Harley-Davidson is an American icon associated with rebelliousness, the open road and freedom. It is recognized around the world, from China to Germany. Harley-Davidson has expanded beyond making motorcycles and into the realm of collectibles, apparel and accessories.
Bill Harley and Arthur Davidson built their first motorcycle in 1903 in their Milwaukee shop. Since then, Harley-Davidson has gone on to become the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in America. One of the most recognized Harley-Davidson rallies is held every year in Sturgis, S.D., where life-long bikers rub elbows with newcomers who are just getting into the subculture. it is perhaps in Sturgis where Harley-Davidson merchandising was born.
There are several types of Harley-Davidson collectibles, but the most prominent is the clothing. It initially consisted of a simple leather jacket worn for comfort, safety and (more importantly) status. Emblazoned with the now-famous shield logo on the back, the jacket was (and still is) a badge of honor. Other clothing includes shirts, bandannas, gloves and even blue jeans with the Harley-Davidson logo.
In addition to clothing, Harley-Davidson-branded accessories such as helmets, gloves, and saddlebags are in high demand. Until recently, many motorcycle enthusiasts scorned the use of such accessories, but with the increasing love of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, these accessories have become not only accepted, but proudly worn by devotees.
The effects of Harley-Davidson collectorship and fandom has expanded into traditionally nonmotorcycle areas such as holiday ornaments, greeting cards and housewares. For example, it is now possible to purchase wine glasses emblazoned with the Harley-Davidson logo or a wall clock with the classic emblem wreathed in flames.
With the increasing acceptance of the company in middle-class lifestyles and values, the brand may continue to expand into other aspects of American life. For example, when professional wrestling became popular again in the 1980s, action figures, television shows and even video games capitalized upon the characters in wrestling. Similarly, Harley-Davidson already has its own “action figures” in the form of motorcycle toys for children and has lent its name to numerous video games.