Sure, some of 70s women’s fashion is as regrettable as men’s, but there is also lots to love (from Bohemian halters to Halston jumpsuits), whereas it can be hard to even find 70s men’s fashion untainted by spreading collars and poor synthetic fabrics. Discussing with a fellow vintage lover what might be redeemable about men’s 70s fashion brought up racing jackets such as Steve McQueen wore in “Le Mans” and those from other late 60s and 70s films like “The Italian Job,” “Vanishing Point,” “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry,” “Little Fauss & Big Halsey,” “The Last American Hero,” and “Two Lane Blacktop.”
The Style Auto pieces pictured above attempt to capture that classic look. Most date to the early to mid-80s (some as early as the late 70s), but these were as close to the originals as I had on hand in the shop. The good news for anyone interested in the look is that Style Auto jackets are readily available on the vintage market and affordable (perhaps to a fault).
While the jackets themselves are abundant, there isn’t much written online about Style Auto, which isn’t surprising since it’s a recent, relatively cheap product with often ephemeral event-specific or promotional intent. However, plenty can be learned from the many current Etsy and eBay listings. As typical for 80s apparel of its ilk, most all pieces I researched were produced in Hong Kong (despite the “Style Auto California” branding on the label) with the earliest example made in Canada and the latest made in China. In addition to nylon jackets, the only other types of Style Auto garment found initially were acrylic sweaters and poly-cotton sweatshirts and zipper vests (pictured fourth). What else did Style Auto make?
The graphics on these pieces feature endless automotive racing makes and models in printed, patch and embroidered form, including some cars no longer in production. And not only auto brands were represented but many companies related to the racing and automotive industry including: driving schools like Bondurat; industrial manufacturers like IngersollRand; team sponsors like Budweiser and Winston; and races and raceways themselves. Often the only difference between jackets is that the graphic has been changed, as depicted in the photo second from bottom. This variety and mutability of the Style Auto pieces creates further opportunities for vintage clothing and auto enthusiast alike, whether building a collection or altering the patches to suits one’s tastes.