The Rise of the Motrosexual

Hell For Leather, HFL -



Ever wondered if your kids are getting your money’s worth at that pricey collidge? Here is proof that they are. I have the privilege of teaching some incredibly bright, hard-working students at Case Western Reserve University. These are engineering, math, nursing, pre-med, and various hard-core, thinky majors who are also game for an off-the-wall course called “Live to Ride, Ride to Live: Motorcycles in American Culture.” They read Hunter S. Thompson, Robert Pirsig, and articles from the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies. They analyze Richard Thompson lyrics. The culmination of the class is a research paper that they have to present to their fellow students. They have to select the topic of the final paper; some choose the obvious, some take risks. The paper below is one that I found particularly interesting, and I think you will, too.Carter Edman

Hello, my name is Henry Hershey. I’m a rising sophomore at Case Western Reserve University studying biology and environment. I recently gained an interest in motorcycles thanks to a class I took called “Motorcycles in America” taught by Carter Edman. I researched this topic of motorcycles in masculine fashion trends because I wanted to learn more about why I want a motorcycle. Although I don’t currently own one, I’m working on it.

Photo: Sherman Thomas

What happened to men? When did tailored suits, cigars, and log splitting disappear? Why do young men covet their technology instead of their biceps? What you’ll find if you look closely is that although long gone, the old era of manliness has not been totally forgotten. Young men still imitate idols of masculinity like Teddy Roosevelt and James Bond. They do it through metrosexual style, and through motorcycles. As metrosexuality becomes more and more prominent, hegemonic masculinity fades into a retro fashion trend that motorcycle companies like Triumph are successfully exploiting.

“Man” has been redefined time and time again by his responsibilities dictated by his culture. For millennia, men were required to be strong, unemotional, and most importantly, useful. Although different cultures valued different traits to varying degrees, their congruencies collaborated to create the archetypal man. When men of this generation look for old role models, they find hardworking breadwinners, war heroes, and upstanding citizens. The things that these men did became standards for masculine behavior. Take Theodore Roosevelt for example. He is probably the best example of the old archetype of manliness: a rough riding, adventure seeking outdoorsman who also happened to be the president of the United States. He is worshipped for his legendary manliness. Other such idols include the fictional character James Bond. Bond was a different side of manliness. Sean Connery’s Bond was a womanizing, cigarette-smoking alcoholic who could shoot you between the eyes even after a few martinis. He is venerated as a hero of manliness too. However, these guys are from a dead era: the pre-feminist era. The things that used to define archetypal manhood have been altered by progressive feminism. As soon as feminism came into the picture, hegemony was challenged. Anyone who tried to be like Sean Connery or Theodore Roosevelt was called into disrepute by feminists – women who challenged masculine hegemony by being hired for upper management jobs, getting elected for political office, and joining the military. After feminism had established itself, men no longer had to be breadwinners, war heroes or upstanding citizens. Their wives, girlfriends, and domestic partners could take care of them (Paginda 2009). Also, men perceived that what women found sexy changed from a log splitting marine to a sensitive lawyer in a slim-fit suit that wouldn’t complain about changing a diaper. And so, men changed, willingly or not, to fit the new niche.

What remain of the archetypal man are his material belongings. Although there might seem to be a Rough Rider revival, in reality, only the superficial qualities of hegemonic masculinity remain. The superficial attempt to latch on to pre-feminist masculinity comes out mainly through style and fashion. The modern metrosexual male is the prime example.

“Metrosexual man wears Davidoff ‘Cool Water’ aftershave (the one with the naked bodybuilder on the beach), Paul Smith jackets (Ryan Giggs wears them), corduroy shirts (Elvis wore them), chinos (Steve McQueen wore them), motorcycle boots (Marlon Brando wore them), Calvin Klein underwear (Marky Mark wears nothing else). Metrosexual man is a commodity fetishist: a collector of fantasies about the male sold to him by advertising.” — Simpson

Although not every man wears these things, what Mark Simpson is really saying is that men have become vain imitators of their really masculine ancestors, like Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando. They are constantly told that the easiest way to imitate their alpha male ancestors is by mimicking their style. The advertising world is telling young men that the best way to be sexy is to invest in the fashion of the retro-manly era. Although they can’t be the chain-smoking, wife beating, alcoholics that many glorified men of that era were, they can certainly look like them and get sexual attention for it.

Another way that men have tried to assert their challenged masculinity is through “menglish”. By adding the word “man” or its many variations to a word traditionally ascribed to the female gender, or by being a portmanteau of words, the new word becomes accessible to men (Paginda 2009). Examples include: man bag (a purse for men), bromance (a friendship between men), man date (an outing for two men), etc. A dictionary of these terms exists online. It began in 1999 when surf journalist Chris Cote began a column called “Significant Surf Slang” in Transworld SURF Magazine. The fact that these terms even exist makes it clear that masculinity has been challenged and men are slowly adopting more and more traditionally feminine tendencies.

What says it all about modern masculinity is a blog called The Art of Manliness. The blog features 6 sections: “A Man’s Life”, “Dress & Grooming”, “Health & Sports”, “Manly Skills”, “Money & Career” and “Relationships & Family”. “A Man’s Life” features essays on philosophical questions about what it means to be a man, tutorial style pieces on typical manly qualities and best of all, a series called “Manvotionals” which features pieces on manly virtue. One such piece is entitled “Manvotional: Theodore Roosevelt on Integrity in Private and Public Life”. Again, we see the veneration for Theodore Roosevelt as an icon and role model for aspiring “manly men”.

