Monday, October 14, 2013

Royal Enfield Continental GT: Retro style vs. Reality?

David Beckham brought his retro-Rocker style to opening of Belstaff store.
(Photo credit PA Wire via
The retro-style marketing of the Royal Enfield Continental GT brought a sense of disbelief to British artist Ian Cater:  His paintings at Motorcycle Art UK capture the look and emotion of the original British cafe racers.

The unoriginal look of the glamorous models in the Continental GT campaign and in an unrelated (but similar looking) campaign for Rocker-inspired Belstaff jackets brought this reaction from him:

"I don't remember much about the 1950s but I was growing up in the '60s and early '70s and as you say the reality was a fair bit grubbier and less polished than these modern-day recreations," he wrote. "At least it was in the drab English town where I spent my teenage years.

"Looking through the photos in the Planet Sputnik gallery is like looking at a series of advertising campaigns of the time, only glossier. Nobody young could actually afford to live like that or dress like that in our world and if you were fortunate enough to have plenty of cash to throw around, you were more likely to spend it on a second-hand car and a smart suit than a leather jacket and a motorbike.

"Rose tinted specs and all that. After all, people (Note: including Royal Enfield) hire Planet Sputnik to add glamour and sell product and in that respect I guess they are doing a good job.

"But David Beckham as brand ambassador for Belstaff? Don't get me started on that.

Vintage Belstaff ad was aimed at dowdy, pipe smoking adults.
"In the '60s nobody under 30, or even under 40 years of age would be seen dead wearing something so uncool. I've attached an ad from the period; you get the idea.

"Anyway, to add a bit of counterbalance to the wonderful world of Planet Sputnik, I've added a photo I took of my brother and his mate Dave in about 1973, the world of the English 'greaser' as Rockers had then become. Maybe there's a few style tips Belstaff could consider for further projects.

"The cafes and clubs frequented by the local greasers were seedy dives; they were barred from everywhere else. My brother and his mates weren't welcome in local pubs, they had to ride out to remote village pubs where a shortage of trade made their money welcome." (Ian Cater photo)
"Note the wearing of one pair of ripped jeans over another pair of ripped jeans to keep out the draughts of British summers. The favoring of battered baseball boots over traditional leather boots for serious riding. The fashion for wearing a denim jacket with the sleeves ripped off under, or even over your leather.

"I'd like to see Planet Sputnik get to grips with some of this; Belstaff could sell thousands of dollars worth of ripped jeans with pre-broken zips — to be worn two pairs at a time of course — double the profits.

"I suppose I'm just getting old and bitter but one thing's for sure: the new Continental GT will be a lot less grubby and a lot more polished than the old one and who am I to say that's not a good thing? And more importantly, now Beckham's got a taste for the latest Belstaff gear, Royal Enfield should be able to get him on board a new GT."

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