x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

The Air Bag: Clothing that makes the driver

Part of being a good driver is knowing what to wear behind the wheel. In some cases, it may help your lap times; but overall, it will at least help get you just a little more respect in the paddock.

This week, I'm going to shift gears somewhat in The Air Bag (please excuse the gratuitous motoring expression). Part of being a good driver is knowing what to wear behind the wheel. In some cases, it may help your lap times; but overall, it will at least help get you just a little more respect in the paddock. Think back to the classic drivers, and the ones that come to mind always had a certain style to them.

Here, dear readers, are a few tips to ensure good motoring and better fashion taste. Do pick up a good pair of brand-name sunglasses. A good pair will cut down glare from the road, though keep in mind that polarised glasses may make some electronic information screens in your car seem to disappear. And wire frames are best to keep your peripheral vision. Don't wear anything with diamonds or glasses that say "Juicy".

Do wear a snug pair of lace-up shoes. Runners with thin soles are best to help transmit feel from the pedal to your feet. Don't wear flip-flops or loose sandals that may come off at the worst time. Ladies, stilettos are a no-no, too. And don't wear any shoes that say Ferrari, no matter how much of a driving shoe they may look like: it will immediately give away the fact that you're a poseur. Do wear a comfortable shirt with plenty of movement.

Don't wear that tight suit jacket that will keep you from reaching the steering wheel at full lock. Remember, being able to keep your hands on the wheel is kind of important in spirited driving. Do make sure your trousers fit comfortably and have plenty of room. Jeans are acceptable, but they should preferably be made of cotton to breathe, as well as, er, being somewhat fire resistant. Don't wear shorts on leather seats when it's 45°C outside. I'm sure I don't have to explain why, though my tip about wearing something fire-resistant may pop into your mind if you do.

Do feel free to wear sporty clothing, especially if it is comfortable and not too garish. And tasteful race team shirts are acceptable, at least at the track. Don't wear any type of branded clothing or throwback items relating to Steve McQueen. Far be it from a slur against McQueen, who is one of the coolest car guys who ever got behind the wheel. But what made him cool was the fact that he was his own man and wouldn't ever have thought about wearing tasteless, money-grubbing tributes to past greats. You should do the same.

Do remember to wear a brand-name, high-quality helmet when on the track. Depending on the car and the level of competition or lapping, you could choose either an open-face or a full-face model. Don't wear a cowboy hat, unless you're in a pickup truck delivering hay to your neighbour's farm. And unless you always wear one of those flat caps, don't pick up wearing it to emulate the likes of Jackie Stewart. It will only highlight how much you aren't like him.

Do choose a fancy watch. I'm not sure what the connection is between the car world and a nice watch, but a good timepiece just seems to be de rigeur when it comes to high-end vehicles - just look at the baubles hanging off the wrists of almost any high-end race driver. Don't wear any watch that is too big to fit under your shirt sleeve. And in regards to the reissued Tag Heuer Monaco Steve McQueen edition, see the item previously in this space on McQueen for guidance.

I hope that this week's column has helped you become not only better behind the wheel, but also a bit more stylish, too. If you can't be a good driver, at least you can be a good-looking one. motoring@thenational.ae