It is an obsession with the vintage and retro manliness that stimulates the readers of this site. The “Dress and Grooming” page heavily features vintage photos of men like Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood: idols from the pre-feminist era. It is obvious that guys are still trying to mimic these men, but not so much through attitude as through style, because let’s face it: it is a lot easier to buy a vintage leather jacket than to have integrity and strong morals.

Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando, James Bond and Theodore Roosevelt all have something in else in common: they all ride. Although Teddy rode a horse, the others rode iron ones. The motorcycle is an icon – a trophy – of the Rooseveltian archetype of manliness that helps men assert their masculinity. Sometimes it is even seen as a warhorse on which men can ride into battle against domesticity – female hegemony. James May, a co-host of Top Gear, a hugely popular motoring television show in the UK and the US, sold his motorcycle to pay for a new kitchen, and he loathes himself for it. May insists that the loss of his motorcycle was his emasculation. Losing one’s motorcycle is like being castrated, according to May. His message is “Men of all ages: put down this paper, rise up and buy a motorcycle. Domesticity is for fools” (May 2004). He believes that buying a bike will make you a man.

On The Art of Manliness website, motorcycle expert Chris Hunter says that “motorcycles are one of the pinnacles of manliness”. In this article, he details a suggested strategy for first time motorcycle buyers. He cites Steve McQueen as “a guy we look up to” with a collection of over 100 machines (Hunter 2009). Steve McQueen is all over this website, whether his picture is assuring young men that turtle necks are still cool, or that ripping across some dunes on a Husqvarna is still “man-tastic”.

People still believe that motorcycles are manly, even if fewer and fewer men are riding them. Men who still subscribe to the old archetypes of manliness are often drawn to motorcycles. In a video produced by a company called Wilderness Collective, young men who style themselves after their heroes from the glory days of manhood go on a motorcycle camping trip through Yosemite National Park. They are depicted as bearded, gritty, dirty dudes, smoking cigars (not cigarettes because everyone knows those will kill you) on the mountain. However, these guys are given the same gear to wear and they all use their tech-gadgets to navigate and blog and take pictures. Also, they drink gin and tonics (a gentleman’s drink, but not the stuff of lumberjacks). The men in this video are models of the middle of the transition of the biker image.

Bikers have changed from Hell’s Angels and their wannabes to weekend hobbyists and commuters. Recently, the oxford English dictionary changed its definition of the word “biker” from “A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang: a long-haired biker in dirty denims” to “A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang or group: a biker was involved in a collision with a car”. They dropped the long-haired dirty denim part because of complaints made by motorcyclists and a poll of 524 bikers that demonstrated a significant change in the “biker”. Now, 65% spend their rides alone as opposed to in a gang, fewer than 10% have long hair, and 42% are free of tattoos, piercings, facial hair, and gang markings (Oxford English Dictionary Drops Dirty Biker Definition 2013). The image of the biker is changing dramatically from the leather-clad troublemakers from the ‘60s to clean-cut middle class hobbyists.

Some fear that computer technology will take the place of motorcycles as the carnal craving satisfier, but the computer geek needs to be abandoned as a potential customer. A New York Times opinion piece from 2011 claimed that the iPhone and iPad are replacing motorcycles. They fulfill the new generation’s need for fast, sleek technology but in a different way. Their need for speed is not satisfied by the wind in their hair, but by RAM and Internet speed. But this isn’t the case for all young men (Seidel 2011). A different group, the new metrosexual men, have a craving too: a craving for retro, vintage, manly stuff.
Triumph capitalizes on the icons provided by popular culture, specifically Hollywood. Steve McQueen, one of the most glorified motorcyclists, actors, and men of all time, is one of the figureheads of Triumph Motorcycles. Steve McQueen has been venerated by motorcyclists as one of the most skilled racers ever. An article published in Cycle World Magazine in 1964 profiles McQueen’s custom Triumph Bonneville (The Selvedge Yard 2012). The Bonneville has since become an icon in and of itself. Because of Steve McQueen’s brand preference, Triumph profited tremendously.

Another famous Triumph rider is Marlon Brando. Brando, like McQueen, is also a symbol of old-school masculinity. His character in the movie “The Wild One” is arguably the reason that anyone thinks that motorcycles are a symbol of hegemonic masculinity. Johnny is a rambling drifter with a stick-it-to-the-man attitude that emanates from his leather jacket, his intimidating snarls, and most of all his Triumph Thunderbird.

Brando and McQueen, although the most popular Triumph models, are not the only ones that have helped the Triumph brand. Clint Eastwood, another hero of manliness, rode a Bonneville, as well as Bob Dylan, a folk-hero and God to many young metrosexual men of our era. Evel Knievel flew his Bonneville over the fountains at Caesar’s Palace. All of these guys cultivated an image for Triumph that the Telegraph describes eloquently: “In the Fifties and Sixties the Triumph motorcycle was the ultimate symbol of cool, outshining even Harley-Davidson as the postwar epitome of style, freedom and rebellion” (Oliver 2009). Triumph’s brand identity snowballed into a hugely successful standard, but nearly met its demise in the late 1970s.

