Marlon Brando’s image as Johnny in cult biker film The Wild One made biker style the choice look for the young, rebellious youth of Fifties America. Everyone wanted to be – or be with- the bad boy. Everyone wanted a leather jacket. All the boys dreamt of riding a Triumph motorcycle, their sideburns waving in the wind. George Walker takes a look at this Fifties style phenomenon.

For a generation that had become disillusioned by war, the first prominent biker gangs on the West Coast of America offered a chance of rebelling against everyday Fifties domesticity. It was a sub-culture that was feared by many, idolised by some. Like most sub-cultures this group had its own style: Their leather jackets, chunky boots and roaring bikes could strike both fear and envy in the hearts of American people.

The Wild One captured the essence of this sub-culture’s enthusiasm for the open road and scandalous behaviour. This period is often seen as a tale of two halves: on the one hand, prim domesticity; on the other, rock and roll rebellion. With The Wild One rebellion faced the domestic world head-on in cinemas across the country (although it is worth noting this didn’t happen in Britain, where the film was banned for 14 years because of its glamorisation of bad behaviour!).

People who did manage to see the film were exposed to a new language of reckless behaviour. Perhaps one of the coolest things said in cinema history is the following:

Mildred: What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?
Johnny: What have you got?

Brando made Johnny one of the bravest, most unruly characters that cinema had ever seen. So, to save the embarrassment, it’s probably worth noting that only Marlon Brando can reach the level of cool needed to pull off such a line. Fortunately, however, you can at least look the part if you plunder your local vintage shop for the key garments associated with this laid-back brand of biker style.

Brando’s look in The Wild Onecontinues to capture our imaginations because it looks so uncontrived and easy to wear. He doesn’t wear leather trousers (a big no, no unless you actually are a biker); he doesn’t have a handle bar moustache; he just wears casual gear with the zips, boots and leather jackets which set him out from the crowd. This is an important thing to remember: If you look like a Hell’s Angel or the cop from YMCA, you’ve probably taken the biker thing too far.

jacketStyle Tip No.1: The Jacket.

I’m sure Brando would have been proud to don this Sixties biker jacket. With no needless fringing, logos or zips, this is a very wearable style that will add a rugged biker edge to your outfit.

There are always vintage biker jackets around that look better and cost a lot less than their new counterparts, the fun challenge is finding the right style for you.

bootsStyle Tip No. 2: The Boots

Nicely worn in but still extremely durable, these boots are vintage classics. These vintage lovelies date back to the Sixties and are made by traditional American footwear brand Chippewa.

These boots are just ‘biker’ enough to achieve that relaxed Marlon Brando style.

Aviators.Style Tip No. 3: The Glasses

If you can pull them off, aviator sun glasses will always be the coolest style of sunglasses around.

Marlon Brando wore a very similar pair in The Wild One to avoid getting the dust of the open road in his eyes (although many scenes seem to be shot on an unconvincing green screen, so maybe not.)

We love the gold metal detailing on this stylish pair. Perfect for the approaching summer months.

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.