“The hard core, the outlaw elite, were the Hell’s Angels… wearing the winged death’s-head on the back of their sleeveless jackets and packing their ‘mamas’ behind them on big ‘chopped hogs.’ They rode with a fine unwashed arrogance, secure in their reputation as the rottenest motorcycle gang in the whole history of Christendom.”

–Hunter S. Thompson – Hell’s Angels 1966

Hunter S. Thompson’s epic images of Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members

“We’re the one percenters, man — the ones who don’t fit and don’t care.  So don’t talk to me about your doctor bills and your traffic warrants — I mean you get your woman and your bike and your banjo and I mean your on your way.  We’ve punched our way out of a hundred rumbles, stayed alive with our boots and our fists.  We’re royalty among motorcycle outlaws, baby.”

–A Hell’s Angel speaking for the permanent record

Hunter S. Thompson’s epic images of Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members

“Some of them are pure animals. They’d be animals in any society. These guys are outlaw types who should have been born a hundred years ago– when they would have been gunfighters.”

–Birney Jarvis, a charter member of the Hell’s Angels who later became a San Francisco Chronicle police reporter

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The Oakland Motorcycle Club group photo in front of W.P. Williams Excelsior Motorcycles, circa 1910s

Founded in 1907, the Oakland Motorcycle Club has a long history & heritage of turning out hellacious old school hill-climbers, modern-day enduro jockeys, and all-around raucous riders. Checkout the tonnage of awe-inspiring vintage photos documenting their historical group shots, outdoor motor-sports, and runs galore on good ol’classic American iron– Indian & Harley Davidson motorcycles. And if the bike action doesn’t get ya’, their gear-head meets The Great Gatsby style certainly will. Bow ties,  shawl collars & jodphurs– oh my.

Oakland Motorcycle Club 1920s

Oakland Motorcycle Club members, circa 1920s – nice Harley Davidson jersey

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chosen few black motorcycle club

Chosen Few Motorcycle Club– Photography by Gold Mustache Photography, Elliot M. Gold

Soak in the retro soil & oil biker shots from the Chosen Few, and East Bay Dragons motorcycle clubs… In 1959, the Chosen Few MC officially formed out in LA on the cusp of the chaotic 60s.  As they tell it — “The 60s was a hell of a time. With the Civil Rights Movement, The Viet Nam War, Flower Power & Free Love. Sex, Drugs, and  Rock & Roll. Also the Crazy World of the Outlaw Bikers.”

If this sounds as foreign to you as it did to me, a kid who grew up in the world of white biker culture — well, consider the cultural stereotypes around bikers.


From the Chosen Few history–

“When you talk of the Outlaw Bikers you automatically think of ‘Them Crazy White Boys’ doing what a lot of folk wish they could do. Live Life Like You Want & F*ck You And Your Rules. Well Guess What? There was some crazy Black bikers who felt the same way, and didn’t give a F*ck. Thus was born the Black Outlaw Bikers!”

Black motorcycle clubs emerged throughout Cali in the 50s & 60s, and fought against racism and stereotypes of the day for their right to live the outlaw biker lifestyle — like the East Bay Dragons, Fresco Rattlers, Outlaw Vagabonds, Defiant Ones; down South in LA were the Choppers, Soul Brothers & of course, the Chosen Few.

Chosen Few motorcycle club

Chosen Few Motorcycle Club– Photography by Gold Mustache Photography, Elliot M. Gold

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Sonny Barger aboard his 80-inch Harley stroker with high bars and long tailpipies, 1959. This bike design was considered pretty progressive for its time.

Ralph “Sonny” Barger, long considered the Godfather of the Hells Angels MC (having  started the original Oakland chapter) is definitely an original “one percenter” if there ever was one.  There’s a lot of very interesting history behind Sonny and the Hells Angels that I can’t post, so if you’re itching for more, check out his books.  Here’s a little collection of pics, along with some of Sonny’s personal accounts on his life and times, and the history of the club– and be sure to check out the vintage Hells Angels video at the end of the post.

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Growing-up in and around Harley biker culture, there was never any talk of African American riders– let alone that may actually have a part in contributing to American motorcycling culture. It was like Black riders flat-out didn’t exist. Now finally, their incredible story is starting to emerge through books like Soul On Bikes and the Black Chrome exhibit at California African American Museum. The images and accounts are not just amazing to look at and enjoy– they are also incredibly inspiring.  Many thanks to The Vintagent (one of my favorite blogs) and The Onyx Rider from which many of the pics & stories came.

East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club

East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club– circa 1960s.

When Sonny Barger formed the Oakland Hells Angels in 1957, a few miles up East 14th Street in East Oakland, a young black bike rider from Louisiana named Tobie Gene Levingston was soon to follow in his footsteps. The two knew and respected each other, and had ridden their Harleys together in the same East Bay neighborhood.

In 1959, Tobie Gene organized the Dragons, a loosely knit, all-black men’s club, one of the first of its kind. The dragon’s earliest incarnation began as an all-black car club and originally stemmed from Tobie Gene’s big brother role to keep his younger brothers and friends occupied and out of trouble. The Dragons became ten strong, including members like MacArthur, Hooker, Tobie’s brothers Joe Louis and Jonas, Baby Joe, Sam and Cousin Rabbit. Tobie Gene became the East Bay Dragons MCs first and only president, still reigning and riding after forty-four years.

soul on bikes the east bay dragons and the black biker set book


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Corporate Rock?




Varvatos on Bowery

Hanging out this morning reading the daily news, I came across an article in the L.A. Times on John Varvatos.  It was about his upcoming runway show in Milan and hopes for the line going global, etc.  Going through the article, it rattled off some of his accomplishments over the last 9-10 yrs-  his great rock-flavored menswear, inventing the laceless Chuck Taylor, turning CBGB into a clothing boutique… stop right there.

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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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