Although the company almost failed due to “recessions, a disastrous fire and the worst industrial practices of Seventies Britain”, they were able to get back on their feet thanks to key marketing strategies that included a rebirth of the image that they so easily cultivated in the 1960s. With the investment of millionaire John Bloor, the company was totally revamped and production of bikes quickly took off. The new line of bikes could compete with precise Japanese engineering while remaining true to the Triumph brand. They came out with three bikes, The Thruxton, The Scrambler, and The Bonneville. “The Thruxton is pure Sixties cafe racer; the Scrambler, with its full-length chrome pipes, looks just like the bikes McQueen rode through the dunes; and the reborn Bonneville looks just like it did in the Seventies, but with some very modern engineering” (Oliver 2009). The designs were completely retro-focused. Triumph knew that they could be successful with a retro design because vintage is all the rage. The new wave of metrosexual men who are all about finding the coolest, vintage, manly looking stuff could find exactly what they were looking for in Triumph’s motorcycles.

A huge boost for Triumph was the adoption of a new figurehead: Tom Cruise. In 2000, Cruise chose to ride Triumph for a motorcycle duel scene in his movie Mission Impossible: 2. The year after, Triumph turned its first profit, producing 31,000 machines (Oliver 2009). By adding Cruise to the roster, Triumph had another in with the metrosexual crowd. Cruise is a clean cut, tailored suit, kind of guy– a metrosexual. By putting one of them on the same list as the gods (McQueen, Brando, Eastwood and Dylan), Triumph was able to compel them even more.

Another key strategy that Triumph has had great success with is the special edition motorcycle. Although not unique to Triumph, the company puts out limited edition anniversary bikes every 5 years for models like the Triple, Bonneville, Tiger, Thunderbird, etc. In 2012, two special edition bikes were released, The Steve McQueen edition Bonneville (complete with green khaki paint) and the 110th anniversary Bonneville (celebrating 110 years of Triumph). These bikes are very close replicas with modern engineering twists. An article in Cycle World from 2012 says “Words can’t fully describe the Matte Khaki Green paint and period-cool aura that surround this bike like a blatant attempt to cash in on a piece of authentic British Americana.” Obviously, Triumph knows exactly how to cater to the obsession with its classic models.

Triumph is also very fashion conscious. In Mark Simpson’s quote, he mentions Paul Smith, a British fashion designer. It just so happens that Paul Smith designed a whole line of clothing based on the Triumph Bonneville T100. In fact, he had so much success with this partnership that Triumph commissioned Smith to design a line of vintage looking Bonnies, which were sold as collector’s items (Paul Smith & Triumph 2007). This kind of business is exactly the kind of business that makes Triumph so successful in their niche. They know exactly why their bikes are desired and by whom. They consistently hit the bull’s eye when targeting the “commodity fetishist” metrosexual men of our era.

Triumph’s consciousness of their brand image was made completely clear in an advertisement that they placed in a special edition of Newsweek magazine. The issue was dedicated to Mad Men, a TV show about a 1950s advertising firm and the lifestyles associated with upper middle class white America at the time. The styles in Mad Men are considered vintage and retro, and the male characters are models of the style that many metrosexuals try to emulate. The ad that Triumph placed featured a Bonneville with the slogan “The bike every bad boy should own” and a large black and white portrait of Steve McQueen in a Triumph tee shirt wiping his dirty, sweaty face with a rag. The ad won a reader decided contest among several other large firms (Backus 2012). This further supports that Triumph is the image of retro, vintage, manly, and cool.

Other companies have not been so successful in this venture – namely, Harley Davidson. In 2011, the Marlon Brando Estate sued Harley for using the Brando name on a model of riding boot without permission. The Estate sought financial damages for all the profits made from the Brando Boots and settled (Barrett 2011). This supports that through securing the permissions for use of the brand endorsers’ names and images, Triumph has been most able to successfully exploit their status as figureheads of masculinity and male fashion.

Norman Reedus aboard his Hammarhead Jack Pine.

Triumph has grown into a hugely successful company, producing more bikes than they ever have before, and it is all thanks to the image that they have cultivated for 110 years. With the help of Hollywood icons and millionaire investors, their motorcycles have become the commodity that every man needs, and every metrosexual wants. In order to hang on to or imitate the superficial qualities that remain of the idols of hegemonic masculinity, the new generation looks for the pinnacle of manliness: the motorcycle. Many companies could learn from Triumph’s strategy, and benefit in a similar way. But, they need to recognize that men have changed, and that there is a huge market of them that crave the masculinity of motorcycles. My advice to motorcycle companies is this: make your motorcycles trendy as hell.

  • Ed Hunt

    Somebody get this kid a motorcycle.

    • Damo Von Vinland

      Rather have him ride, than write.

    • Henry H


  • stever

    I hate this.

    Wearing fancy clothing is unmanly, but James Bond, a walking product placement for expensive clothing and fictional character, is manly. Right.

    Also, tribal tattoos, flat bills, and men of color don’t exist at all.

    • Zachary Laughrey

      I don’t hate the article but agree that there is a gaping hole where race is concerned.

      • Isambard

        He’s talking about sissified middle-class white men, which I’d wager constitute the majority of this website’s readers. In that context, it makes sense.

