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“Keep Your Jersey On” – The Birth of Harley-Davidson® Apparel

Harley Davidson news article

How did the H-D® line of motorcycle apparel originate?

The 1912 Harley-Davidson® Accessories catalog included a small entry on the final page, for “Harley-Davidson Jerseys,” available for $1.50. There was no photograph along with the text. 

It was relegated to the same page as the “Handy Assortment of Screws, Nuts, Lock Washers and Cotter Pins.”

The jersey was offered in wool, with two collar styles, roll or turtleneck. Two-inch high, sewn-on red felt letters spelled “Harley-Davidson.” Seven sizes were offered. 

Appearance in The Harley-Davidson® Dealer

An article appeared in the magazine The Harley-Davidson® Dealer in this same period. 

Dealer letters to Milwaukee asked for more, and the article responded “keep your jersey on.” 

The Motor Company was pleased to report that keeping the jerseys in stock was a challenge. But the jersey’s style was not the only appeal for buyers. 

They were also sold at cost price and dealers were asked to do the same. This indicates a product strategy of marketing ahead of profit. (“That the jerseys are of great advertising value to the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and to every dealer handling the Harley-Davidson® motorcycle is generally agreed.” – July, 1912 Harley-Davidson Dealer)

"The New Sweater Coat"

Within two years, at least three styles of the jerseys were offered, along with a new “sweater coat,” which sported the bar and shield logo (“On the left breast is the Mark of Quality in a style similar to that used on the sweaters of baseball players in the big leagues.” – 1914 Useful Accessories for Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.)

Amateur racers were seen wearing the jerseys at local racetracks. When the first factory racing team was formed for 1914, the riders wore Harley-Davidson jerseys. 

In those very early years of H-D apparel, the product line expanded rapidly into nearly every possible rider need. 

Gloves, goggles, overcoats, vests and helmets were common offerings by 1920.

Wrapping Up

The classic racing style jersey remains with Harley-Davidson® products today. Later versions took on two-color styles, the most popular being black and white.

From a simple advertising gesture, a mighty product line grew!

Check out some of the other iconic pieces of Harley-Davidson apparel in the Google Arts and Culture exhibit 120 Years of Style.

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