I’ve heard a rumor that a certain motorcycle shop that now sells t-shirts and stuff only started building motorcycles so they could pivot to selling t-shirts and stuff…that the $50-a-tee business model was a lot more attractive than the 30k a bike route. Whether or not that’s true (though I never met a salacious rumor I didn’t like), there’s no denying that many a motorsport outfit has done well for itself by evolving into the “lifestyle brand” space.
And who can blame them—there are plenty of guys who’ll never swing their leg over their own V-twin but love the moto romance and aesthetic, and want to talk that talk. Hell, I’m one of ’em. (While I’m proud to have my class CM1 license, locking up the front brake and going over the handlebars during my motorcycle “safety” class blunted my desire to spend too much time on two wheels.)
New York’s Jane Motorcycles is a very different story—co-owners Alexander DiMattio and Adam Kallen have always thought big about their brand, right from inception.
While they do build bikes that scream, “John, go find your balls and use that stimulus check as a down payment!”, they’ve always had a clear-eyed view that moto culture could and should be a big tent with room enough for everyone, even a guy who dreams of a 60s Triumph but instead just bought another Prius. (Hey—killer mileage and three months of Sirius XM…free!)
Jane offers the full spectrum of gear, from moto-specific performance pieces (helmets, gloves, etc.) to high quality, American made casual wear to keep you cozy while you watch Bruce Brown’s On Any Sunday. Again. Alexander and Adam were nice enough to send me a few pieces to try out, but first here’s our chat about how they started and where they’re going.
Heddels (John Bobey): Can you briefly tell me a bit about how Jane was started?
Jane Motorcycles (Alexander DiMattio and Adam Kallen): Jane Motorcycles was started when a friend asked me, ‘If I could do anything I wanted, what would I do?’ I answered loosely, ‘Open a motorcycle clothing shop.’ A few months later I asked Adam to be my partner on the project, and much to my surprise he agreed. Jane was born over a dinner, followed by a lot of luck, work, and blind ambition.
H: A tag line for your brand is, “clothing for motorcycle people”—you sell much more than technical riding gear, so what does that line mean to you?
JM: We make clothing for ourselves. We live in NYC, ride motorcycles and try to live adventurous lives, so our clothing has to work in all aspects of our lifestyle. We source fabrics mainly from Japan to produce timeless pieces, adding to an industry we care about. This means that the clothing has to fit our aesthetic, be able to take a beating, and last a lifetime. It is the clothing we live in.
H: Your site also describes Jane as, “NYC’s custom motorcycle, apparel, accessory, book and espresso shop.” How expansive would you like the brand to be…what areas will you be evolving into next?
JM: When we started JANE we focused mainly on building a different kind of motorcycle shop and the majority of what we carried were third party brands. The end goal was to create our own brand, but starting as a retail store gave us the ability to take things slower, introducing a few things a year and really take the time to develop them. Over the years the brand has grown and we have been able to reach our first goal of a full line. Next steps are to open a retail store in Los Angeles, which is where Adam is from, and to continue to add to and develop the garments in the line.
H: You design all you products in-house, can you describe what the process was like for a recent item—like your mechanic’s jacket—from conception through design and manufacturing?
JM: Design begins with looking in our closets and thinking of what is missing…every garment starts from something we have been searching for. We then develop the base pattern, get the fit right and start experimenting with fabrics. We incorporate armor in most or our outerwear and pants, so getting the fit right can take some time.
Fabrics are really important—we don’t use the technical fabrics usually found on motorcycle garments, we source the majority of our fabric from Japan and use fabrics used in workwear and military applications. Manufacturing is done mainly in or around NYC, as it gives us the ability to oversee every step. We have found this to be very important.
H: Jane makes everything in the United States—why is that important to you?
JM: I (Alex) grew up 10 blocks from the Garment District in NYC. I have had an interest in clothing from a young age and used to go to the different fabric and trim shops, so for me being able to make things in my city is a dream. I guess making things in America is a feeling of home, it’s natural.
H: Your organic cotton sweatshirt, with its stitched letters, is clearly inspired by classic motorcycle club sweaters of the 1950s–how do you strike a balance between that vintage aesthetic and appealing to a very contemporary clientele?
JM: We don’t follow a strict guideline, such as “workwear” or “streetwear.” When it comes to graphics or construction, we tend to look to the past for inspiration. At the end of the day it has to be something we would wear.
H: You decided to add a coffee and sandwich spot within your store—what led to that (ahead of the trend) brand extension?
JM: When we opened we wanted to create a hangout. We both grew up during the surf/skate 90s and spent all our time hanging out at shops. We wanted to recreate that feeling—adding coffee and food gave people the ability to hang out without having to buy something. We wanted to recreate that feeling…creating a community was important to us.
H: Not only are you a New York shop, but you’re in Brooklyn (feeling more “New York” these days than Manhattan). How does that east coast sensibility translate into what Jane does, and can you see that changing should you expand the brand out west (and beyond)?
JM: We will always be a New York City company. We have thought hard about how to keep the culture around the brand as the it grows. In a perfect world we could employ all our family, but in the end it comes down to who you hire to represent you in the next town.
H: From motorcycles to clothing and accessories to turning your Brooklyn shop into a community gathering place, Jane is clearly a thriving brand with an exciting future. What’s next…where do you go from here?
JM: Our closets are not nearly as full as we would like, so the next few years are dedicated to putting out the best garments we can make. And opening L.A.!
Thanks to Alexander and Adam, my closet is a a little bit fuller, and I couldn’t be happier (to say nothing of enjoying their coffee cup, my new daily driver).
Jane’s Mechanic’s Jacket is a perfect warm weather riding jacket, or for life here in San Diego, a wonderful “winter” coat. The Japanese herringbone fabric drapes beautifully (not too stiff like too many cotton/canvas jackets), and the details like YKK Zippers and double pockets, with zippers on the interior set, is smart functionality on or off the bike.
Like so much of the Jane collection, it’s a versatile piece made all the better having been made right here in the U.S.A. It’s a pearl-clutching $350, but when you’re sourcing fabric in Japan and constructing here in America, you get what you pay for.
The Organic Cotton Sweatshirt is easily the piece I return to most often—the heavyweight French terry and hand-cut-and-stitched felt letters have raised the bar of my sweatshirt game, and the brown on mustard is pure vintage-inspired cool. (Think motorcycle sweaters of the 1950’s.)
It has caused some people to ask me what kind of bike I ride, and as far as you know I haven’t lied and told them it was a Ducati Monster. (The truth, an 80s 10-speed, didn’t feel like the answer anyone was looking for.) The cut is trim and a hint cropped, so I sized up to an XXL and it’s absolutely perfect. $200.
Lastly, my deep and abiding love for Hawaiian shirts compelled me to try theirs, and it’s the real deal. The rayon is woven and printed in Japan, and the floral pattern is timeless. (Unlike too many companies, Jane realized that just because they’re a motorcycle company doesn’t mean they need a themed “Hawaiian motorcycle” print.) The cut is trim and modern, with a back slightly longer than the front, but I was still able to comfortably slide into an XL. At $175 it ain’t cheap, but the quality makes the juice worth the squeeze.
This is just a smattering of what Jane has to offer, with new designs and styles being added all the time. Their Brooklyn shop is a worthy destination, and if any NYC business can emerge post-pandemic with their wits about them, it’s Jane. Besides being genuinely nice guys, Alexander and Adam clearly understand their business and their customer, even a Uneasy Rider like me.