Harley-Davidson Snags Young Riders With...Aerosmith Apparel Partnership

Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, Joe Perry, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith attend the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City
Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, Joe Perry, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith attend the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City
Photo: Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV (Getty Images)

Harley Davidson had a rough 2020. When its CEO quit — no wait, was firedafter a long sad decline, a turnaround plan was put in place that cut the company’s cheap bikes and bet big on luring in a younger, broker generation of riders with certified pre-owned bikes instead. Now there’s a new scheme that I’m sure will put young’uns in the saddle like nothing else: the Harley-Davidson X Aerosmith collection.

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My good pal Jason Marker over at RideApart gave me a heads up on the new fashion initiative, and frankly his rant is worth your time as well:

Hey, you guys want to hear the Harley-Davidsonest thing ever? In an extremely on-brand move, The Motor Company has teamed up with dadrock powerhouse Aerosmith to release a line of branded apparel based on the band’s back catalog. You heard that right, friends, Aerosmith—a band that hasn’t released an album since 2014 and hasn’t been culturally relevant since the mid-90s. That’s exactly the kind of forward-thinking initiative we’ve come to expect from a motorcycle brand that’s been desperately struggling to attract younger customers for years now.

I just... I mean... wow. Oof. Yikes. Yikers island. This is some powerful Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock energy here from the old Orange and Black. When the press release for the new collection crossed my desk, I was flabbergasted. Its arrival on March 31, 2021, even prompted me to reach out to Harley to make sure it wasn’t an early April Fools joke. I was enthusiastically told that it was not. Huh. Okay, then!

Harley’s main customers, well-heeled Boomers, are basically aging out of riding or, you know, dying. That makes attracting younger people, the kind with less spending power and more recent cultural memories, to its products something of a matter of survival for HD. And nothing will do that quite like latching the totally relevant megarockers Aerosmith, a band that has not released an album since 2014, to the brand via a clothing line, which currently includes all of two low-effort, overpriced pieces.

Nothing could make me want to spend $75 dollars on a simple gray hoodie. OK, maybe if it featured the Mountain Goats, which is a band that actually has a sorta famous (to hipster Millennials like Brad Brownell and me, anyway) song about a motorcycle! You know what band doesn’t have a decent motorcycle song? Freakin’ Aerosmith.

Illustration for article titled Harley-Davidson Snags Young Riders With...Aerosmith Apparel Partnership
Screenshot: aerosmith.com

Or $50 on a long sleeve shirt which will be worn once and immediately stained forever at an Early Bird dinner special:

Illustration for article titled Harley-Davidson Snags Young Riders With...Aerosmith Apparel Partnership
Screenshot: aerosmith.com
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These look like they could be sold at Target along with all the other standard band t-shirts that younger folks buy as cheap gifts for Father’s Day. There are a few other pieces that are not yet available on the Aerosmith website but were included in the press release, like a $30 tank top so thin you can practically see through it in the press images:

Illustration for article titled Harley-Davidson Snags Young Riders With...Aerosmith Apparel Partnership
Image: Harley-Davidson
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Look, every Millennial-of-a-certain-age (some of us are in our 40s now!) has the lyrics to Aerosmith’s only chart-topper, the 1998 sappy mega hit “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” carved into our souls by repeated plays on Top 40 radio, much in the same way the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon. It may be the song most responsible for the invention of those cassette adapters for CD players in cars. Anything to escape the cloying words sung by a gravel-voiced Steven Tyler played every 10 songs for years and years on end. (I am not exaggerating or kidding, go ask your cool aunt.) We’re all still shook from the experience. The only people who remember a rebellious, hard-rocking or even remotely enjoyable Aerosmith are the ones most likely to pay $20,000 for a bike, or $75 for a sweatshirt. I can’t imagine this moving the needle youthward for the brand.

Managing Editor of Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

telecaster1959
Telecaster1959

“Dadrock”? “Not culturally relevant since the mid-90's”?

With all due respect to whoever Jason Marker is, great music is timeless. If HD is trying to sell stuff to dudes in their 50's and 60's - and clearly that’s their largest market - then it makes sense to tie in with a band whose music was, is and will always be relevant to that market.

If HD decided they wanted 40-year-olds and signed a deal with the estate of Kurt Cobain, would this Jason Marker guy bellyache about that? If HD decided to go after 30-year-old women and signed a deal with Brittney Spears, I guess this Marker dude would complain about that? Conversely, if HD signed a deal with Lizzo, how many motorcycles would that sell?

I don’t know what Jason Marker does for a living but it certainly isn’t sales or marketing.