A Second Skin to Cover Your Hide: Vanson Leathers

Ad man Shane Powers gives his review on his custom-made (and mom-approved) racing leathers from Vanson Leathers.


Since 1974 Vanson Leathers has been hand-making top quality leather goods in their shop in Fall River, Massachusetts. In that 45 years, the Vanson logo has become synonymous with American racing, so when I found myself nearing the end of a project that would put me on the race track for the first time, I knew who to call. Ideally, when ordering a custom one-piece leather racing suit, you would visit the Vanson shop to be measured by their tailors. Since a trip to Massachusetts isn’t in everyone’s schedule, Vanson has refined their mail ordering process to an exact science.

The first step was to print the 21-page ordering guide. This form can seem daunting, but a lot goes into making sure your leathers look and fit perfectly from day one. After receiving the color swatches and order packet Vanson mailed me, I set to work designing my suit. This is important, as there’s a high likelihood that this will be the only set of racing leathers I ever buy. Properly cared for they could easily outlive my race bike! Once I had settled on color combinations, lettering, logo and patch placements. I colored in the “blank” suit in the packet. The next, and most important step is taking measurements for fit. Included in the packet is a tailor’s tape and an elastic band known as a VMD (Vanson Measuring Device). I placed the VMD around my waist to be used as a reference point while filling in the four pages of measurements. The ordering guide even has built-in checks and balances ensuring that certain measurements “add up” to a perfect fit, and the measuring guide video on Vanson’s YouTube channel offers extra help.

After submitting the form and deposit (half up front, half upon completion), six weeks later a 13-pound box arrived at my desk. It was shocking to open it and see a tangible version of the picture I had drawn two months earlier. I wore my new leathers in my first AHRMA race this summer (see Page 70), and not unlike the cereal commercials from my youth, Vanson leathers became “mom approved.” After a small spill in a turn resulted in a slide across the track, I returned to my pit not much worse for the wear. As I surveyed the minor rash on the sleeves and hip of my leathers, my mom said, “You tell the people that made that race suit that your mom said thank you!” — Shane Powers MC

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