LIFE Archive | Hell's Angels c. 1965

These photos could be from ’65 or they could be from last week. I saw so many fully bearded guys wearing 1960s/70s vintage clothes in Austin this past week that one would never be able to differentiate. I’m sure if you ran into these Hell’s Angles on the open road it would be another story all together. Be sure to enlarge all of the photos to get a closer look. In one particular picture – the guy drinking the beer on the sidewalk – he appears to be wearing selvage denim. It amazes me how relevant it is considering today’s style.


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Comments on “LIFE Archive | Hell's Angels c. 1965

    Matt on March 23, 2009 9:56 AM:

    Yup, selvage denim was only re-invented by the Japanese!

    Paul Pincus on March 23, 2009 10:04 AM:


    Steve on March 23, 2009 10:10 AM:

    As an Englishman the Hells Angels are difficult for me to fully understand but these shots are truly something, thanks for posting!

    andrew on March 23, 2009 10:17 AM:

    these images are great- some of them have made their rounds on other blogs, but it’s nice to see the full set in one spot (w/ the larger sizes too)…it’s important to be reminded about where certain attitudes and styles have come from.

    Bill on March 23, 2009 10:23 AM:

    The guy with the cop is wearing the great N-1 US Navy deck jacket that was probably twenty years old when the picture was taken. Bedford cloth lined with wool-alpaca teddy bear fur, it was designed with unusually long arms and a tight fit through the torso, accidentally creating the best all-fabric bad-ass motorcycle jacket ever made.

    This particular spread, of course, is deeply iconic, and was hugely influential on later Sixties street fashion. I was in a boys boarding school in Tucson when it came out, and I remember my wannabe-surfer/quasi-prepster classmates passing it around with the greatest excitement.

    It brought a change.

    JP on March 23, 2009 10:39 AM:

    Amazing. I drooled over these as well.

    I grew up in Upstate New York– mom ran with a rough crowd– lots of memories of Hell’s Angels passed out on the living room floor and me in my jammies carefully stepping over the beards and tattoos on my way to the kitchen for cereal.

    Sonny Barger, the leader of the pack (look him up) is a total bad-ass, (semi) retired now out in AZ. He wrote a book about the Angels– a quick and entertaining read.

    JP on March 23, 2009 12:18 PM:

    Just one more quick note. To your point on selvage denim and the fashion relevance to today– what I really like about it is that back then they were just jeans.

    No one obsessed over the selvedge, or what the oz. weight was, Z twill or cross-hatch– they just wore them.

    Sometimes I think we are all to conscious of this stuff today, and it kind of ruins it. I know I certainly have been– and I’m definitely trying to lighten up.

    Tintin on March 23, 2009 1:16 PM:

    Bike Week in Daytona Beach has turned into a middle aged, middle class, middle of the road thumping bore. Balding middle aged men shave their heads, grow a van dyke and trailer their bikes down from New Jersey.

    It is a vulgar week with bad taste as the rule. Crap music, crap bikes, crap food, crap beach. It speaks to who we really are. Tasteless bores pretending to be outlaws. I swear, I thought I saw Dick Cheeney on A1A just outside Summer Haven on a restored ’67 Electra Glide.

    Sammy G on March 23, 2009 1:43 PM:

    Third picture from the end shows Bill Graham with a Hells Angel at the Filmore. The sign in the back ground says its the filmore east and the colors say New York. Thats funny, there wernt many hells angels in New York. Nice photos, though some of them are staged. Hunter Thompson’s book Hells Angels is a fun read and offers some insight into the old Hells Angels lifestyle. They were really bad back then, but nothing like todays hells angels. today the are a bunch of hitmen and corporate meth amphetimine pushers.