        • CruisingTroll

          Who gives a rats patootie if race isn’t mentioned? Only frickin hypersensitive freaks would focus on that “ommission.” It’s a sophmoric essay, badly researched, that’s taking an outsider’s view of riding. IF the author does take up riding, it would be probably be pretty interesting to sit down with him in 20 years and re-read this schlock.

  • Sjef

    @twitter-137786365:disqus Haha might be a good idea. It’s a interesting way to look at motorcycling. And pretty sobering, as I must admit that I too am ”victim” of this phenonemon.

  • Brad Imbrie

    I second that.

    • GW Field

      Grew up riding endures, now am an old geezer who owns an 09 Bonneville and gets a big thrill every time I climb aboard her. I then go for a spin and wring her everytime like the 17 year old I use to be 40 years ago.
      Don’t know about metro sexual as I don’t watch Madmen, don’t own fancy grooming products and don’t smoke cigars (still knocking back the cigarettes unfortunately), bought myself a brand new Vanson (why would I want somebody else’s old shitty stinking jacket?). I know hundreds of other Bonneville/Thruxton owners by way of a forum who are much more like me than the character described in the kid’s essay.
      I will go so far as to agree to an aesthetic principle being involved in my motorcycle choice but it wasn’t a fashion driven one….it was a motorcycle style question. I prefer a simple classic looking air cooled British style of motorcycle over plastic clad, water cooled Japanese ‘superbikes’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I think a Bonneville, Thruxton, Kawasaki W800, Moto Guzzi V7, new Norton Commando, new Honda Cb1100, Royal Enfield Bullet (and incipient Interceptor) are all much more beautiful looking machines then all the rest.
      I think I’m the guy that Triumph aims for mostly and not the guy described in the essay, although Triumph will pick up some of those guys just as H-D picks up some pirates and the Japanese mocos who turn millions of sports bikes pick up Rossi wannabees.
      PS. I happen to be “a middle class white guy”, and look forward to kicking the guy’s arse who said I was sissified. lol.

  • KevinB

    This is probably the most interesting thing that I’ve read on this site.

  • sean macdonald

    Those 6 photos are some of the manliest men I’ve ever seen

    • Damo Von Vinland

      …men whom would never associate with hipsters.

      • sean macdonald

        ummmmm…..2 of them are?

        • Damo Von Vinland

          I’ll limit my comments to Clint and Steve.

          • Francisco Gomes

            I’m confused. Did you get the sarcasm or not?

            • Damo Von Vinland

              I might have missed it. I picked the wrong week to stop smoking crack.

              • Francisco Gomes

                Now you’re just messing with my head

          • sean macdonald

            the sherman thomas photo is of me…..

            (hence my joking attempt to lump all 6 of those photos together)

            • Damo Von Vinland

              Damn I am slow today. Chalk it up to me only ever seeing picture of you donning a helmet and or glasses.

  • markbvt

    Jesus. I couldn’t even read all the way through this before being overcome with the desire to bitchslap every metrosexual hipster I see, of which the author is clearly one. Is it so hard to understand that maybe some people ride motorcycles because it’s fun, not because they’re trying to project an image?

    • Isambard

      Metrosexual hipsters are capable of having fun, too, you know!

      • markbvt

        That may be, but the author seems to think that people ride motorcycles only because they think it makes them more manly. It saddens me that so much attention is being paid to a shallowly-conceived article written by a kid who has not yet learned to widen his perspective and think in bigger-picture terms.

        • Isambard

          Whatever gets him on a bike is alright by me.

        • Ricardo Gozinya

          Kind of ignores the ever growing women riders demographic as well.

          • Geist

            Growing women rider percentage #s is a myth. Its about 20% and has been about that since the 90s. It was probably at its highest in the 40s.

            • Chris Davis

              Please let the Motorcycle Industry Council know so they can update their figures. Their figures show a near doubling since 1990.

        • Henry H

          i’m afraid you have mistaken my intentions when writing this paper. It was supposed to be a fun investigation of masculinity in terms of motorcycles. You also mistake the shallowness and vanity of the motrosexual for my own. I don’t consider myself a kid without perspective. I consider myself a young man with a perspective very different from your own. Researching for this paper and getting your feedback has allowed me to gain perspective. The point of this essay was not to think big picture. it was to think specifically about a topic. You confuse my inexperience with naiveté.

    • Mirrory

      Exactly. I’m gay. I ride. Sexual orientation or gender expression have anything to do with riding. You ride or you don’t, regardless of who you are… Me trying to project more manliness into my image is pretty futile.

      I ride because it’s raw physics and efficiency.

  • Toby Stevens

    I can buy into much of this, conceptually. But when it comes down to it, I buy bikes and ride simply because it’s fun. It pleases me. I engage in very little in life that truly makes me happy. I’m responsible, I take care of my kids, my wife, my home, my friends, my community. But a bike … and a ride … that’s just for me. It recharges me, and as my wife says, it makes me a better person.
    Pure, simple, fun.

    • Sean Desmond

      Well said!!

    • TP

      In hindsight, I think its fair to say that this paper reflects the views of someone who is fetishizing bikes without actually being a rider.

      If that what hooks em’ so be it, they’ll only keep riding if they think its a fucking blast…

  • TP

    “Steve McQueen has been venerated by motorcyclists as one of the most skilled racers ever.”

    Not even close. Otherwise a pretty interesting paper.

