When it comes to classic riding attire, nothing says “old school” like a waxed cotton jacket. I’ve always wanted a waxed cotton jacket, precisely for its vintage looks, but I’ll have to admit a decided preference for leather jackets, and not just because I think leather looks right riding a vintage motorcycle. Much of that preference is down to leather’s time-tested reputation for providing superior abrasion resistance if you’re unlucky enough to make contact with the tarmac.
And there’s the rub: Traditional waxed cotton jackets have limited abrasion resistance, and there’s no impact-protecting armor. Enter the ScorpionExo Birmingham, a waxed cotton jacket that combines classic good looks with modern technology.
The cut is absolutely classic, with a high, leather-trimmed collar secured with a brass snap. Brass snaps also secure the four large cargo pockets, the two waterproof inner pockets, the storm flap over the brass YKK zipper and the cuffs, which have two sets for adjustment. The upper cargo pockets also feature YKK brass zippers, and there’s a large, zippered pass-thru pocket in the back panel.
The departure from tradition starts with the Birmingham’s shell, a blend of 53 percent cotton and 47 percent nylon fabric for increased strength and abrasion resistance. Unlike traditional waxed cotton, it doesn’t look “wet,” yet it’s completely waterproof thanks to Scorpion’s “Exo-wax” outer coating and a laminated waterproof and breathable inner membrane backing.
Safety considerations extend to the shoulders, elbows and back, the former equipped with SAS-TEC CE-certified armor, the latter with a PE foam back pad. The result is a jacket that looks right on a Sloper BSA, but with the advantages of modern materials and updated safety.
Complementing its good looks is a comfortable fit. Following ScorpionExo’s online sizing chart, I ordered a large Birmingham in green with contrasting gray shoulder panels. The other available color is solid black. The fit for me is excellent, snug on the shoulders without being tight, and the sleeves are long enough they don’t ride up my wrists when my arms are stretched out to the handlebars. In keeping with tradition, the interior features a comfortable, soft plaid cotton lining, and the stitching on the jacket is excellent: I expect it to wear well and for years to come.
The word “comfort” really defines the Birmingham, because it only takes a few good rides for it to lose its just-made stiffness, quickly feeling like that favorite pair of jeans you reach for. This isn’t the jacket you’ll want when the mercury really starts climbing — it was never intended as hot-weather attire — but it is a perfect spring, early summer and fall jacket. Available in green/gray (shown) or black. Price: starting at $299.95. — Richard Backus