Over the years, a select few male athletes have expanded their repertoire outside of their declared profession, embraced the world of fashion, and, established themselves as style icons for their respective generation. It all began in the 1950s when legendary American golf pro Arnold Palmer gained international notoriety as the first superstar of the sport’s television age. With his vibrant cardigans, sharply creased slacks, and impossibly shiny leather shoes he stood out from his more casually attired competitors and showed all men of his day what it was to be truly well-dressed.
Likewise, in the 1960s and 70s, beloved boxer Muhammed Ali frequently stepped outside of the traditional male-fashion box for his era. While honoring traditional styles with crisp pinstriped suits and his signature black wayfarers, he simultaneously pushed the envelope with bowler hats, flower lapel pins, bling accessories, and colorful pre-match boxing robes.
However, in the 1990s, outspoken Basketball star Dennis Rodman took sports star style to new and outrageous levels. With stacked piercings, neon-dyed hair, and flamboyant looks, he broke the boundaries of masculinity and became a street-style phenomenon. Fellow basketball phenomenon Michael Jordan also had a significant impact on the fashion industry, although in a vastly different manner. Aside from his impeccably suave off-court style, Jordan’s primary contribution to fashion was undoubtedly his sneakers. After stepping out in the first pair of Jordan 1s at the peak of his career in 1984, the sneaker craze began as they sold out almost immediately following their drop and thousands scrambled to pick up a pair. With a single pair of shoes, “His Airness” started a fervent trend that has extended into the present day and has even seen the traditionally athletic footwear find its way into the design repertoire of nearly every major fashion house.
But who can we look to as the most stylish male athlete of our present-day? Over the past few years, an answer has emerged from an unlikely source: the Formula 1 paddock. Specifically, the seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has leapt headfirst into the fashion world, established his own unique style, and solidified himself as the representative of a new era of fashion for male athletes.
Although the F1 grid is historically not one of the most stylish places in the sport, Hamilton has been single-handedly leading the charge to change that narrative. Each time he graces a track, he arrives in a different, more daring outfit than the last, making it difficult to determine whether its race week or fashion week. From these looks, we can see that Hamilton is a risk-taker, as he sports bold patterns, large labels, and unconventional silhouettes. They have also shown that Hamilton has an appreciation for both bigger, more established fashion houses and smaller designers alike.
For instance, he arrived at the first training session for the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix in a bold and impeccably cool purple Fendi cargo suit and purple and black chunky Bottega Veneta Chelsea boots. However, at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, he showed his support for the young, New York-based brand Pyer Moss, sporting a dynamic black and white jacket and matching pants.
Yet, Hamilton has expressed his appreciation for the world of fashion through his graphic wardrobe, but also, but also through active participation. In 2018, he released a collaboration with the longstanding American brand, Tommy Hilfiger, which continues to this day. Many would agree that the partnership was a match made in heaven, as the world champ fit the label’s aesthetic perfectly with his love of luxury athleisure, labels, and vivid colors. So far, his collections have featured bold logos and labels on a variety of effortlessly cool sweats, bags, jackets, and hats.
“I’ve been successful in my racing career and I know what it takes to be good at something,” said Hamilton of his approach to finding his footing in fashion design. “If I apply myself the way I have in my racing career to other things that I love, I think I can do pretty well. But I also acknowledge that I have a steep learning curve.” And since launching his now six collections with Hilfiger, it’s fair to say that Hamilton has done a little better than “pretty well” in the fashion world. His efforts to learn and experiment with style have garnered him the respect of the industry’s biggest names and houses. With a little help from famed celebrity stylist Law Roach, Hamilton has become a regular at fashion’s most exclusive events, securing a front row seat at Balenciaga’s Fall/Winter 2021 Haute Couture show in Paris earlier this year. Further, he was even selected by Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia, to walk for the brand’s most recent show for Spring/Summer 2022.
However, it is perhaps his latest foray into the fashion game that is his most meaningful to-date. At the 2021 Met Gala, Hamilton invited three young black designers, as his guests, along other notable black creatives on which they could showcase their talent. With Kenneth Nicholson, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, and Jason Rembert of Aliette at his side, Hamilton made it clear that, more than just being a style icon, heintends to play an active role directing the trajectory of the fashion industry. Specifically, he aptly wants to ensure that young black talent has a seat at the table and that the future of the fashion world is an inclusive one that showcases the creativity of a diverse group with varied perspectives and skills. Thus, with his increasingly bold looks and activism, Hamilton is redefining what it means to be a sports-and-style-superstar hybrid and is effectively ushering in a new era of male athlete style.
Click through to see some of Lewis Hamilton’s best off-track looks.
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