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From vintage-inspired driving goggles to Savile Row tailoring, clothing has become a defining feature of vintage car events. When the historic motoring season kicks off this weekend with Goodwood’s 72nd members’ meeting – the first since 1966 – enthusiasts will be showing off their wardrobes as well as their wheels.
“I like my cars to be well turned-out and what I wear to drive has got to be right, too,” says Ben Cussons of the Royal Automobile Club, who will be driving his C-Type 1952 Jaguar.
For the occasion at Goodwood in southeast England, Cussons has gone retro and commissioned an Edwardian-style motoring suit from Henry Poole & Co, the tailors that founded Savile Row and made clothes for Napoleon, Nelson and Churchill.
King Edward VII’s driving outfits are blueprints for today’s designs, though Henry Poole has adapted them with a modern twist. Using lighter, more fashionable tweeds, a mobile phone pocket has been added to the waistcoat. “It’s the most important thing in your toolkit,” says Cussons. “If you break down, no amount of spanners are guaranteed to solve the problem – but your phone will.”
Yet the basic driving suit practicalities remain the same. “With a driving suit you need more room to manoeuvre your arms, so the design is based on a shooting jacket with back pleats,” says Fumiya Hirano, a cloth-cutter at Henry Poole.
Anthony Rowland, the tailor’s sales manager, says exposure to the weather is also a factor. “As a vintage car is open to the elements, we design three-piece suits to be worn beneath thigh-length driving coats,” he says. Waterproof pockets are based on designs for second world war pilots while a poacher’s pocket, traditionally for a hip flask, conceals paraphernalia such as spanners and rags.
To complete the look, London hatters Lock & Co make bespoke caps with room on the brim to rest the Davida driving goggles favoured by most vintage motoring aficionados.
Footwear needs to be warm and waterproof. Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson, chairman of bespoke shoemakers Foster & Son, describes its Crendon boot as “a superb choice with a rugged sole and country calf uppers that are serviceable and stylish”, while the Chukka boot has a more flexible sole.
Alternatively, Edgecliffe-Johnson’s motoring attire draws inspiration from the era his car was built. “I take my blue Aston Martin DB6 to Goodwood,” he says. “The car is 1960s and James Bond, so I wear a traditional blazer, slacks and a Terrersall shirt with a club tie.”
Jeremy Hackett, the designer behind the menswear brand that bears his surname, agrees. “I think the clothes should look the same vintage as the car,” he says. “For motoring, I would suggest a tweed jacket with corduroys, a shirt, tie, flat cap and sensible battered brogues.”
The Goodwood Revival weekend, a less exclusive motoring event held every September, is one factor behind this newfound sartorial enthusiasm. “When we started the Revival in 1998 we encouraged fancy dress and now most people come in 1950s or 1960s clothes,” says Lord March, who created the event at his ancestral home. Attendance has risen from 80,000 visitors in its first year to 148,000 last year, with the proportion of those in fancy dress growing from 30 to 90 per cent.
March himself doesn’t wear a specific outfit to drive one of his numerous vintage cars – “I tend to wear a Belstaff jacket” – but the item to which he pays the most attention is his watch. “It must sit firmly on the wrist and not slip,” he says. “Early on Cartier introduced a wristwatch for flying which was adopted by motorists.” Other high-end jewellers have followed suit. This week Chopard launches its Grand Prix de Monaco Historique Chrono (£4,930).
Model David Gandy, a self-confessed “petrol-head”, owns three classic cars and has competed in Italy’s Mille Miglia endurance road race. He has chosen a Henry Poole suit for this year. “The look is fashionable and I’ll certainly wear this suit to other events,” he says. “The trouble with Savile Row suits is that you start getting addicted to buying them. It’s just the same as racing cars.”
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