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Eight Months of Beating Up Leather

The Bikeriders” costume designer Erin Benach had eight months to develop the leather jackets.

Jeff Nichols’ latest drama follows a Midwestern biker club in the 1960s, inspired by Danny Lyon’s 1967 photo book about the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Austin Butler, Tom Hardy and Michael Shannon are among the leather-clad bike riders leading the cast. With a limited budget and short prep time, Benach had to choose wisely which jackets she was going to build and which ones she was going to source.

“It can be a viewer challenge: Which are original and made? Which ones are vintage?” Benach laughs.

With the movie set in the 1960s, Benach sought to find a thicker, calf leather.

“It was weirdly hard to find,” she admits. Modern leather was softer, high-end, supple and cheaper. Once she had the leather, she needed to go through a process of distressing each jacket and aging it. “I had to turn it into a character unto itself. I had to make the jackets worn and look like they had been lived in,” Benach says.

Once they had gone through that process, she and her team sanded them down and beat them down. No two jackets were the same; they were customized to each actor.

Tom Hardy’s Johnny sported a wholesome silhouette as the leader of the pack.
Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

Hardy’s Johnny is a generation older than the rest of the riders in the film and has a wife and family. Benach’s approach was to make him “wholesome.”

“I knew I wanted his silhouette to be different,” Benach says. “He was more from the 1950s and I wanted to bring that out. I created a denim silhouette that was different from the other guys.”

In contrast, Butler’s Benny was nonchalant. “Everything needed to look effortless and that he wasn’t caring. She gave Benny an oversized, drapey silhouette. “He was super dirty, and all of our dirt is paint. Crafted on and intentional.”

Austin Butler’s look was deliberately effortless.
Bryan Schutmaat/Focus Features

Jodie Comer plays Kathy, Benny’s girlfriend. It was important to Benach and Nichols that Comer’s Kathy did not become a biker chick. “She wasn’t that malleable. She’s unique and her own person,” Benach explains.

Peg pants and a sleeveless sweater top add softness and texture to the character and contrast against the leather and denim of the gang members.

With the storyline spanning 13 years, Benach used purples and pinks a lot. Comer was dressed mainly in knits and clingy sweaters. “It represented Kathy in the 1960s,” says Benach. “By the time she got into the ’70s, her palette turned brown, orange and green.”

Jodie Comer’s Kathy was given soft textures against the denim and leathers.
Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

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