There’s a reason why girls like dress-up games (at some point in our life at least) and it’s because we enjoy having a diversity of beautiful things to pick and choose from until we feel pretty. And boys, before you call us superficial, you do the same with your cars. Now with the obvious stereotype I just reinforced, I must be eligible to design merchandise for racing teams.
The topic of ladies’ merchandise, especially in testosterone-fuelled motorsport, is a personal bugbear. I may not be the best to talk about it, since I rarely wear any – I must not be a very good fan – but that’s got something to do with the offer as well. Besides a retro ‘Circuito de Jerez’ t-shirt that I had to modify myself to make it fit, I don’t wear anything branded outside the house. Oxford shoes, a blazer and a #26 floral tank top? I don’t think so.
Which leads me to the 2 main problems with women’s merch: it’s tacky and mostly inexistent. Looking at the biggest distributors for F1 and MotoGP, it goes something like this: 40+ items for men, 2 for women. Or, in the case of Williams F1, Force India, Toro Rosso or Marc VDS: nothing. Nada. It doesn’t get much better for individual riders either. Over at Top Racers, Dani Pedrosa is spoiled with 4 pieces, while most others settle for 1. By comparison, the Pritelli Group are at least making an effort for their star performers, with 9 items for Marquez fans and a jaw-dropping 22 for Lorenzo. If you own a vagina and support any of these two, rejoice. If not, the situation is still bleak.
I’m guessing the main argument is that motorsport is a male-oriented field and the bulk of supporters follow that pattern. But have you looked who interacts most with riders on social media, who craves more of their attention, who are the ones screaming and waving flags and developing Hulk powers at autograph sessions? Yes, it’s women. Most of which are teenage girls. Admittedly, much more dedicated fans than cynical old me. There are girls who would literally kiss the ground their idol walks on and then take that piece of tarmac home with them. And they have money too, or they wouldn’t be there. And the ones who aren’t would still invest in a cheaper souvenir than a race ticket. And they have parents and friends who never hear the end of it, at Christmas, on birthdays, at graduations…
Then why do they make dozens of products for men – who would literally wear anything (unless they’re Lewis Hamilton) – and something barely symbolic for women? Not to mention that whatever we are offered is obviously designed by men because it’s incredibly patronizing. Dani’s line has a big orange heart (presumably to prove to men that you do know what the 26 means), Cal’s has flowers (like the little daisy that is Cal), Marc has stars (no idea either), not to mention that part of his old gear at Top Racers was pink. Newsflash: we get over the pink hearts obsession by the time we enter high school.
The solution? Instead of dumbing down designs, just scale down the men’s. I want the damn samurai and that stupid ant, because women like superhero cartoons too. And I don’t want anything that’s not on the rider’s own clothes – no hearts, no unicorns and no stars unless they’re Alpinestars. And a little minimalism wouldn’t go amiss to make them wearable outside of tracks, maybe a shirt with actual buttons and a discrete embroidered logo?
Examples to follow? McLaren. They have 5 t-shirt designs, a sweatshirt and *gasp* a jacket. It’s a decent start. And they’re classy, modelled after the team’s actual gear, and they are properly fitted for a female shape. I cannot believe I’m complimenting Ron Dennis on fashion matters. And Ferrari have a polo shirt – ever heard of that? Obviously not, we’re still stuck in the 90s with hippie tank tops that sag after the first wash. And I know I’ve now reached the point of wishful thinking, but Alex & Dani have themed bracelets with baseball team logos, also football, Olympics and other American sports I’ve never heard of. Women do love a good accessory, in proper taste and quality.
But for now I guess we’ll have to settle for caps we’ll never wear because we’re not truckers, or getting fat enough to fit into men’s shirts. Tempting prospects.