Harley Davidson had a rough 2020. When its CEO quit — no wait, was fired — after 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.
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.
Or $50 on a long sleeve shirt which will be worn once and immediately stained forever at an Early Bird dinner special:
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:
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.