Tim Pritchard of Tucker Rocky had contacted Joe Rocket founder Bruce Parker during the years about doing a motorcycle apparel project together. Until recently, the timing wasn’t right.
But the two eventually came together to work on a project for the national distributor, a new in-house brand developed by Parker’s company, Parker Synergies.
The new line, unveiled in August at Tucker Rocky’s national sales meeting, is called Speed and Strength. According to Parker, what makes it fresh are designs focused on “the landscape of modern motorcycling” rather than old ideas about the biker lifestyle.
“We wanted to remind people that motorcycles are fun,” Parker said. “There are no skulls, no Resident Evil. It’s fun.”
Based on the initial dealer reaction at the August event, which Parker describes as fantastic, the approach could be working. “You can sit in a brick building and design a product,” he said, “but you never really know how it will be received.”
The relationship between Pritchard, vice president of sales at Tucker Rocky, and Parker dates back to Pritchard’s days at Competition Accessories, a motorcycle retailer based in Ohio.
Their collaboration started with Project H, a line of Honda-branded motorcycle apparel produced by Parker Synergies with Tucker Rocky as exclusive distributor.
Parker liked Project H because it gave him a chance to show Honda in a new light, as well as the opportunity to work with Tucker Rocky.
“I liked the business style of Tucker Rocky.” Parker said. “And that’s important because a brand is only as good as its distribution.”
With Speed and Strength, Parker saw another opportunity in the market and decided to take it. The new line is completely separate from Project H, but in some ways the brand was born out of that earlier effort. For one, that project put the Parker Synergies/Tucker Rocky partnership in place. Additionally, Parker points out that another aspect of the new apparel was inspired by his earlier collection: A close look at several Project H products reveals the words “Speed and Strength” written on the front.
For Speed and Strength, Parker was contracted to do the design and marketing, while Tucker Rocky owns the brand, making it a long-term investment for Tucker Rocky. The relationship is open-ended, which means Parker will continue to be involved with the brand as long as both sides are happy with the arrangement.
Parker says he wants Speed and Strength to reflect modern pop culture with motorcycle functionality. He also wants it to have appeal across the board — regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. As an avid biker himself, Parker says he noticed most of his friends didn’t ride just one way — in fact, most of them own more than one type of bike, and he wanted to create a line of apparel that would be versatile enough to meet their needs.
The brand is designed using a variety of materials, including leather and textile offerings. There are also some soft goods, such as shirts and hoodies, that Parker hopes will be an important part of the brand.
Speed and Strength features product families such as “Devil’s in the Details,” “Moment of Truth” and “Twist of Fate.” Parker admits these names are long, but he says they were chosen because they are part of a “common American vernacular.”
In fact, Speed and Strength is specifically geared toward Americans.
“We will never be confused with Italian brands, and that’s on purpose,” Parker said.
For one thing, Speed and Strength is sized with an American audience in mind.
“Large is a real large,” Parker said. “It’s a large for a guy who’s had a pizza and a beer.”
According to Parker, size is every bit as important as the aesthetic design of a brand, since apparel that doesn’t fit well won’t generate any repeat customers. It’s part of his philosophy that people buy value.
Parker notes that while Speed and Strength isn’t a racing brand, he wants it to have racing authenticity. That’s why he signed up some well-known riders, including Neil Hodgson, to wear Speed and Strength leathers.
In general, however, Parker stresses that Speed and Strength isn’t only about racers, it’s designed for anyone who enjoys riding.
A different path
When Parker began his career, he wasn’t yet on the path that would eventually lead him to Joe Rocket and Speed and Strength. He started out as a high school physical education teacher but soon realized he liked motorcycles more than kids.
“And I’m not embarrassed to say that,” he said. “I just found out that teaching wasn’t for me.”
He decided then that he wanted to work in a motorcycle shop, which eventually led to him owning several dealerships, including a Harley Davidson store where he started to sell apparel he had created in his kitchen. He called the small in-house brand Joe Rocket, and in 1994, he sold his dealerships to pursue the new venture full time.
Parker stayed with Joe Rocket for more than a decade, but he eventually stepped aside as vice president and started Parker Synergies in 2007 to take advantage of a Honda license that had become available. That license led to Project H, which led to Speed and Strength.
The company has been in the works since the fall of 2007, and now that the brand has been released, Parker is proud of everything from the design to the larger sizing. “That’s American,” he said, “and I like it.” psb