The History Of Belstaff
Belstaff, one of the oldest and most recognised motorcycle brands in history was founded way back in 1924 by a man named Harry Grosberg who had a vision of creating waterproof garments for men and women alike – Belstaff was formed using the now altered ‘Phoenix logo’ symbolic of rising through the bad times again and again each time with new fresh ideas (similar to how the Phoenix dies and is reborn from the ashes). The logo although changed several times over the years is the vision for branding the Belstaff name. Ever since the early days Belstaff has used this goal even when the company was located not too far away from our midlands showroom in Victoria Place, Longton, Stoke-On-Trent in Staffordshire.
The major known origins of Belstaff came from around about the same time as their inception; Belstaff became the very first company in the world to use a material that was totally waterproof but also breathable, that then unknown fabric would become a worldwide phenomenon known as Wax Cotton that is used by several companies even today. Wax Cotton was a very fine Egyptian cotton treated with natural oils, this made it 100% waterproof yet left the garments porous enough to allow excellent breathability… Its characteristics (although now considerably old technology) at the time was unmatched. With this new invention Belstaff began development of the original motorcycle jackets and trousers.
The 1930’s saw the brand take another leap in to success when Belstaff started to produce technical garments that were not only rain-proof but wind-proof and resistant to heavy friction. The company began to supply previously unexplored markets for Aviators, Army, Equestrian and other outdoor activities as well as maintaining its close relationship with the motorcycle market. With the jackets and trousers came a whole host of new products that consisted also of goggles, gloves, boots, helmets and bags: all were designed and evolved over the years to maintain Belstaff’s futuristic approach and offer complete protection and safety.
Belstaff’s most famous motorcycle jacket is without question the ‘Trialmaster’ Jacket, through the years it has undergone many ‘facelifts’ must with all intense and purposes remains very much the same. Many hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists and fashion enthusiasts have had the pleasure of wearing the Belstaff Trialmaster throughout the decades including famous motorcycle champions such as Sammy Miller with his record of 1250 victories and the immortal Phil Read who was rarely seen without his jacket when competing in Grand Prix races in the wet conditions. Legendary names such as Ernesto Che Guevara have used the Trialmaster jacket, Che Guevara himself using it during his journey across Latin America.
In 1943 the Belstaff Trialmaster was swiftly followed by another legendary name; the ‘Belstaff Black Prince Motorcycle Jacket’. This was, and still is the best-selling waterproof jacket of all time, the jacket remained in production for almost forty years with over 1.6 million units being produced in that time in the purpose built Silverdale factory. Belstaff continually maintained the traditional manufacturing process of the garment out of both love and respect for the English tradition; this is exactly why older Belstaff jackets – especially from the 50s and 60s maintain a high value and are sought after almost as trophies by collectors and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.
Even now Belstaff continues to manufacture motorcycle jackets and trousers from 100% natural fabrics, in fact, Belstaff are the only garment manufacturer still bold and brave enough to do this, however the synthetic materials sector is certainly not disregarded. Since the 70s Belstaff have produced synthetic jackets too. The famous Belstaff XL500 which became one of the very first jackets available in other colours besides black was created using a specially developed nylon textile known as ‘Belflex’. Belflex offers the wearer improved wearability, resilience and durability to the rider and is still to this day unsurpassed, because of this Belstaff still use the same technology available back then on modern jackets. The XL500 in its modern inception is referred to as the XL500 replica jacket which is still one of Belstaff’s best-selling jackets is still as hard-wearing, totally waterproof, and infinitely durable as the original. Put to the test by thousands of motorcyclists throughout the world.
The 90s were a tough time in Britain, Belstaff made huge strides in terms of the technology they could offer but unfortunately recession hit the UK and the textile industry fell in to crisis effectively killing off Belstaff’s new ‘Evolution’ range before it had chance to really make head way. Belstaff’s Stoke-On-Trent factory closed in 1991 and all seemed lost… Luckily Belstaff had such a well know rapor within the industry that some of Belstaff’s clients and technicians had no intention of letting the legacy of the brand die – production moved to Wellimborough and creative design and responsibilities were given to a man of drive and wisdom: Mr Franco Malenotti. Belstaff would continue to produce clothing but in much smaller quantities than previously made.
1994 saw the brand move forward once again, ‘Belfresh’ material was created. This material was extreamly absorbent but allowed perspiration and sweat to be eliminated, it is extreamly ideal for hotter climates and warmer weather. Only a year later in 1995 Beltech was also created, this veritable "protection System" offerd top performance in terms of waterproofing, breathability and protection from the elements. It went on to make history
In 1996 ‘Clothing Company s.p.A.’ was formed by Franco Malenotti and worked with the Belstaff name the ‘new’ company quickly began to speed up production with the goal of taking the fallen brand back to the top. The response was almost immediate and the sales of Belstaff increased dramatically but it was not until just before the turn of the millennium that Belstaff took their biggest steps to the company it has become today. In 1999 ‘Ironguard’ was introduced by Belstaff; it became the first material to have external metal protectors for extreme abrasive resistance. Not long after Belstaff marketed its ‘Stratos Series’ which were manufactured from a mix of textiles with different characteristics to protect the rider in hotter conditions.
The turn of the millennium came and the year 2000 saw Belstaff introduce ‘Reacta Concept’ a protection system which was able to stabilise temperatures in all conditions of use making Belstaff finally decide that European domination was on the cards, 2002 saw Clothing Company s.p.A. take Belstaff to a level it had never been before, Belstaff began to regain its status as a market leader in many high profile markets where it had previously fallen from grace and a fashion department was installed with the manufacturing of both Bags and Shoes was introduced which gained high success and a surprising number of international sales. During this time Belstaff relaunced an old name ‘Black Prince’ however this time, the tag belonged to a group of garments rather than just one jacket, this branding was aimed at a younger clientele and in 2003 Belstaff conducted a study together with a well-known Italian textile factory for the production of safety jackets for special forces: This led to the creation of Balistic Fabric, a high-performance fabric that was an immediate market success.
In order to improve comfort and fit, Belstaff also developed and patented a special seam system called .Elastoseam®. with elasticated and waterproof Cordura inserts, that allow garments to follow the wearer’s most dynamic movements. The match between the .Elastoseam® system and Balistic Fabric paved the way to the ‘Delta Force’ collection: exceptional-performance jackets and blousons. In the same year, Belstaff developed products that used the unique qualities of leather and of the ‘Elastoseam®’ system to provide extraordinary protection and comfort: the ‘Ergonomic Leather Collection’ In 2003 Belstaff together with actor George Clooney, a keen biker, promoted a European campaign for the diffusion of cardiologic first aid on two wheels.
In 2004, Belstaff International Ltd was officially taken over by the Clothing Company s.p.A.. This was also the year in which Belstaff celebrated its 80th anniversary with the launch of a special collection, the 80th Anniversary Collection. In the same year, Belstaff introduced an ultra-light and strong Nylon fabric with the patented ‘Diablo’ weave, used for the Extra light Collection; waterproof and perfectly breathable jackets designed for summer wear. At the same time, ‘Black Prince’ by Belstaff sponsored the Telefonica Movistar Honda Team with riders Sete Gibernau and Colin Edwards set to win the Moto GP world championships. At the end of the year Sete qualified second in the world and the following year Marco Melandri gained the second place