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Cars, Culture

on September 6th, 2018

Few things inspire more power and elegance than high-octane automobile racing. With the world’s finest vehicle manufacturers such as BMW, Ferrari, or Audi lining up to produce competitive cars that are more and more robust each year, this has become the playground of the rich, beautiful, and wealthy. How did it all happen? Let’s find out.

A Brief History of Motorized Racing

The gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine was invented in the 1880s, and soon after the first motorized contest took place. In 1894, an organized competition took place that saw various automobiles challenging one another on a distance of 80 kilometers, or 50 miles. It was a never seen before reliability test that proved this new means of transportation was powerful.

The journey began in Paris and came to a conclusion in Rouen, France, a short trip by today’s standards, but an incredible adventure for the end of the 19th century. The first real race was organized just one year later, in 1895, and it lasted from Paris to Bordeaux, and then back again. The total covered distance was a whopping 1,179 kilometers.

The United States soon adopted the practice of automobile racing for themselves, with the first ever event happening on Thanksgiving Day in 1895 from Chicago to Evanston. In the beginning, competing wasn’t about speed, as the cars simply did not possess the necessary technology to break today’s speed limits with boldness.

La France Automobile

Source: “La France Automobile” (in Histoire de l’Automobile”, Pierre Souvestre, 1907, p.277)

Nevertheless, motorsport soon evolved into a contest of velocity. Nowadays, race automobiles are more and more robust, being able to achieve an amount of kmph that would have been considered impossible just decades ago. Of course, the field encompasses more than just contests between brand-name automobiles.

In fact, seeing as how the term ‘motorsport’ refers to motorized racing, any vehicle with an engine technically classifies. Thus, aircraft racing, motorcycle racing, boat racing, and even kart racing belong to this category. Nevertheless, no field is as glamorous and high-profile as that of automobile racing, and this is surely due to its many celebrity endorsements.

Celebrities and Motorsport

We are more than used to seeing today’s hot celebrities at automobile racing events throughout the world. But this tradition is not a new phenomenon. Stars have been enjoying the sport ever since the concept of Hollywood glamour and its many glitterati elite adepts became a staple in the collective consciousness of the United States.

The silver screen’s bad boy James Dean is perhaps the most notorious image we associate with competitive racing today. His equivalent in our present-day film industry is Patrick Dempsey, or Doctor McDreamy as fans of acclaimed TV series Grey’s Anatomy surely know him. In addition to his acting skills and boyish good looks, Dempsey is also a semi-pro pilot.

Eliza Fairy

Source: “Eliza Fairy –”

Of course, the star-studded list of motorsport enthusiasts doesn’t end here. The sport has many celebrity supporters, including supermodels Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Antonio Banderas, Cameron Diaz, and Matt LeBlanc, and Star Wars director George Lucas. The latter even dreamed to become a Formula One driver back in his youth.

These high-profile celebs are often seen attending the Grand Prix in different locations from all over the world, particularly in Monaco, and even getting down in the pits with the racers and the crew. Some do it for the brand endorsement deals, others attend out of pure passion. One famous racing events involving them directly is the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race.

Petronas Racing

Source: “Andrew Locking –”

The competition started in 1977, and it revolves around the concept of pitting celebrities against pro racers from many classes of motorsport. It was part of the Grand Prix West in the United States, and it ended in 2016. Notable and famed winners include Bruce Jenner in 1982, Lorenzo Llamas in 1985, Josh Brolin in 2000, and Keanu Reeves in 2009.

American comedian and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro was a regular on the race, having won a total of four races. In fact, he was the last winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race before it ended after the 2016 edition. All these anecdotes from the history of famous people and motorsport are undoubtedly entertaining, but do they mean something more?

Source: “Gordon Vasquez –”

High-Octane Fashion Statements

The luxe lifestyle and glamorous outfits of Hollywood’s jet-setters attending the Grand Prix and other racing events quickly drew the eye of major fashion brands. Many chose to invest in Formula One teams starting with 2010, with the most notable contributions being those of Gieves & Hawkes, Hackett, and Hugo Boss.

Presently, logos and other symbols that represent these famous and elite names in the clothing and accessory world can be spotted on race cars that participate in important international events, as well as on the equipment of the pilots themselves. All the companies that choose this strategy cater to a luxurious way of life, which makes this marketing technique quite smart.

Automobile competitions are a sport for the wealthy to enjoy first and foremost, as demonstrated by the people who attend events in person. It is also a niche that a wide variety of consumers from different backgrounds can enjoy. Exposing everyone to extravagant products can also be beneficial for companies, as it enriches the customer base.

However, the odd friendship between motorsports and the fashion industry isn’t all about endorsement deals and investments. As out of the ordinary as this partnership might have sounded at first, major designers have taken to incorporating elements that pertain to pilot equipment in their newest clothing lines.

It all began with one Marc by Marc Jacobs show in 2014. Although the collection was a mixed bag encompassing elements from other sports such as karate or BMX, what stood out to most style aficionados were the motorsport elements integrated into the outfits. Leather, shiny logos, bold prints, and unusual patterns permeated the mainstream on that day.

With Vetements and Moschino following suit in 2015 and 2016, the motorsport theme became more and more coagulated and imprinted in our collective consciousness. In 2018, it comes as no wonder that most of the widely appreciated street fashion worn by glamorous women such as Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian is heavily inspired by auto racing suits.

The Bottom Line

Motorsport has come a long way since the invention of the modern engine. Celebrities have been around in the game since the 1950s, and their impact shaped the field tremendously over the course of the last few decades.

This sparked an unusual, yet prolific partnership between the world of racing and the fashion industry that is continuously changing how we perceive the activity. In recent years, it became more than a successful financial endorsement. Motorsport is now a fashion statement that started on the runway and can now be seen in the streets.

Contributed by Elaine Goodman – She is a fashion enthusiast and senior editor at MenHairStylist. Devoted follower of trends and glossy magazines, Elaine holds her ground that fashion is both history and future, with the latter taking notes from history in a never ending cycle of improvements.

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