    • Chris Davis

      Steve McQueen (or rather his image) is the new Bill Brasky.

  • Daniel Silverman

    Well said.

  • yoooks

    I didn’t understand any of this. Too busy being a man.

    • yoooks

      Also, is motrosexual supposed to be a play on metrosexual and motor? Is “collige” in the first sentence supposed to be sic erat scriptum? Am I missing something?

      • Charlie

        A High school diploma or GED?

  • Scott Birdsey

    This article is funny to me, nice job. The folks like Helge Pedersen and Ted Simon are the real icons in my book.

  • Gonçalo Fernandes

    Interesting perspective. Obviously someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to ride. I enjoy the viewpoint but ultimately disagree. The image has been crucial. That’s true of every brand. The the continued success is due to building a quality, well performing product. As a young, self admitted metrosexual male, who owns a triumph triple, the decision to buy the bike was based on the performance, quality and value of the product not the cool manly image. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I can wear those cool vintage Tees. The things that make motorcycles manly is the feeling of freedom and control and the independence to tell the world desperately trying to make you conform to fuck off. Not an ad in Newsweek.

  • worncog

    Steve McQueen has always an idol for the simple fact that he used his acting to fulfill his need for speed. He lived a life of riding, driving, and racing.
    I have ridden motorcycles for four decades and will hopefully do so until the day I die. If you enjoy the ride and ride for the pure joy of it(even when it sucks), you get it. If you ride because you look cool but are worried helmet hair, you don’t get.
    Clothing does not make the man, and neither does the bike. Just sayin.

  • C.Stevens

    I find that this kind of person does not exist outside the internet.

    • Michel_T

      Chances are it doesn’t exist ‘outside’ of the Internet… because once they ‘bought and paid’ their accessories… they seldom use them.

    • TP

      Maybe in certain cities, where they get off on parking it in front of the cafe or whatever. But spot on.

  • Ricardo Gozinya

    This reminds me of my time in high school, when certain annoying friends would have stupidly long discussions about what it means to be punk.

    • JP

      Nailed it.

      • susannaschick

        I’m finding the comments so interesting I don’t need to go back and read the whole article. I skimmed it then got sucked in here. gonna go for a ride now.

  • di0genes

    What happened?

  • RT Moto

    Motorcycling isn’t about trying to be like those that “look
    badass” doing it. Sure if it lures you into it then that’s cool. People in
    those high visibility positions do tend to have an effect on people who follow
    them and the way they live by imitation. You see people that don’t ride start
    to because of their “idols”, or whatever you choose to call them. I suppose
    that’s good for bike manufacturers and people like me who like to pick up
    slightly used bikes after their idol’s phase is over with. I don’t have a
    problem with people doing that, who am I to judge? I’m just a guy that loves to
    ride. If getting on a bike while dressed like a full on retro dude (hipsters to
    some) with that rugged look is your thing, then more power to you. Just know
    that motorcycling isn’t just about that. It’s about the feeling you get of
    being in control of a machine that requires your undivided attention while
    using most of your body to maneuver it around. It’s about going out and
    exploring to see what is all out there. The feeling of not being in a car seat
    surrounded by amenities, like a proper armrest or crumple zones, is what makes
    it that much better. Society, to include the author of this article, may have
    their own view about motorcycling, whether positive or negative, but until they
    all get on a bike and take a nice long trip on the open road, they won’t know
    what it’s all about no matter how much you read, watch videos, or listen to
    other people’s experiences. Being a manly man has nothing to do with it. Unless
    you’re into being a poser, then that’s all you.

  • HoldenL

    Pretty good for a sophomore who doesn’t own a bike yet. After he has ridden for a few years, he will reread this and feel rather embarrassed at his youthful naivete about what makes us ride.

    I don’t think he fully believes his own argument (and that’s fine; that’s what writing a research paper is all about). I doubt he wants to ride only because it looks manly. He wants to ride because he knows it’s fun.

    Also, that Dr Pepper commercial is screamingly hilarious for those of us who remember the TV commercials of the mid-70s. I have wondered what Millennials think of that commercial. I’m not sure he gets the joke.

    • Dynamo 73

      Agree that the lengthy cultural analysis will go out the window when he gets a taste of riding. It’ll be one of those “Oh, now I get it” moments.

      As a Bonneville owner and a Triumph fan, I think the idea that somehow Triumph is so marketing savvy that they could create intense desire for their product through marketing alone is a bit over the top. They’re smart, of course, but what they did was pay a lot of attention to building a great bike. Fun, reliable, and great to tinker with. Licensing the Steve McQueen name was a great move, but if the bike was a lame imitation, it never would have flown.

      • Scott Baker

        I agree, but I do think the retro styling is a big draw for a lot of people as I think their retro styled line are unexciting in specs, but fantastically well designed. However, that’s not all they do well, as their triples have a cult following that seems to be expanding (well enough yamaha is copying it) and my local dealer (Plugging Triumph Manayunk) really has this air of being just a bunch of guys stoked on motorcycles that is appealing.

  • Brett Lewis

    If he’s just wondering why he (the author) wants to ride, then I wouldn’t question his analysis. But, it takes more than a preoccupation with fashion to make a rider, that silliness is a distraction from the really good stuff.

  • Robert Horn

    Short version: Wannabe pirates raised wannabe men who also think motorcycles are for cosplay.

  • Joshua Winn

    Look, if you ask any 4 year old if they want a motorcycle, they will say yes. Heck, ask a teenager if they would like to try one, they’ll say yes. The odds that a hipster wants a bike mainly for the look is real fucking slim. Hipsters, like many others, were interested in two wheels long before they tried on a pair of skinnies. So again, someone get this guy a motorcycle, and quit complaining with unrealistic evidence about how hipster style places a bike in the backseat. Besides, the look does get people into riding, and it does help the motorcycle community.

  • 200 Fathoms

    Harley-Davidson has not been successful in creating a retro, vintage, manly, and cool image? I must’ve missed that memo.

    A fun, lightweight read. It’s pretty tough to be an authoritative twenty-year-old, unfortunately.

    • C.Stevens

      Yeah, he should have reviewed some sales data. Isn’t Harley Davidson market share around 65% in the US? I think Triumph sells about 20% of HD’s worldwide production each year?

      • KevinB

        You’re both missing the point. He’s talking about hipsters. In regard to hipsters, I bet HD’s market share sucks, as it does with buyers under 40. Triumphs on the other hand, are exactly what all the kids want.

        • Frank Tooley

          Harley actually leads in market share among under 40 buyers… get your facts

          • Hooligan

            That might be the case in the US of A, but in the rest of the real world?

            There is civilisation outside of the US borders and Triumph are doing very well. Probably selling 3 or 4 times as many as HD do to all age groups.

  • DaveDawsonAlaska

    He’s close, but never really nailed it except for this:

    ” it is a lot easier to buy a vintage leather jacket than to have integrity and strong morals.”

    In my opinion that is hipster culture, and everything that is annoying or wrong about it, in a nutshell. It’s attempting to purchase authenticity, morality, manliness, etc when in reality it has to be earned. The cafe racer/urban bobber motorcycle is the highest fashion accessory, a rolling status symbol that flaunts your dedication to the subculture. Its not about riding, its about the look and lifestyle; all surface, no substance. Its more like having a giant collection of obscure vinyl records to them… in other words ultimate dedication to the lifestyle.

    • DaveDawsonAlaska

      There’s a comment that hasn’t been approved yet, but I want to respond to it.

      “This is a very true statement. I have witnessed every aspect of these hipsters at my art school of 32,000 kids… meaning we have quite a few hipsters. They now tend to say “the focus on looks and accessories IS a culture much like the culture of actually loving to ride a motorcycle.” To that I say, sure, keep thinking that. However, in my mind and everyone else’s outside your sphere of idiocy you’re a[n idiot] who is too much a pansy to actually try to fulfill your gender role because you think it requires too much effort.”

      Its not about gender roles, but it is about effort. Men don’t have to be stoic knuckle dragging chauvinistic breadwinners any more than women have to get married and make babies. Men can be care givers and stay at home dads, women can be breadwinners and career driven. It’s about actually doing something, actually experiencing life, about paying ones dues to actually learn a craft.

      I’m sure you see the difference, particularly being an art student. There are the students who are in the studio at 2am, fueled by passion, caffiene, nicotine, and other substances more so than food and sleep trying to get their piece just right… and there are those who phone it in every week and hide their work on the corners when its time for a crit so they can live the ‘college life’. They wear the same clothes, have similar tattoos and hair color, but the former’s clothes are dirty on Monday because they haven’t left the studio since Thursday night and the latter’s are dirty because they were too lazy to do laundry while playing x-box all weekend.

      Both value craftsmanship, both prefer might prefer the classic lines of a vintage bike or the sound of a needle on vinyl, but only one lives it. To the other its simply a passing fad, accessible now more than ever thanks to the internet where a few hours of research can replace a decade of going to shows (in the case of music or aesthetics) or actually wrenching in the garage, shed, car port, parking spot, or living room to make your machine run and look good. Its no different than the import car scene was in the late 90′s and early 2000′s… and personally I hope all the old bikes aren’t consumed by it before it fades away.

  • Sefton Hanley

    This author (saving for his first bike) is obviously one of the metrosexual, style conscious, image worrying people, afraid if their image is manly enough, or his beard is too well groomed, he so fervently analyzes in this piece.

    The rest of us are too busy riding bikes, dating strippers, getting drunk, and generally having a ball of a life, to worry about if we are manly enough.

    • CruisingTroll

      riding bikes. Check. Dating strippers and collecting a collage of STD’s, hmmm, skip that one. Getting drunk, which results in beer goggles, which results in getting STDs from fat coyote uglies, not to mention hangovers? Skip that one also.

  • Curtis Visser

    Citations? Mark Simpson was a professor of mine!

  • Jonno

    O.K., there are several misconceptions within this piece, but the most fundamental is a failure to understand the term “metrosexual”. A metrosexual is a style-conscious (and unashamedly so) urban male, one who is openly concerned with fashion, color, design, etc. (preoccupations that in the minds of many are the province of homosexual men) but who is in fact, heterosexual. The term itself is a bit of wordplay suggesting a homosexual-like heterosexual man. The author mistakenly suggests that a meterosexual is a man consciously attempting to project a macho image by incorporating vintage iconography. basically, the writer has got it almost exactly backwards, a meterosexual is a hetero man who is not afraid to display what are sometimes considered “unmanly” interests.

