War he that? Or wasn’t he? At the Balenciaga show in Paris at the beginning of October, it was hard to tell who was walking in what disguise on the red carpet that served as a catwalk. But this man with thick hair, thick jacket and even thicker shoes was really Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time Formula 1 world champion. Between Cardi B, Isabelle Huppert, Juergen Teller, Karen Boros and other surprise models, he didn’t really attract attention. But he didn’t seem to mind. After all, he was at the center of the fashion scene. Four days later, he continued to role-play. The British racing driver walked to the press conference in a skirt before the Turkish Grand Prix. “I love it when I can differentiate myself from the sport,” he said. In this way he can free himself from the pressure that weighs on him.
He succeeded. Because in one of the most masculine sports ever, he appeared in a piece of clothing that is largely reserved for women in the western world. The skirt – apparently not just a piece of clothing, but a motivational boost. The fashionable marketing-laden appearance that Hamilton shared several times on Instagram with its more than 24 million followers came at the right time. Because the topic of men and skirts, long dismissed as a byway of male fashionable emancipation, is suddenly really an issue.
Gaultier deserves imitators
Be it at the fashion shows by Thom Browne, Raf Simons or Balmain, be it in the Instagram feed from Marc Jacobs or Lutz Huelle, be it the American designer Jeremy Scott at the Met Gala in New York or the British singer Harry Styles on the cover Vogue: Men who are trendy wear skirts – or even, like actor Bill Porter at the 2019 Academy Awards, a widely flared ball gown.
At first glance it is perhaps no surprise that Olivier Rousteing at Balmain sends the men in draped dresses with polka dots down the catwalk and Raf Simons really lets all men show their spiky legs. After all, fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Rick Owens have been spreading the look for decades. Gaultier, to whom the adapted kilts fit perfectly, deserves imitators.
Simply join in the rock and roll change?
After all, there were historical models – the ancient Romans already wore toga. Alone: The men wanted to keep their pants on. You can sense that trousers, as a historical male privilege, are not simply taken off. “The struggle for equality between the sexes, the female struggle for male privileges, began as a struggle for trousers,” wrote Barbara Vinken a few years ago in this magazine. Since the Second World War, women have gradually conquered male territories, in trouser suits or just jeans. Should the men just take part in the rock and role change?
It’s not that easy. The turning away from the baroque customs of the nobility, the norms of bourgeois society, the demands of wars, the sober pragmatism of capitalism left men no choice since the French Revolution. But now lifestyles are becoming more liberalized. With the decreasing ties to professional, military, regional and church customs, the variety of fashion options grows. The home office is a haven of freedom anyway. And when even CEOs appear in sneakers – then a Formula 1 world champion can also wear a thick blue Burberry skirt over his trousers.
More of a fun distraction than a revolutionary appeal
Because now there is also the social trend towards crossing gender boundaries or at least blurring them. Times have just changed. In the name of mindfulness, too, the revolution could come closer. On May 19, 2017, the first “journée de la jupe” was celebrated in France. Boys and girls came to school in skirts, in this way boys should be made aware of “fashionable inequality”. And “gender neutral” in fashionable terms doesn’t really have to mean that all genders wear pants. In the meantime, some women are even wearing skirts again!
Lewis Hamilton shows courage with the rock on the ring of Formula 1. But his rationale for fashionable experiments slows down a bit. It was “quite daring” to wear a kilt in the paddock, he said at the press conference. But he loves the fashion scene “because I can express myself”. After his Formula 1 victory in Russia two weeks earlier, said Hamilton, he “let off steam” by going to the fashion shows in Paris. That sounds more escapist than programmatic, more like a fun distraction than a revolutionary appeal.
And if his fashion statement should serve as self-motivation – then somehow, sorry, it went wrong. First he got a punishment transfer in Istanbul. Due to an illegal engine change, Hamilton was only able to start in eleventh place in the race. Then Max Verstappen also overtook the Mercedes driver. The Belgian-Dutch driver from the Red Bull racing team took over the championship lead. Hamilton had missed his 101st Grand Prix victory. So this revolution had short legs. Perhaps the role-play even cost him his eighth world title. That would at least have the advantage that he would not overtake the seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. Either way: the rock doesn’t mind. He will continue to do his rounds, even with men.