If your library isn’t half full of Rin Tanaka’s books, it’s time to upgrade your bookshelves. He’s produced the My Freedamn! series since 2003, exploring the history of motorcycle, surf, and skate culture, mostly through the lens of clothing. His books are self-published, but you’d be very wrong thinking they’re anything but first rate, even when documenting the seemingly prosaic history of SoCal surf tee-shirts from the 1960s!

The cover of Rin Tanaka’s latest extravagance, a history of Britain’s oldest motorcycle gear manufacturer

He’s also produced books in collaboration with Harley-Davidson (The Harley-Davidson Book of Fashions), Steve Mcqueen’s 1963 ISDT ride – Steve McQueen 40 Summers Ago….Hollywood Behind the Iron Curtain (Cycleman Books), a general history of leather jackets (Motorcycle Jackets: A Century of Leather Design), and even helmets (The Motorcycle Helmet: The 1930s-1990s)!

Mike Hailwood in Aberdare Park, 1959, wearing a Lewis Leathers racing suit

Tanaka’s latest history is Lewis Leathers Vol.1: Wings, Wheels and Rock ‘n’ Roll (English and Japanese Edition), a fine-grained exploration of the esteemed Lewis Leathers, the oldest motorcycle clothing company in Britain, ‘since 1892’. His book benefits directly from decades of research by Derek Harris, the current owner of Lewis Leathers, who has obsessively archived the designs and advertising materials of the company he purchased in 2003. Since 1991, Harris had been sourcing vintage Lewis Leathers jackets to satisfy demand for the Japanese market; at the time, the company had none of its vintage patterns to hand, and Japan wanted the company’s designs from the 1950s and ‘60s. Harris would purchase and disassemble old LL jackets to make patterns, and have the old designs replicated, down to the correct labels and zippers used in the originals. Harris is an archivist extraordinaire for this single subject, having spent 25 years pulling together the intellectual property of this 125-year old company.

The book benefits tremendously from Derek Harris’ fantastic collection of archival materials

Lewis Leathers and its various side brands – D. Lewis, Aviakit, etc – have gone through countless cycles of popularity with different groups, from aviators, motorcycle racers, and in latter days to punks and fashionistas. Rin Tanaka’s new book, ‘Lewis Leathers: Wings, Wheels, and Rock&Roll! Vol. 1’ is an extraordinary compendium of the clothing, advertising materials, and period photographs documenting the early history of the company. With 1600 photographs, the book shows how Lewis Leathers became an absolute icon of racer/rocker/punk/fashion history.

Derek Harris owns many original 1950s/60s/70s Rocker jackets, complete with badges and paint!

This book is a must-have! You’ll spend hours poring over the photos, which are really terrific. You can order Lewis Leathers Vol.1: Wings, Wheels and Rock ‘n’ Roll (English and Japanese Edition) here!

A waxed cotton Isle of Man TT Marshall’s jacket

Related Posts

Book Review: ‘BMW Rennsport’

Author Stefan Knittel publishes another...

Book Review: Charles Burki

Charles Burki illustrated his Norton...