    • 200 Fathoms

      I thought the same thing. What do metrosexuals have in common with Steve McQueen / Client Eastwood / et al? Absolutely nothing.

    • Henry H

      the guy who invented the term metrosexual disagrees with you. mark simpson:

      • Dustin Edwards

        Usage is the ultimate arbiter. Metrosexuals are pathetic wastes of consumer crap.

  • Dustin Edwards

    The acceptance of consumerism and propaganda, people just buying things to take on the role of a character they think they should be.

  • haggis95

    McQueen didn’t ride Triumphs because they were cool, but because they were the best.
    I don’t ride Triumphs because McQueen did, but because they are the best for me.
    I ride a new bonnie because it has no top end and so helps me keep my licence. And because it rides like a bike should.

    • Davidabl Blankenhorn

      I’m not blaming this kid for it (’tis what they teach everybody in college) but Oh!the horror of academic speak has utterly overcome me.

  • carbon

    The “manly” men the author references are largely, *ahem*, actors. Actors are professional fakers.

    Therefore, please use male examples that have actually achieved something outside a sound stage.

    • Damo Von Vinland

      Do some research on Steve McQueen and you’ll see he was far from a “professional faker”.

      • carbon

        Oh, McQueen raced. Wow. Hundreds of thousands (millions?) of men race machines, get hurt, and solider on.

        Let talk about someone who actually *won* multiple major races, or mushed dogs to the South Pole, or climbed Everest for the first time, or… *something*. Strip away McQueen’s myths he created on-screen, and you have a ex-Marine that saved five lives and dabbled in racing. Manly, certainly. But hardly the apex of manliness.

        The notable exception to my criticism is Teddy Roosevelt, although one can argue he was sort of a wealthy poseur. For another time.

        It’s ironic that the author writes about the modern-day hipster only mimicking the superficial style of Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando, & James Bond (the latter being *completely* fabricated) because the male personas he uses are they themselves almost completely created out of celluloid dreams.

        • Damo Von Vinland

          Sorry Carbon, I guess I didn’t realize what an accomplished champion of humanity you were.

          Clearly your list of accomplishments must be VAST to be able to comfortably cast such stern judgement.

          Steve McQueen has his place in the history books. You post on the internet.

          • carbon

            Ah, the ad hominem fallacy will get you nowhere in argument-land, dear DVV. Get back to me when your are cogent.

  • jfc1

    scroll, scroll, scroll…

    last paragraph is about Triumph, Hollywood icons and millionaire investors.

    i don’t see any connection to any of them…hm

    this guy has spent an awful lot of time “researching” instead of buying a bike and riding.
    So what was the main message taught in this class?

    • Henry H

      you have to read the paper to understand how they’re connected. that’s the point of the paper. there was no ultimate message to the class other than to explore something in motorcycle culture that interests you.

  • Damo Von Vinland

    Hipster subculture pisses me off so much it almost makes me want Emo and Goth kids back…..almost.

  • 200 Fathoms

    That Wilderness Collective “camping trip” video was painful to watch. Dudes—if someone is preparing you G+Ts and grilled artichoke hearts, it ain’t a camping trip.

  • karlInSanDiego

    Man, why didn’t I get to take fun classes like this when I went to engineering school? Damn, I did it right there, I said “Man” before I said anything else. He must be right!
    But seriously, I built a cafe racer from a derelict Suzuki GT550 because I wanted something vintage. Don’t think it had much to do with a Y chromosome, but certainly there is a uniqueness quotient that goes into a vintage daily ride. Was I trying to emulate Isle of Man riders, or Rockers of Britain, or did I just think a race repro from long ago with skinny tires and some chrome was a fun idea for my 2nd bike? I read about the two former subjects before I decided to do it, so clearly there was a want to affiliate with something old, without taking the easy step of buying a Sport Classic 1000 S, or a Thruxton (though I shopped both). In the end, I didn’t fear the old as I have a long history of restoring/running old cars, so for me going retro didn’t require a lot of douchery. I considered a pudding cap half helmet for about a week, and then decided that was fashion trumping logic and safety, so I dismissed it. And even when I go on the annual Mods vs. Rockers ride in San Diego, I wear all my gear, even if I don’t get to look the part. So I guess I’m not Metro, but I’ve met a couple of them circulating with the nice guys who ride with VVMC.

    • BryonCLewis

      My goal is to look like Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now

  • Joel

    Since it’s an undergrad essay it’s obviously far from perfect, BUT I wanted to leave some positive feedback here to encourage this student to continue to reflect on the im/explicit codes that inform our behaviour and choices as consumers. So, good work! Of course “it’s fun” is a big (and, yes, soooometimes the only) reason why people like motorcycles but it reeks of anti-intellectualism to suggest that there’s nothing more than that at play when it comes to how we companies, motorcyclists and others relate to each other. Motorcycling has easily as much bullshit as any industry/consumer/enthusiast movement and we need to be aware of this.

  • georgeR

    nice wes… you’ve got this whole wriing thing down ;~)

  • Markkit

    Dear Henry Hershey,

    I had written a huge rant because I found your piece of creative writing to be pretentious (the bike industry is way ahead of you they just have a different strategy).

    I can publish my in depth critique if you wish to read it, or email it to you. But my guess is that you are already beginning to see many of the shortcomings of your article. And will continue as the years go by.

    Instead because you are young (the motorcycle world is still just a fantasy for you) and inquisitive, I will say 2 things and I hope you get to read them.

