In 1924, Eli Belovitch and his Son-in-law Harry Grosberg founded Belstaff (the name a combination of Belovitch’s surname and his Staffordshire home) in Stoke-on-Trent in the English Midlands. The company specialized in outerwear for men and women, and it’s particular claim-to-fame was the invention of a waxed-cotton which rendered the fabric waterproof yet breathable. The material would become standard in English outdoor clothing. In 1957 they launched their most famous product: the Trialmaster jacket. At the height of output, they were producing 80,000 a year. The company flourished for 3/4 of a century, becoming especially associated with the motorcyclists who appreciated the garments for their practical qualities and rugged style. Financial troubles eventually threatened the survival of the company, and in the early ’90’s it was reorganized under new management in an attempt to save it from extinction.
Enter Franco Malenotti, an Italian motorcycle competitor and designer. He had been invited to inject new energy into the floundering company. The tide began to turn for the newly reinvented Belstaff (Malenotti bought the company) and in 2004 he masterminded the sale of the company to luxury conglomerate Halstead. Belstaff was newly christened with headquarters near Venice, Italy and a mandate to take the brand into the realm of high-fashion.
It was around this time that I, and probably the rest of the fashion-conscious but non-motorcycle-riding public in North America, became aware of the company. Super-cool design and what must be a team of brilliant marketers have ensured that Belstaff has been seen on the backs of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, onscreen and off: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford have all worn the jackets in their movies. I think it was Tom Cruise’s gear in MI-III or Will Smith’s Trialmaster and shoulder-bag (I am proud owner of them both now) in “I am Legend” that first really hooked me on Belstaff.
With the release of the 2012 line, Belstaff has reached stratospheric heights in it’s evolution. Take Ewan MacGregor’s Crocodile Trialmaster (below) featured in the new campaign. It has a price tag of (brace yourself…) 80,000.00 GBP, which is, of course, absurd …but it is one sweet looking coat. I wonder what Belovitch and Grosberg would think?