The History Behind Harley Davidson

The History Behind Harley Davidson


We’re really backing the Harley Davidson brand at the moment at True Vintage. It might not be one of the first brands you think of when it comes to vintage fashion, but we want to change that.


From humble beginnings in 1903 in a small shed in the American mid-west city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer was founded by childhood friends William Harley, Arthur Davidson, Walter Davidson and William A. Davidson. 

Unlike many of the other small motorcycle producers springing up across the United States at the turn of the last century, Harley Davidson has endured both the good and bad times. From manufacturing motorcycles for the United States in both World Wars to producing the first motorcycle ever to win a motor-race, clocking a speed above 100 mph.


Probably Harley’s most under-realised contributions to fashion was stocking the now iconic NYC Perfecto Leather Jacket. Prior to the 1950s these jackets had a limited audience, but films like The Wild One featuring Marlon Brando and the 1969 cult classic Easy Rider elevated both Biker fashion and Harley Davidson to becoming depicted as the embodiments of the Freedom, Rebellion and Youth. 

Harley capitalised on this and began produce its own merch, with Harley Davidson’s first tees being made in the 1960s, each customised with different dealership logos and locations. These tees helped inspire a loyal fanbase for Harley and soon the brand started offering an ever wider range of merchandise; from its classic Leather biker jackets and vests to new lightweight jackets and all weather apparel.


For decades the biker aesthetic cultivated by Harley Davidson had been associated with rebels and outlaws, so it isn’t much of a surprise then that by the 1970s Harley was back setting trends and angering the establishment. The Harley tees and the iconic Leather jackets and vests once synonymous with the famous brand and notorious outlaw biker gangs now hit the mainstream again with Punk. 


Although the Biker and Punk trends began to die down in the 1980s, Harley continued to release a host of merch from tees and hoodies to the more bizarre Harley Davidson Cigarette branded duffle bags and increasingly rare Harley belt buckles.

The likes of Kate Moss and Yoko Ono have long repped the brand, and more recently Kanye West, Jaden Smith and Ruby Rose have all been seen rocking classic vintage Harley garms. Harley still seems to strike a cord and remain imprinted into popular culture. 


At True Vintage we are all huge fans of all things Harley Davidson, and love the colourful and eye-catching prints that they’ve been putting out for decades. Click here to check out our collection of vintage Harley Davidson merch. Stay True.



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