Harley Riders' Cultural Appropriation

Submitted by Nitinol

Harley Riders' Cultural Appropriation

The fashions, fixations and culture of the working folk who helped make Harley-Davidson one of the most recognized corporate logos in the world have been culturally appropriated by the rich urban bikers that are fueling the retro-apocalypse(1).

Real bikers are a dying breed, despite the fact that Harleys are as common as flees on a dog. Harley Davidson's modus operandi of prohibitive pricing, draconian control of merchandise and the ubiquitous waiting list for new bikes have rendered America's most notorious cruiser as the trend-surfer's fashion accessory rather than the epicenter of a lifestyle.

If your history lessons are manufactured in Hollywood, then motorcycle culture has its traditional roots in outlaw culture. The biker's self-image is that of a lone rider, windblown, cut free from the society whose rules are boxing him in. But the term "outlaw" in motorcycling is a paradox. The expression was not originally associated with anything sinister. It simply meant was that you raced motorcycles but were not sanctioned by the AMA. Life Magazine insufflated "outlaw" with its famous picture of a burly, drunken biker on his hog surrounded by dozens of empty beer bottles strewn in the streets of Hollywood then spoon-fed this image to the public.

Today's motorcycle culture appears to be nothing more than some black tee-shirt wearing wanker fantasizing about being a hard guy. It's obvious that a guy who jams a fiber-optic video camera up asses for 70 hours a week definitely has a fantasy about living a different life. So he dresses up in studs-and-leather uniforms that were once hallmarks of the culture's white trash origins and cruises the boulevard on a chrome-covered, two-wheeled Winnabago.

The result is a whole new enclave of motorcycle riders: doctors, lawyers, actors, engineers, salesmen, bankers, and computer programmers saddling up a pricey new wave of bikes and effectively driving them out of the range of the "working man."

These RUBs are culturally appropriating in the same way that those pincushion-faced teens are collecting body piercings like baseball cards. These behaviors are routed in tribal custom and ritual. Are bikers' lives so homogenized that they have drawn on other culture sets to subsidize their own existential voids?

(1) A retro-apocalypse is where we are so nostalgic for nostalgia that the biker culture, as we know it, collapses. -Nitinol