HebTroCo: What Would McQueen Wear?

British manufacturing is alive and well once again

lady sewing motorcycle boots
England’s Hebden Bridge Trouser Company (HebTroCo) started with a simple pair of trousers, then added belts and motorcycle boots, all made in Northern England.Courtesy of HebTroCo

Eleven years ago, I flew to England to meet with Brant Richards and Dave Laughlin of On-One and Planet X, an online designer and retailer of eclectic, affordable bicycles. We discussed going into business together, but it wasn't meant to happen. Brant, like me, has an extensive background in bicycle journalism and bicycle design. Imagine my surprise when I discovered his new company, Hebden Bridge Trouser Company (HebTroCo) was designing and making Steve McQueen-influenced trousers in northern England, adding leather belts and motorcycle boots to the mix.

hebtroco production table
Co-founder Ed Oxley oversees production of HebTroCo trousers in its factory in Northern England.Courtesy of HebTroCo

Hebden Bridge is located in West Yorkshire, England, a town of 4,500 souls. Formerly known as ‘Trouser Town’ because of its Herculean clothing manufacturing output: A million pairs a year, or 20,000 a week. Richards and his pal Ed Oxley had an ‘aha’ moment in early December 2015, and founded HebTroCo.

Oxley took his vintage Danish Nimbus motorcycle to race at the British Dirt Quake last week. Unfortunately the 69-year-old ignition coils started to break down. Oxley managed only one walking pace lap of practice, while Carl Fogarty and the rest of the Inappropriate Road Bike class completed four. With Dirt Quake USA happening in Washington State this weekend, I thought it would be fun to interview Richards and Oxley to learn more about their reasons for taking the hard road to building a company.

VIDEO: British Made To Last

We started HebTroCo with just one product. It was a pair of British made moleskin trousers and it's still our best selling item. We wanted a hardwearing, tapered leg, jeans style trouser and so designed something that we wanted to wear ourselves. Luckily other people liked it too and started buying them.

We wanted to make boots and had found England's last surviving, traditional heavy work boot maker. Ed rides motorcycles and so he designed the kind of boot that he wanted to wear, that would be good for on the bike, out walking the hills and standing around in the pub. The factory that makes them for us said that it would be the, "kind of thing that Steve McQueen would have worn." How could we not want that?

Ed has had motorcycles since he was a teenager. Currently he has a BMW K1200S, a 955 Triumph Speed Triple and a 1948 Nimbus Model C. Over a six month period we designed and sampled the Moto Boot. Then we launched it on our website and started taking orders straight away. There is a 12-week lead time on these boots and we are about to take delivery of our first batch of stock.

motorcycle shoe sole details
The HebTroCo Moto Boot is made from Yorkshire black oiled suede with a leather through sole fitted with a replaceable bonded and screwed Vibram sole.Courtesy of HebTroCo

Everything we do is British made and it's made to last. We don't make fashion, we make good stuff that we want to wear ourselves. Plenty of brands trade on the British heritage but don't actually have stuff made here. We don't make life easy for ourselves but we do like to do things properly.

The cool new moto culture is such a breath of fresh air for British motorcycling and we are continually inspired by what Gary Inman is doing with Sideburn. Last year we organized a ride out in the Yorkshire hills in collaboration with them. Around 80 bikes, of all types, took part. We like bikes, we like clothes, we like beer, we like playing vinyl records. It all goes well together.

two guys standing next to a motorcycle
HebTroCo’s Ed Oxley (right) during the Sideburn/HebTroCo Ride Out at the New Delight Inn at Blackshaw Head, West Yorkshire.Christian Gallagher