Speed vs Style: How Fashion is Dominating the Formula One Paddocks

Charlotte Deville

From racing to the runway, the fashion industry has gone ‘full throttle’ into transforming the world’s most exclusive car park into a catwalk. As speed and style go head-to-head, it is important to understand the connection between Formula One and Fashion which ultimately constitute two distinctly diverse yet strikingly similar spheres of interest.

The Connection
The Formula One Paddocks are renowned for being star-studded destinations that, beyond famous drivers, are frequented by icons from the fashion, film, music, and other sporting industries. A Formula One spokesperson described how the most iconic celebrities transcend the worlds of sport, music and fashion, and thus the Paddocks constitute a truly unique environment as a hotspot for these elites.

Perhaps the most striking example of this is Grace Kelly’s presence in Monaco during the 1960s, Penelope Cruz’s lead role in the recent Ferrari film released prior to the 2024 season, and the anticipated release of a Formula One film starring Brad Pitt in 2025 that is currently being filmed during the 2024 Grands Prix.

The strongest commonality between Formula One and fashion is undeniably the culture of glamour and exclusivity. Formula One captures the attentions of both racing fans and fashionistas as a sport that is traditionally expensive, elite, and attracts the wealthy and the luxury brands they associate with. More recently, the connection is also seen as racing drivers have become increasingly visible as popular personalities with distinct fashion identities themselves.

Evidence of this effect is most prevalent on social media

Why, then, has this connection risen to prominence in the recent racing seasons?

The personal drive of racing stars, the pressurised build up to performative races, and the millions of eyes watching worldwide are elements of Formula One that mirror the spectacle of runway shows during fashion weeks. Alike the intensified attention to Formula One and increase of events in the seasonal calendar, there has been a similar upsurge in activity relating to fashion weeks that are now often regarded as ‘fashion months’.

The guest list at Formula One is matched only by events of an equivalent level of exclusivity and elitism, such as Wimbledon, the Met Ball, Cannes Film Festival, and of course fashion weeks. However, with 24 races in the 2024 calendar from Bahrain in late February to Abu Dhabi in early December, the regularity of Formula One events is unparalleled. It is therefore unsurprising that luxury fashion houses and celebrity icons flock to the Paddocks to enhance their presence though a greater frequency of appearances and attention.

Since Liberty Media took ownership of Formula One in 2017, there has been deliberate action towards expansion of both the sport and popular interest. For example, the extension of broadcasting rights to 181 countries, and release of six series of the Netflix documentary ‘Drive to Survive’ since 2019, which has undeniably rejuvenated interest in the sport given 28 million hours of content was watched during the opening weekend of the fourth series in March 2022. This transformation of Formula One by the heightened sense of style and glamour has subsequently attracted fashion brands and figures, and an incredibly vast fanbase.

Evidence of this effect is most prevalent on social media. Formula One fan accounts post images of celebrity attendees or are dedicated to the personal style of drivers who now actively intend to carve their space in the realm of fashion, given the turbulence of their driving careers and desire for multiple income streams. The followings of racing WAGs has also accelerated, meaning publicity of Formula One has evolved to suit younger online audiences and centre around stylish personalities.

Sky’s Formula One commentator David Croft admits many ‘legacy’ Formula One fans are unimpressed by the shift of attention away from the sport of racing towards the personalities and culture of the Paddocks, but insists this brings a fresh perspective and new fans to what has traditionally been an “elite an inaccessible sport”.

The most significant impact has been the transformation of drivers into popular style icons

Finally, what tangible impacts have we seen Formula One and fashion have upon each other?

Luxury fashion houses and mainstream brands are capitalising on the popularity of Formula One.

The connection between Rolex and motorsport dates back to 1968 when Rolex became associated with Sir Jackie Stewart. Since then, Rolex advertise on the safety barriers and have enjoyed a more formal partnership since 2013 when Rolex became a Global Partner and the Official Timepiece of the World Championships.

Tag Heuer and Formula One also have a historical connection dating back to the 1971 deal to provide timekeeping equipment and watches for the team at Scuderia Ferarri. Since then, TAG Heuer has become the Official Timekeeper and Partner of RED BULL Racing F1 Team and is proud to offer a Formula 1 Collection of racing-inspired watches.

Some more unconventional cases of F1-inspired fashion include Ferrari fashion line at Milan Fashion Week, Palm Angels partnership with Haas, A$AP Rocky’s F1-inspired collection with Puma, the Chanel Cruise Show of 2022 which was held in Monte-Carlo and showcased motorsport-inspired pieces, and the design of trophies and trophy cases for racing champions by Tiffany & Co for the Miami Grand Prix, and Louis Vuitton’s trophy case for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The most significant impact has been the transformation of drivers into popular style icons, which has been utilised as a mechanism of self-expression, identity building, and another avenue to connect with fans. Lewis Hamilton is now an ambassador for Tommy Hilfiger, whilst Fernando Alonso is a promotional face for Hugo Boss.

the commonalities between the two are more abundant than what first meets the eye

Hamilton’s personal fashion choices have gained strong popular attention amongst fans and on social media too, including his statement accessory and bold pattern choices in the Paddocks, and his highly coveted appearance wearing a Rick Owens boiler suit. The Instagram fan-page @hamazinglew is dedicated to showcasing these moments.

Zhou Guanyu is perhaps the most established as a hybrid  figure of both racing and fashion for his signature sense of sophistication and impeccable grooming. Guanyu is also often seen wearing Rick Owens, is an ambassador for Lululemon, and for Dior in China.

These connections are extended through Fashion Weeks and exclusive events, including Esteban Ocon’s attendance at Givenchy’s Menswear show at Paris Fashion Week in January 2023, and Daniel Ricciardo’s first Met Gala appearance in 2023.

So, whilst the worlds of Formula One and Fashion may seem entirely divergent, the commonalities between the two are more abundant than what first meets the eye. With a shared sense of glamour and exclusivity, both worlds manifest as performative spectacles that attract the attention of millions, attendance of elites, and invoke awe for all.

Charlotte Deville

Featured image courtesy of Jacopo Fedi via Unsplash. Image license found hereNo changes were made to this image. 

In article image 1 courtesy of Katie Sullivan No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @lewishamilton via No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @madeleinecwhite via No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @f1 via No changes were made to this image. 

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