Vanson Leathers: From Versailles to Fall River

Vanson Leathers: From Versailles to Fall River

Back in the mid-1900s, most any gathering of motorcyclists would be dominated by leather clad riders. Leather offered warmth, abrasion protection, and style. The epicenter of Euro-centric leather motorcycle style was the Ace Cafe in London, where ton-up boys on their BSAs, Triumphs, and Nortons wore now-iconic leather jackets.

Starting in the 1980s, however, textile gear entered the market, promising less weight, better breathability and weather protection, and color options beyond black and brown. These days, Cordura and GORETEX rule supreme at many motorcycle meets.

Leather still has its place, though. Racing grids around the world, from the local club racing scene to drag racing, from the Isle of Man to MotoGP, are still almost exclusively leather. Plus, leather has a unique style that can’t be replicated. If you are a rider who values these qualities, you should know the name Vanson.

The Vanson logo has been seen on the leathers of a generation of racers and riders.

The Origin Story

Mike van der Sleesen, founder and namesake of Vanson Leathers, spent his formative motorcycle years in Europe. His father was Dutch, while his mother hailed from Connecticut. At the age of 16, he rode his 50cc, 6.5 hp Garelli from Brussels, Belgium, over the Alps to Venice, Italy, and back. He had a Vespa 175 before moving up to a BSA 650, a Norton Roadster, and a Norton Interstate. Like many during that golden age, Vanson wore Barbour and Lewis leathers from England. While in college, he worked at Moto Britannique, a motorcycle dealership located in a converted chicken coop near Versailles in France.