Thursday, March 19, 2015

THE ALT.CUSTOM SCENE: COOPTED?

The new Ducati Scrambler: perhaps the most obvious example of how alt.customs are influencing corporate motorcycles
Sideburn magazine's Gary Inman, a friend of mine, wrote a thought-provoking piece on Influx.co.uk (a multi-motor blogazine) called 'Custom Bikes and Trophy Wives'.  I'll quote a few bits here, but if you're at all involved with the alt.custom scene, it's worth a read, and I'd love to hear your opinion.  I confess to be deeply embedded in this world professionally, while never having been an owner/rider/builder of alt.customs themselves. Still, I count many of the most important players in this business as personal friends, so am well-placed to write about their world.  Hence my 'Custom and Style' editorship at Cycle World...
Gary credits the Wrenchmonkees of Denmark for an explosion of a particular style, which is becoming cliché with various imitators.  Of course, plenty of alt.custom builders do things very differently...
Some thoughts from Gary: "The annexation of the most vibrant motorcycle sub-culture in decades didn’t take long...For marketing departments, desperate to find any growth in Northern hemisphere biking, it’s an easy sell. It’s all smart haircuts and expensive denim, an appreciation of art, architecture and photography, a willingness and the means to travel. The holy-bleeding-grail of target audience if you’re trying to shift ‘lifestyle’ products. And the bike manufacturers didn’t have to lift a finger for the scene to become so large they could no longer ignore its potential. What was an exciting niche is now a cliché. Inevitably. But – another question that only time has the answer to – is it a bad thing for ‘the scene’?..."

On that note, it might be worth re-reading my 'Instafamous/Instabroke' essay from Classic Bike Guide (republished on BikeExif)  or my very similar thoughts on the Industry poking fingers into the Custom scene, called 'Awake, Leviathan', also in CBG (read it here).

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3 comments:

David Blasco said...

I applaud any artist who has found a way to make what it pleases him to create pay off. I also like that Big Makers bring down the cost of what it pleases me to buy with their economies of scale. I would argue that most new automobiles on the market right now look alike, and very (deliberately?) boring whereas it is the rare (is there one?) new motorcycle you can even buy that tries to make itself inconspicuous. So, something is right with the world.

GuitarSlinger said...

#1 That is one damn fine article .. right up there with your Insta Famous Insta Broke Pal .

#2 He's right.. he should of seen it coming . Be it in music .. art .. custom bikes etc . What starts out as a revolution gradually decays into a trend at which point it becomes nothing more than another pathetic cliche awaiting its demise

#3 The reson that happens once the revolution becomes a trend is partially because ... every half baked idiot and his brother/sister becomes convinced they can do it as well despite having no skills or talent ... the worst part being [ in todays M/C world ] websites such as Pipeburn Bikeefix etc desperate to fill their digital pages promoting the garbage coming out of these so called builders .... going as far as banning anyone honest enough to call those builders work what it is .. crap ... from commenting

#4 Next ... the trend goes beyond trend and cliche to become mainstream , common place , inane and mundane . As I've said many times .. how many Ducati/Triumphs etc can custom builders Scramble before Scramblers finally go out of vogue [ same can be said about Cafe Racers as well ]

#5 As with the rest of the creative world .. the warning .. Be Careful What You Wish for ... went unheeded when all the Fashionista , Media etc attention suddenly became focused on custom bikes . And .. as always ... once it did .. that which once was a bastion of creativity ... is rapidly becoming a codified and homogenized trend ... e.g. ... normal

#6 As to the designation of ' Artist ' as it applies to custom builders . Lets drop the pretense .. and face the facts .. WE [ all creative people ] are Craftsmen [ and women ] First and foremost . Not Artists . Art .. is craft that thru skill etc has been elevated beyond the status of craft into the lofty realms of Art . But its creator is still ... a craftsman .. not an Artist .

Using that definition [ the only accurate one in mine as well as many before me's opinion ] I can only think of a very few custom bikes in my 50 some years on the planet deserving the designation ... Art

Sermon over . Coffee and Donuts in the Narthex ... and let us raise a glass to the memory of Robert Hughes .. a man who knew a thing or three about Art , M/C's as well as the destructive influence of ... trends

Biff said...

I believe the custom scene started out of necessity and not as a venue for the avant garde artist.
Bikes get damaged and most people are too poor to buy OEM parts so they cobble the bike together as best they can to keep mobile.Otherwise the bike is on the scrap heap and you're walking.
All my bikes are customized for that reason. You smash them yourself so you fix them yourself. Any part will do as long as you can make it work and the bike is rideable. Functional and unique.
Suddenly people like the image and start cobbling up perfectly good bikes. (The same way as people with money pay hundreds of dollars for worn out jeans.) They have a need to be distinctive and their UCM gives them that feeling. Somebody compliments them on their taste and the next thing you know they are building bikes and selling coffee and T-shirts.
There is a very limited number of parts to modify on a bike and a very limited number of things you can do with these parts. The end result is everybody ends up copying everybody else and any hope of standing out in a crowd is lost. Just another hipster on a funky custom.
Now that the manufacturers are on the bandwagon, you don't stand a snowballs chance in hell of standing out. Might as well just buy a cruiser and accept your fate. Either that or keep the custom bike scene in the backyard where it belongs.