    My advice to you is stop theorizing/fantasizing, get your bike license and buy a used bike. Rater like starting a conversation with a woman, its not hard. Start changing the oil, filters, break pads and work your way up to adjusting the valves. Have the bike break down on you once, drop it twice. Then write your next article about motorcycles.

    You might be book smart and perceptive, but do you have what it takes to make a difference in the world. Remember you just have one life, so live it meaningfully. I suggest you begin getting your hands dirty instead of just writing dirt.

    One last thing, a man needs a new Triumph or a retro bike jacket, like a woman needs breast implants.

  • socalutilityrider


    I ride because it’s fun, cheap on gas and extremely time efficient.

    No image stuff here.

  • Damien Gaudet

    Someone please tell Mr. Thomas his website is broken.

  • Markkit

    I found a video proving that real bikers who aren’t poseurs still exist and they don’t have to be manly. All they need is a passion for riding :-

  • carbon

    You have dropped into name-calling, I’m afraid, which is at the bottom of Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement pyramid found here:

    which itself is linked to from:

    Take a deep breath, and open your heart.

  • Aaron Trent

    My advice to motorcycle companies is this: make your motorcycles trendy as hell.

    Because a person that has never purchased a moto has his finger on the pulse of the moto buying population?

  • Justin Turner

    Jesus these comments are long.

  • Henry H

    I can’t reply to everyone individually so I will try to address a few common themes I see in these comments:

    1. Yes, I’m a young motorcycle virgin. I don’t pretend to know what makes people ride. I can make assumptions and do research, but I certainly don’t think i have sufficient background to write the most convincing paper. That being said, this paper was a requirement and I did the best I could.

    2. I was careful to avoid the term hipster because it’s kind of nebulous. Everyone knows what they look like and act like, but no one admits to being one. I think “motrosexual” more aptly describes the people i’m talking about because they are the people that want bikes for the vanity of it. Most motrosexuals don’t actually ride. They just fantasize about it. I hope to escape this stage and actually buy a used bike, one that doesn’t run, so i can fix it and make it mine.

    3. Some of you feel that I should have addressed more things like race, and women, but i don’t think that would have helped my argument for this specific paper. However, I definitely think those points are relevant and could investigate them.

    4. A lot of you think I wasted time thinking about masculinity, or that I wrote this paper because I am insecure about my own masculinity. I don’t believe that masculinity is something worth trying to be secure about. But that’s a whole other paper. I wrote this paper simply because I thought the topic was relevant and interesting.

    5. Thank you all for your criticisms and compliments. I worked hard on this paper and gained a lot of respect for motorcycle culture and hope to earn my place among you after I start riding.

    P.S. I wonder what you all think I look like. I bet I can guess…

  • Jordan

    Thanks, dude. I appreciate the good will; whatever it is that you personally enjoy about riding, I hope you can always keep pursuing it.

  • Markkit

    Looks like BMW is eying the retro, trendy as hell cake.

  • updownsideup

    Haha, somebody get this kid a motorcycle, I like it. But the kid’s got a point (even if this paper was obviously written for a sociology class to better understand the biker psyche), from the outside motorcyclists can look kinda vane. Look at what you see of motorcycles on tv, biker build off, west coast choppers, OCC and all the other bullshit that has nothing to do with us. Putting together a rolling sculpture that is barely rideable, at an obscene cost. This is the motorcycle world to the outside, they just don’t understand. 18 year old sportbikers wearing no helmets to pick up girls, accountants dressed up as badass harley riders, hipsters riding around their neighborhoods on cafe racers, adventure riders setting out on trips, racers tuning up for the next track day. Dig it, it’s all people enjoying motorcycles in one way or another. Most bikers I know love bikes for the experience, and part of that experience is gearing up. Black leather jacket, gloves, carrying a helmet, it’s different than walking through college in flip flops and shorts, taking the bus. It tells the world that you make your own way, confident, responsible, and rebellious. You’re a Maverick! Motorcycles are rebellious and the riders are typically their own breed, separate from the conservative sorts that never went out on a limb and bought a bike instead of a car. That’s how I see myself, not filed into a category of some desperate middle class guy trying to cope with how tame society is.

    Well, I’m rambling, so I’ll keep it short. SOMEBODY GET THIS KID A BIKE

    • socalutilityrider

      “riders are typically their own breed, separate from the conservative sorts”

      you nailed it bro. read your post twice, it was a great one.

  • Mike Blaney

    Since when is a gin and tonic a manly drink?

    • CruisingTroll

      Manly drinks: whisky. rum. vodka. tequila. gin. (If you’re English, a gin & tonic does qualify.). Slivovitz. Ouzo.
      Not manly: 99% of mixed drinks, including martinis.
      Manliest of all: A Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers. Any adult male who orders either of those doesn’t give a damn what others think of what he drinks.
      That’s a man.

  • CruisingTroll

    “When did using a motorcycle to compensate for your lack of manliness overtake the sheer joy of riding fast without a cage around you as the primary reason to ride?” – Never, but the slur (motorcycle as penile extension) was probably born about 10 seconds after someone developed envy issues of a motorcyclist. ‘Tis simply a relative of Markley’s Law.

  • LS650

    Writing this sort of ‘metrosexual needs a moto’ nonsense actually can count towards a degree?