“I want to make amends,” reads the caption above Lewis Hamilton’s name on the cover of British GQ’s August issue. The race car driver is pictured wearing a patchwork plaid kilt and jacket, the latter left open to display his chest, left bare but for an elaborate necklace.
It’s an intentionally gender-bending look for the Formula One champion and British Fashion Council ambassador, who stoked controversy last Christmas when he cruelly took to his Instagram page to mock his young nephew for wearing, in his words, a “princess dress.” As reported by GQ:
After declaring he was “so sad right now,” he was then seen berating the boy, telling him, “Boys don’t wear princess dresses.” Immediately, Hamilton came under fire for publicly shaming his nephew and after the clip was removed from his page, he then apologized for his behavior with a series of tweets: “I love that my nephew feels free to express himself, as we all should,” he said. “My deepest apologies for my behavior, as I realize it is really not acceptable for anyone, no matter where you are from, to marginalize or stereotype anyone... I have always been in support of anyone living their life exactly how they wish and I hope I can be forgiven for this lapse in judgement.”
When negotiating his appearance for their August issue, GQ encouraged Hamilton, now also an ambassador for Tommy Hilfiger, to confront his mistake by wearing some decidedly non-traditionally masculine clothes on the cover, as editor Dylan Jones wrote:
As well as wanting Hamilton to address the issue, we wanted him to appear on our cover either wearing something prominently pink or in something approximating a skirt or a dress. ... As it was, when we suggested the idea to Hamilton himself, he loved it and set about designing his own kilt. He was aware he’d made a public mistake and he wanted to make a very public acknowledgement of this, obviously empowering his nephew in the process.
The result? A shoot inspired by the androgynous “Buffalo” look popularized by Scottish stylist Ray Petri over three decades ago—think Neneh Cherry’s 1989 hit single “Buffalo Stance.” GQ described the style as follows:
Buffalo was based on a Caribbean expression describing people who are, in Petri’s own words, “rude boys or rebels” ... [The images were] talismanic examples of gender fluidity and male diversity, both in terms of race and gender. The combination of stereotypical butch boys and feminine accoutrement, and of multiracial boys and male street armour, made for a fresh take on representations of men in magazines.
Hopefully, beyond the damage control, the experience gave Hamilton a fresh perspective on—and hopefully, sensitivity to—the freedom to dress beyond the very limited binary constraints of gender. As Jones wrote: “We hope this reinforces the fact that not only can little boys wear dresses, but also that big boys can too.”