What is Max Chilton’s greatest fear? Go on, take a guess. For a man who races cars for a living, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would be something to do with the track. Could it be a concern over safety? A worry about engine failure? Or even just the dread of ending up bottom of the IndyCar Championship standings? Surprisingly, none of the above. In fact, Chilton’s greatest fear has nothing to do with motorsport whatsoever. So what is it?
“Being underdressed,” the racing driver laughs. “That’s my greatest fear! And it’s a fear I don’t think works the other way. I don’t think you’d ever be that fearful about being too overdressed. But underdressing? I worry about turning up somewhere underdressed all the time.”
Thankfully, it’s not a worry Chilton need worry about — as the IndyCar driver puts just as much thought into his wardrobe as he does his smooth cornering and racing starts. By Chilton’s own admission, his pared-back, monochromatic uniform of black-and-white is basic — but his curated capsule of neatly tailored and fitted clothes ensures he never looks anything less than trim. Today, in Mayfair’s Brown’s Hotel, the racer is smartly turned out in a Scotch & Soda jumper, melange shirt and has a Patek Philippe timepiece strapped around his wrist.
“I think a problem with our generation,” Chilton says, adjusting his cuff, “is that we’ve made it cool to go out in what are practically pyjamas. What would our grandparents have thought of that? I prefer the styles from decades ago, when everyone would wear a shirt and tie. People treated each other with more respect then, and I think that’s because they were so well-dressed. Fashion seems to have gone a little too relaxed — and that’s made the population more relaxed, too”.
Chilton’s approach to fashion is anything but relaxed. Rather than leaving his ‘look’ to chance, the racing driver seeks out particular pieces and garments that fit seamlessly into his existing, established style. And his latest discovery, online personal styling service Stitch Fix, has become an invaluable resource. After creating an online style profile, during which customers select preferences and explore their favourite looks, a Stitch Fix personal stylist picks out five items of clothing specifically suited to your tastes and sends them straight to your door.
“It’s about five to ten minutes of unique questions,” Chilton explains. “You see and select items you would wear, as well as full looks. You might see ten shirts, and you choose the ones you’d wear. And then the same for trousers: do you want turned-up trousers, ripped jeans, straight chinos? And then you’ll also be asked questions about fit. Do you like your clothes snug, or loose?”
It was a new way of discovering clothes for Chilton, who says that he enjoyed letting someone doing the hard work of shopping for him. And, when his Stitch Fix arrived, he was incredibly impressed. “They nailed it,” he laughs, “and the sizings are bang on. I didn’t really know that I had a ‘look’ before this. I knew I didn’t like patterns or prints, but Stitch Fix made me realise that my dress sense is quite preppy in style. As I said, I never like looking casual. And they really picked up on that. So, even when I’m just wearing jeans and a T-shirt, they’ve given me black clothes to keep things on the smarter side.”
In Chilton’s opinion, what you really can’t beat is a pair of black suede Chelsea boots. As the racing driver’s signature choice in footwear, his boots are the ideal, versatile way of dealing with any fears of underdressing — and he admits that they are the one item in his wardrobe he couldn’t live without.
“I wear them with every outfit,” he says, kicking his heels together. “These ones are from Russell and Bromley, and I’ll wear them whether I’m going to a restaurant or the racetrack. They’re really the only shoes I do wear. Because I’ve tried smart sneakers, and I think they look good on certain people, but put them on me and they just don’t look right.”
Chilton’s style has never even bordered on loud or lairy — even when he was rubbing shoulders with fashionistas such as Lewis Hamilton during his Formula 1 days. Instead, he’s always kept things simple and understated. And, while he reveals that he did dabble with ‘some crazy style stuff’ in his youth, these days the racing driver’s boldest wardrobe moments come when he swaps his racing suit for a dinner jacket.
“I have had a couple of tuxedos made,” says Chilton. “My favourite is a British Racing Green velvet tuxedo — which obviously has that nod to motorsport to it. I got that made by Apsley Tailors in Pall Mall, when they kitted out a load of Formula 1 drivers for a fashion shoot in Monaco six years ago. I’ve been a customer of theirs ever since.
“And, usually,” he adds, “at these black tie events, it’s very dark — so most of the time the tux looks black. It’s only when the light catches it that you see the flash of green. I like that.”
And Chilton’s interest in fashion even extends to the racetrack. In his day job, he even gets a say in the design of his racing suit. But, while his off-track style is pared-back black-and-white, his Carlin Motorsport team uniform introduces a splash of colour. But not too much colour, he’s quick to add…
“It’s still pretty plain!” he laughs. “It’s a multiple layer fireproof overall, so it’s there to do a job. And, this year, it’s a white suit with bits of blue on it. That’s mainly because my race car is blue and white — a sort of baby blue. I quite like the look of my car and suit this year — and I don’t mind that they’re a little bit bolder than what I’m used to.
“I recently bought a Ferrari 488 Pista for the road,” he adds, “and that was meant to come with stripes on it. But, as I say, I hate stripes — it’s like my clothing, I hate stripes or patterns on my cars. That’s why I’m lucky to race cars. I get to have all of those wild colours and graphics on those cars — but I don’t have to have them on my own cars.”
It all comes down to personal taste, says Chilton. And that’s why Stitch Fix was the perfect way for the racing driver to broaden his style horizons, but keep his ‘look’ the same.
“Look,” he rounds off, “there’s a Lamborghini out there — and it’s wrapped in purple with a load of weird stuff on it. And that’s not my cup of tea. But, at the end of the day, it’s good that it is what somebody wanted — and even better that they managed to find their own style. Because this world would be very, very boring if everyone liked the same stuff”.
Take the hard work out of clothes shopping with Stitch Fix, the online personal styling service. Simply sign up via their easy-to-use website, and an expert stylist will curate you 5 items of clothing and accessories from a selection of over 100 brands. You’ll receive them within days to try on and choose whether or not to buy. Styling costs just £10, you don’t have to subscribe, and delivery and returns are free. Get started here…