Sean Rocha for Belstaff

I see a lot of clothes that pretend to have history.  Jeans that have been sanded and scrubbed by some guy in Long Beach to make it look like they have a past.  T-shirts that have been ripped and repaired, as if they’ve suffered.  But my jacket – a black leather Belstaff Montana motorcycle jacket with the snap-down touring collar, to be exact – has lived more, seen more, survived more than I have. In the early-1950s, Che Guevara wore a Belstaff on the motorcycle trip through Latin America that turned him into a radical.  Belstaff outfitted TE Lawrence on his travels in Arabia, Steve McQueen in the movies, and the pioneering aviators of the 1930s in the skies.  These days, even the Dalai Lama wears one.

That fits my life.  My novel has taken me through Cairo alleys, floods in Rangoon, and the back streets of Rio.  I’ve shot photographs in the sand dunes of the Sahara and the peaks of the Himalayas.  I don’t have time to change with fashion and I don’t have space for fussy, complicated clothes.  I need classics that will be with me forever.  I like clothes where I can see the desert in a crease at the elbow or remember riding down Highway One in Vietnam from a scuff on the shoulder.  I don’t mind if my clothes look worn or a little beat up, as long as it’s real.  I don’t want somebody else pretending to live for me; I’ll do it myself.  I just need clothes that are well made, so they can get through it with me.  George Clooney, a serious biker and Belstaff fanatic, calls his jacket “classic and cool, the perfect combination between tradition and innovation.”  That sounds about right to me, too.


A version of this article was published in T: The New York Times Style Magazine