13 Rebels— asked to leave actually for rowdy behavior) and the Hollister incident never happened, at least not to the extent that LIFE magazine or The Wild One portrayed it.  Yeah, some guys drank and drag raced a little– it happens.  What else happened was a counterculture was born– rolled Levi 501 jeans, boots and leathers (Hello Schott Perfecto!) became the uniform that rebels and bikers lived in, and that polite society demonized.

LIFE magazine's infamous 1947 photo that fueled the Hollister biker stories and legends.

LIFE magazine’s infamous 1947 staged photo that fueled the Hollister biker stories and legends.

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The Schott Perfecto- The Original Wild One.

 

 

The Schott Perfecto 618

My last post on Evel Kneivel really got me thinking about motorcycles and their impact on American fashion and culture.  There is no better example than the Schott Perfecto 618.  First introduced in 1928– and still made here in the U.S.A.–it is the original motorcycle jacket and still considered the gold standard to which all others are compared.  The now classic double riders zip-front design was prized by bikers not just for it’s tough looks- when fully zipped it kept the wind and chill out.  

 

The Wild One-  Marlon Brando & company 1953.

Marlon Brando as Johnny, leader of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in The Wild One.

 

The Perfecto took on cult status thanks to 1953’s The Wild One starring Marlon Brando.  It soon became a symbol of rebellion and was widely banned from schools during the 1950s.  The vintage Perfectos (and a lot of the motorcycle jackets back then) were made of thick horsehide– durable as all hell, but they took some breaking in.  If you’re lucky enough to find a vintage Perfecto, snatch it up- they are rare and highly coveted.  

 

Link to Schott Perfecto

 

 

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