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On Track or Car Crash? Formula 1’s Best and Worst Fashion Crossovers

From BAPE's pink livery to Hamilton's Met Gala looks, we present to you the highlights and lowlights of when Formula 1 met the fashion world.

This weekend, the 20 best racecar drivers on the planet will return to our screens for the Bahrain Grand Prix – the inaugural race for the 2022 season. Following the drama that hung over last season’s finale – Lewis Hamilton being robbed of his 8th world championship title at the hands of some dodgy officiating — there’s much anticipation as to what will happen in 2022. Will Max Verstappen win another title, maybe this time without the rules being tampered with mid-race in some sort of Drive to Survive cosplay? Will Hamilton see off the young pretender to claim his record-breaking title? Or will it be another team who surprises us all (ahem, a bright red Italian team perhaps)? All these questions will be answered over the next 23 races, but one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that there will be some criminal fits on show throughout the paddock as the season goes by. To help prepare your eyes for these inevitable crimes against fashion, and also to give you a glimmer of hope, we present to you the worst — and best — times the worlds of fashion and formula one collided.

GOOD: The Benetton Era in Formula 1

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - benetton

The Benetton name entered F1 in 1983 when they started sponsoring the Tyrell team, and it wouldn’t be until 1986 when the fashion brand would become a team in its own right. Long-renowned for its bold garments and use of block colours, Benetton’s identity was very much reflected on track through amazingly colourful liveries like the Benetton-BMW B186. Vibrant memorabilia and team merch followed, and many now refer to Benetton’s stint in F1 as the sport’s ‘Colour Era’. As team identity and branding in F1 becomes more and more important,  these days constructors like McLaren, Ferrari and Williams are focusing on bold, singular colourways to hammer home their brands,meaning a drop-off in multi-colour cars. One thing’s for sure though, Alpha Tauri needs to up their game. We get you’re a Red Bull subsidiary, but come on guys. 2020? Blue and white. 2021? Blue and white. 2022? Unfortunately the same. Blue and white for an F1 car… groundbreaking.

BAD: Lewis Hamilton’s 2019 Met Gala Look by Tommy Hilfiger

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - Lewis hamilton met gala 2019
Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - hamilton mwt gala 2019

Apparently being 7 time world champion doesn’t exempt you from some truly heinous fits, as we learned when Lewis Hamilton rocked up at the 2019 Met Gala in a Tommy Hilfiger…suit? Is that an insult to suits? Anyway, maybe he was channeling the C4 tyre compound; maybe he was trying to embody a wet racetrack – the verdict is still out. In any case, we suspect he’s packed this particular fit for his trip to Bahrain this weekend, ready for his battle with Max Verstappen out on track. From what we’ve heard about Mercedes’ testing times, he’s going to need all the help he can get.

GOOD: Formula 1 x BAPE Capsule Collection, Shanghai GP, 2019

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - bape f1 landscape

After the huge success of their 2018 collaboration, BAPE and F1 teamed up for a second time in 2019 to release a capsule collection marking not only the streetwear label’s 25th anniversary, but also F1’s 1000th event which fell on the 2019 Shanghai Grand Prix. Decked out in the iconic BAPE pink camo print, I think we’re all in agreement; get the BAPE team up and running, make this a permanent livery, and in the meantime we’ll all get ourselves into karting training, just so we could all have a chance at driving in that car. Sorted. 

BAD: Daniel Ricciardo NYT Style Magazine: ‘Driven to Extremes’, 2020

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - Daniel Ricciardo nyt magazine
Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - daniel ricciardo nyt magazine 1

As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. Now, for a guy coined the ‘smiliest, happiest Formula 1 driver there has ever been’, Ricciardo’s face tells all. Perhaps it’s the slicked down hair, perhaps it’s the mid-century-modern-monochrome-jester-meets-Kris-Jenner blazer look that’s getting to the Australian. Regardless, he looks as confused as we are. Maybe they should’ve changed the title from ‘driven to extremes’ to ‘driven to this by my (now-ex) stylist’.

GOOD: Lewis Hamilton’s 2021 Met Gala Look by Kenneth Nicholson

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - lewis hamiltion met gala 2021

It seems as though Lewis Hamilton is aging like fine wine. Good news is, so are his Met Gala looks. Lewis appeared at the ball dressed by American designer Kenneth Nicholson, the day after that infamous crash with Max Verstappen at the Italian Grand Prix that left both drivers with no points and, in Lewis’ case, a huge tyre mark on the head (ouch). There’s no way you can convince me that turning up GLOWING to the Met Gala the next day isn’t the comeback of the century, made all the better by the powerful meaning behind his look for the event. Hamilton brought three young Black designers to sit at his table, alongside other Black innovators including Zendaya’s stylist Law Roach, and athlete Sha’Carri Richardson. And he looked the damn part doing it.

BAD: Michael Schumacher’s 2000s Fits

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - schumacher nasa safari ranger
Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - Schumacher fur

When dwelling in the realm of F1 GOAT-ness, we can arguably look no further than the legend himself, Michael Schumacher – albeit certainly not for fashion inspiration. Whilst props must go to this man for actually looking dope in the iconic Ferrari red for ten years, it’s historically been a different story when left to his own devices. Some of these fit choices are just head-scratchingly bad. Was noughties Schumacher part cowboy? NASA astronaut? Safari ranger? All of the above?? And that’s before we even touch on his Matrix x Game of Thrones leathery fur ensemble. Mr Schumacher, we miss you and we will forever look up to you, but these fits? Firm nah.

GOOD: Celine Homme 'Dancing Kid' SS21 Collection

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - celine

The Celine Homme SS21 collection was shot at the famous Circuit Paul Ricard, home of the French Grand Prix. Celine branded karts feature an array of young male models, which designer Hedi Slimane refers to as ‘e-boys’, as the collection explores the subcultures which emerged from the Covid-19 lockdown. Though the collection itself was a little hit and miss, these custom carts are incredibly cool, fusing Formula 1 with the style culture surrounding surfer / skate boys. Well, the kind of ‘skater boy’ who has private Latin classes at 4pm and is chauffeured to the skate park at 6pm…I mean this is Celine afterall.

BAD: Vanity Fair, ‘The New Cult of F1 Fandom’, 2022

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - Daniel Ricciardo vanity fair
Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - lando norris vanity fair

In all honesty, the entirety of this shoot isn’t too terrible. Esteban Ocon in Armani and Daniel Ricciardo in Gucci…not bad, not bad. Sure, one could argue that Daniel is essentially wearing a haute couture race suit, but the pink number is kind of hard, and clearly grants easy access to Daniel’s shoe (long live the shoey), so we’ll allow it. On the other hand, who let Lando Norris to cosplay as a Riviera Oliver Twist? And why were Pierre Gasly’s only options to dress as a) French, or b) Nico Rosberg?

GOOD: Sprayground x F1 Capsule Collection

Formula 1 Fashion Best and Worst - Feature - BasementApproved - Sprayground

Last year, streetwear brand Sprayground collaborated with F1 on a capsule collection which Forbes deemed ‘eye-catching’, which seems like a bit of an understatement. There is absolutely zero chance of hiding your F1 fandom if you own even half of one of these fits, with the F1 colours, logo and various track outline shapes adorning the bags, hoodies and backpacks in the collection. Most of it works (not entirely sure the bag quite gets it right but we can’t have everything), and the looks handily double up as a tool to spot other F1 fans when you’re out and about. FORMULA FRIENDS!