    Steven on March 23, 2009 2:19 PM:

    Growing up in the sixties, I remember the Angels as both fearful icons of cool, as well as the end of western civilization as we knew it. Sort of hippies gone bad (though they preceded that subculture by as much as a decade), that in the mainstream was dumped into the general category of “social deviants”, ie. non-conforming druggies. They worked overtime to keep their cred badass, and as the drugs got harder and darker, the Angels descended to the point of their infamous murder spree at Altamont (admittedly, not a very far shift for them). My neighborhood as a kid was the Cleveland equivalent of the Haight in SF (most large cities had a hippie epicenter back then), and I remember when the Hell’s Angels rode through town- people were genuinely afraid, and as I recall, a couple of guys were killed in a biker brawl at one of the holes in the Village here. The last time I saw them out en mass, as a posse, was the late 70’s and ironically with Bill Graham on hand (he was verbally bitch-slapping a gate crasher), in front of the Oakland Auditorium before a Grateful Dead show. Today, they look unwashed and innocent enough, and hella cool! I particularly dig the boots. You gotta wonder if we’ll look at today’s His n’Hers ElectraGlide outfits and culture, and the more down-market but equally corporate Sturgis scene, and find them cool.

    Sean on March 23, 2009 3:57 PM:

    Another great picture series from this time is Danny Lyons’ book “The Bikeriders”


    Michael Williams on March 23, 2009 5:33 PM:

    Can I just say that ALL of the Life photos are staged. Everyone knows this. Also, re: motor cycle gangs & meth. They call it crank because bikers would hide it in the “crank” cases on their bikes. That’s a little known fact not worth knowing — as my old man would say.


    Warren on March 23, 2009 5:50 PM:

    I certainly have no ground in this respect, but I often chuckled at some of today’s bikers who are nothing but caricatures of yesteryear’s Angels.

    But what are these side mirrors about in some of these photos? Angels don’t roll with mirrors!!!

    P Night on March 23, 2009 6:03 PM:

    Shits cool. But remember these guys are still bikies. 3 days ago in Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney 5 Hell’s Angels killed a guy with the steel poles used to hold up velvet rope. Crazy.
    Also if you like the feeling of old time life stuff. There is a contemporary artist call Simryn Gill, who sanded the text off every page of the Time/Life world series from the 60’s, needless to say the books look amazing.

    Bill on March 24, 2009 12:44 AM:

    In 1965, though, weren’t *all* jeans selvedge jeans?

    They hadn’t invented the wide looms yet, that killed off selvedge.

    Selvedge is an inadvertent artifact of the fabric industry, not a decoration or an indicator of superior quality. It only became those things, in the case of denim, after the fact of the near extinction of the narrow looms denim had been made on. Wool suiting comes with selvedge too, but nobody fetishizes it; they just cut it off and throw it away.

    robbie on March 24, 2009 1:28 AM:

    I would give my left pinkie toe for that oval ‘sign of good taste’ coke sign.

    To chime-in on what JP said, my grandfather once asked me to change out of jeans if I planned on eating dinner in his home.It is amazing how something worn by ,’okies’, criminals, and other not so desirable folks has become a staple.

    JP on March 24, 2009 11:01 AM:

    Bill- very well said.

    benedict on March 24, 2009 11:19 AM:

    On Danny Lyons – I just picked up Bikeriders and The Destruction of Lower Manhattan. I brought it to a rider I work with (he’s a designer, basically the quintessence of effortless cool) to show him. He smiled, and said,

    “I used to live next door to Danny Lyon [in NYC]. One time he went away to shoot and he asked if I would feed his snake. I agreed, he said, just go to the pet store, buy a mouse, and drop it in the cage. So I did, and the snake coiled around it, killed it, but didn’t eat it. Two days later I got back to Danny’s place and the place stank of dead mouse. I had to reach into the cage and fish around for a dead mouse. I thought, ‘this is lousy.'”

    Llewelyn Moss on March 27, 2009 10:09 AM:

    Did you tediously have to rename all of the photographs as you downloaded them?

    pilato jr. 1993 on April 9, 2009 2:16 PM:

    hells angels and black shadow nel cuore…4E
    don t forget….

    SrR on May 21, 2009 1:32 AM:

    An Alignment ahead of time from the exposure… Berdoo.

    Born in 53 support ever since.

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