Hill climb racers from 1964
Belstaff International Ltd

Belstaff Trialmaster History: An Icon of Endurance

Last updated:

From Amelia Earhart and Che Guevara to Amy Johnson, Lawrence of Arabia, Levison Wood, Ewan McGregor and Sir Ben Ainslie the list of notable figures flying the Belstaff flag is impressive. 

The British brand has been outfitting motorcyclists, aviators and adventurous men and women for almost a century.

As the iconic Trialmaster jacket celebrates its 75th anniversary, we explore Belstaff’s story.

Belstaff: A Brief History of a Beloved British Brand

Belstaff’s heritage is rich, with a legacy that dates back almost a century. Today, the brand is celebrated for its iconic waxed cotton jackets, like the Trialmaster. It’s evolved into a brand loved by style-conscious motorcyclists and adventurous spirits around the world.

If you’re not already familiar with the brand, founders Eli Belovitch and son-in-law Harry Grosberg wrote the opening chapter of Belstaff’s story in 1924 when they began to produce a line of wax cotton outerwear for men and women, from their base in Stoke-on-Trent, England. 

However, it was earlier in 1909 that Eli Belovitch began to refine his skill with waterproof fabrics, supplying wax cotton to many local businesses from his factory in Middleton, England. During the First World War, many of those businesses supplied tents, groundsheets and capes to the British Army.

Little is known about the two founders, yet it’s believed Harry travelled the world in pursuit of innovative new materials. Belovitch too embarked on a similar journey. During one of his many exploratory overseas trips, he stumbled upon Egyptian cotton. On his return, Belovitch and Grosberg were inspired to create Belstaff’s signature water-resistant, breathable waxed cotton fabric.

Belstaff is considered to be the first brand to have adopted the use of wax cotton for consumer apparel. This game-changing textile remains at the brand’s core almost a century later.

And if you’ve ever wondered where the brand’s name originates, it’s a combination of the founder’s surname Belovitch and his home county, Staffordshire.


Eli and Harry’s vision was to provide superior protective outwear for motorcyclists. While an outer layer of waxed cotton repelled the rain, wind and snow, the trademark checked lining offered comfort and warmth. 

Motorcycles, Aviation & Adventure

Castle Coobe, 1951 - Racers Waiting for the Flag to Drop

Competitive motorcycling in the early 20th century was a full-contact sport. Belstaff jackets like the Trialmaster quickly earned a reputation for outstanding durability. Belstaff-clad competitors, including Joseph ‘Joe’ Wright and pioneer racing car driver Doreen Evans, appeared repeatedly on the winner’s podium.

Left to right anti-clockwise – (1929), Joe Wright Belstaff Ambassador, racing car driver Doreen Evans(1935), Sammy Miller (1951) wearing an early Trialmaster and aviator Amelia Earhart (1920s).

The brand quickly became the natural choice for adventurous spirits due to its comfortable yet rugged dependability.

Record-breaking aviators, globe-spanning explorers and world-famous mountaineers all chose to battle the elements wearing Belstaff. Then the release of the ground-breaking Trialmaster jacket in 1948 raised Belstaff to new heights.

Trialmaster: An Icon is Born

The Trialmaster was a design classic from day one. By responding to feedback from its race-winning riders, Belstaff created a progressive yet practical jacket. Its pre-curved sleeves, angled map pocket, pivot armholes, waist belt and neck closure strap ticked every box. 

The jacket offered the toughness of military clothing with an air of timeless style. Meanwhile, the Trialmaster’s wax cotton finish was up to the challenge of the most gruelling conditions.

Created to tackle the harsh conditions of the Scottish Six Days Trial, the Trialmaster was Belstaff’s answer for post-war Britain’s adventurous bikers.

King of Cool Blazes a Trail

King of Cool Steve McQueen - The Great Escape

There are many occasions when you can point into a place and say, ‘That’s when everything fell into place.’ For Belstaff, this moment arguably came in 1963. Motorcycle-mad Hollywood actor Steve McQueen embraced the brand while filming The Great Escape. From then on, the King of Cool competed in off-road races wearing his beloved Trialmaster jacket.

Rise of the Phoenix

The famous Phoenix trademark appeared at the end of this decade. By then, there was no shortage of celebrity fans. The sponsorship of successful off-road rider Sammy Miller and F1 driver Jackie Stewart reinforced Belstaff’s reputation for outfitting adventurous spirits for tough sporting endeavours. 

Today, as well as being an established motorcycle outfitter for riders committed to pushing the limits, Belstaff is also a prestigious global fashion house. 

Trialmaster 75 Limited Editions

Riders wearing Belstaff Trialmaster 75 Tribute-and-Edition-Jackets-on-Classic Sportsbikes

This year sees the brand launch the Trialmaster 75 campaign to mark the 75th Anniversary of the jacket. The release of three limited edition Trialmaster jackets will celebrate the brand’s past, present – and future.

The collection includes the Trialmaster 75 Tribute, Trialmaster 75 Edition and Trialmaster Concept, each strictly limited to 100 pieces.

Every purchase will be accompanied by a limited edition anniversary pin badge which enhances collector appeal.

Find out more about the collection Trialmaster 75 limited edition collection.