Thanks in large part to the resurgent café bike movement, the popularity of waxed-cotton motorcycle jackets has exploded in recent years. And like the bikes, the fabric itself has its roots in Britain.
It’s an interesting story. Since the dawn of sailing, mariners were aware that wet sails were more effective at capturing the wind than dry ones. One problem: Wet cloth is also heavier, and the added weight negated any speed advantage that wetness might’ve provided. It wasn’t until the 15th century that Scottish sailors began applying grease and fish oil to heavy sailcloth to repel moisture—but that stuff was pretty nasty. In the mid-19th century the Royal Navy was using linseed-oiled flax for its sails and by the turn of the 20th century, lightweight paraffin-waxed Egyptian cotton sails had completely transformed commercial shipping.
Waxed cotton became renowned worldwide for its effectiveness and durability, and by the 1930s British companies Belstaff and Barbour International were using it to manufacture breathable yet waterproof motorcycle clothing.
So as British style swept the custom motorcycle scene over the last decade or so, it also became fashionable with gear. Lighter and tighter are what’s hip these days—and to that end we’ve come up with some great deals on waxed-cotton motorcycle jackets from Amazon. We’ve weeded through the wannabes and stuck to actual motorcycling apparel from respected companies; this is gear that has armor (or supports it) and offers rider-friendly features. Now, be advised that waxed cotton isn’t waterproof, but it does a good job of repelling moisture. The only knock on it is that it’s not very breathable—which makes it great for cool-weather riding in fall and spring.
We’re not sure how much longer this lighter and tighter thing will last, so you’d better catch this waxed-cotton ship before it sails. Who knows? Maybe you’ll ride faster.