“Nature, of course, ordains that human beings be completed by clothing, not left bare in their own insufficient skins,” writes Ann Hollander in Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress.
When recently undertaking Jason Pridmore’s Star School, I sure couldn’t risk being left bare in my own insufficient skin. And I didn’t want to rent one of the school’s suits. Nothing like basking in another student’s dried sweat.
Instead, I wore a new outfit of Alpinestars protective gear: GP Plus gloves, a GP Pro one-piece suit, and S-MX 6 boots—all wonderfully redolent of leather. And I was girded the brand’s Winter Tech base layer, a long-sleeve mock-turtleneck and tights of polypropylene and Spandex.
The GP Pro suit is a marvel of design and craftsmanship. In its armored zones, ventilated areas, and strategically stretchy panels, I could see a rational evolutionary process. Hollander phrases it perfectly when writing “all lines, shapes and volumes, whatever their arrangement, should produce a visual model of dynamic coherence and integrity, rather than a model of complex display, or one of crude force, or one of the latter overlaid by the former.”
In other words, this massive garment, which must weigh close to 20 pounds, should look svelte. According to pictures, it did that.
It also affected me in another way. I was paying tuition to a school that promises to teach advanced riding skills. Out of about three dozen students, I was one of just four neophytes. (The veteran riders had tatty leathers that showed signs of knee-dragging and even low-siding.) So I was about to join a small elite, to be set apart from the schlub who putts along Reseda Boulevard on his godforsaken Fat Boy while wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops.
In other words, it must be worthwhile to shrug into this armor and clump around like a medieval knight. I almost needed a second to help me climb onto the Yamaha YZF-F6 I was riding.
Hollander explains that, too:
In the past, stiffness, heaviness, constriction, problematic fastenings, precarious adornments and all similar difficulties in clothing would constantly remind privileged men and women that they were highly civilized beings, separated by exacting training, elaborate education and complex responsibilities from simple peons with simple pleasures, burdens and duties. Changes in very elegant fashion usually meant exchanging one physical discomfort for another; the comfort of such clothes was in the head, a matter of honor and discipline and the proper maintenance of social degree.
Not that I’d entirely sacrificed comfort. Right out of the box—which, as I now read in the care manual, should be the boots’ place of storage, rather than its being used in the garage to hold the contents of a broken bag of mortar mix—indeed, the boots needed no break-in whatsoever; they were fantastically supple; their only annoying aspect was the squeaking, which undoubtedly will go away.
On the other side of the coin, the gloves came out of the package stiff. By the end of the two-day course, they’d loosened up enough to allow unimpeded manipulation of the controls. Next time, I will break them in ahead of time.
As for problematic fastenings, the suit has enough zippers, hook-and-loop closures, internal pockets, vents and even a neck clasp—not to mention the business of the removable, washable liner and the armor pieces that should be extracted and dried if I’m ever caught in the rain—to make me quite the motorcycling aristocrat.
From now on, instead of snickering at those who show up at the Rock Store in their racing suits, I’ll respect them.
Meantime, here are some things I’ve learned about using and caring for my new duds: