It’s that party time of year at the moment in motorsport circles and I’ll confess straight away that I love getting dressed up and going to fancy functions. I don’t spend my life working in a suit and tie and so dressing up is fun – and it makes an event feel all the more special.
When you stop and think about it, this is exactly why organisers ask their guests to adhere to dress codes, such as “Black Tie”. This has a very specific meaning (it does not mean any kind of black tie) and to ignore the instruction is really to disrespect the organisation holding the party and the other people at the event. Wearing the wrong clothing is not striking a blow for individuality, but rather being a champion of the mundane. There was a time when people understood this. If one did not have the right gear, one would not attend. After such standards began to break down, organisers refused entry to those who were improperly dressed, but that doesn’t happen much today because it seems like an assault of free thinking (or some other crap like that).
In the modern world, people no longer seem to understand what this is all about and they turn up at such functions in the strangest attire, either because they have bad taste or stylists who are trying too hard to justify their own existence.
A sense of uniformity adds to the feeling that one is at a special event, that one is a part of a body of people with similar thoughts and ambitions. It adds to the feeling that an evening is special, out of the ordinary and different. A roomful of people in proper black tie is an impressive thing, just as soldiers in ceremonial uniforms look impressive while marching around, trooping colours and so on. It improves the esprit de corps and reinforces the idea that motorsport people are proud to be members of a group. F1 teams wear uniforms for this reason (and to show off sponsors) and so dressing properly helps to present the sport well, shows unity and respects traditions.
I was rather shocked to see pictures of the FIA President Jean Todt in a suit and blue tie at the recent black tie FIA Gala in Paris. It seemed very odd because Todt is usually good at wearing the right thing at the right moment. It was odd too that half the other folk in the room were similarly undressed. I discovered that the reason for this was that in the wake of the November 13 shootings in Paris someone at the FIA decided that it would be better for the event not to be black tie. Why? Who knows? The problem was that the message did not go out to everyone in time and so a whole load of people turned up at what had become a glorified office party, wearing fancy dress. We won’t go into the wisdom of the dancing girls at The Lido, but that was why this particularly party sent out very odd messages.
Forget that, at the Autosport Awards, the dress sense was varied as well. Yes, bow ties are fiddly but if you can tie shoelaces, a bow-tie is not that complicated. These days most people buy ready-made ones, which is fine, but it does mean that one cannot later in the evening enjoy the dégagé look of an undone bow-tie, which young ladies always seem to find rather attractive.
I did get told off by Toto Wolff for a poorly tied bow-tie, but I did abuse him back for wearing a pre-tied affair and said that he would never be cool if he could not undo his tie at the end of the evening.
“I have another bow tie in my pocket for that,” he said. “I just pop to the loo and come back looking like James Bond.”
That’s the kind of thinking that makes for a great team principal – but I didn’t believe him…