Home » I Went To The McLaren Party At Abercrombie & Fitch And It Was A Perfect Encapsulation Of The Risks And Rewards Of F1 Being Cool Now

I Went To The McLaren Party At Abercrombie & Fitch And It Was A Perfect Encapsulation Of The Risks And Rewards Of F1 Being Cool Now

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The modern, post-Drive To Survive Formula One fanbase is like the ultimate monkey’s paw situation for oldhead F1 fans who dreamed that one day F1 would be “cool” and appeal to attractive young people. It happened! F1 is in vogue. But having something you love become suddenly cool usually comes with the uncomfortable realization that this doesn’t make you cool. I say this because I went to a McLaren F1 launch party at the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store in New York and it was full of scenesters and D-list influencers, many of whom didn’t seem to know or care much about the sport. Is this a sign of an F1 that’s still ascendent or a sign that F1 is set up for a fall?

We’ve already written about how the success of Formula One has made it difficult for pre-existing fans to access the sport and I don’t want to belabor the point. This is the price of popularity, and we now have three races in the United States when we used to have exactly zero. As a long-time casual fan of F1 this seems like a great outcome and a net good thing.

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I was also not shocked that a McLaren F1 party at an A&F in 2024 was a loud, Fierce-scented spectacle of quasi-hip, wannabe model/actor types shoving down free drinks and race-themed appetizers. I may be old enough to remember when A&F had half-nude dudes outside its stores, but I’m not completely out of touch. I went with friend/contributor Parker Kligerman and Kristen Lee and we all agreed that we were there somewhat ironically. In that sense, we had a great time. Whether you were there for the party, or to quietly mock the party, it delivered.

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See, NASCAR doesn’t have the market cornered on shirtless dudes.

What was the actual point of the event? Here’s what the RSVP said:

The A&F “Paddock” will feature cocktails, passed bites, music by Austin Millz, and the world’s first public viewing of McLaren‘s all new 2024 F1 livery! Please note that we will be offering gifting post-event instead of an onsite gifting. 

Was this the world’s first viewing of the already-revealed livery? Maybe. I can’t seem to find any other live shots of the car and this was definitely in person and obviously the new livery. It looked great on the show car. I love the “Chrome” wheels (get it? Google Chrome!) and McLaren orange-and-black always works. The main sponsor, besides Google, is a Crypto exchange, which seems a little passé in 2024. Also on the car is a baffling mix of brewers, boring SaaS companies, and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

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Me, Parker, Kristen and the McLaren employee suddenly realizing she’s made a terrible mistake by talking to us.

A genuine McLaren employee from Great Britain saw Parker and me checking out the car, perhaps because we were the only ones not using it as a prop, and talked to us a little bit about the season, the sponsors, and the races she enjoyed. She also clarified that the point of the party was to listen to music (the DJ did great and played Jamiroquai’s “White Knuckle Ride” I think), drink cocktails (I had the “APEX” which was vodka and orange juice with Campari), have a passed bite (they were race-themed, it was cute, the Italian braised short rib on polenta was the winner) and maybe buy a t-shirt.

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Top notch DJing.

Oh, yeah. Abercrombie isn’t on the cars, but the company does have a tie-up with McLaren and is making shirts and other gear. The shirts look fine and there’s even an MP4/4 sweater (get excited Adrian). A&F has seen its stock rise more than 250% as it targets “young Millennial and Gen-Z shoppers heading back to work, school and social lives after the pandemic.” I’m a geriatric millennial so my view is less important.

How do I know this crowd wasn’t full of die-hard F1 fans? Parker noticed a super handsome guy who turned out to be Swedish and, yes, was a model/actor and we chatted him up for a bit. Did he have a favorite race?

Extremelyhandsomeswedishman
You can even see the woman across the bar thinking “Wow, that guy is handsome.”

“Uh, Dubai. They have one in Dubai right? I love F1!” he enthusiastically answered.

F1 doesn’t have a race in Dubai but it has one in Abu Dhabi, which is what I’m sure he meant. Also, last year that was just another race where Max Verstappen beat a Ferrari by like 20 seconds, but I don’t want to be a pedant.

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Parker wrote about the party in his motorsports newsletter:

As a 9-year-old, I would have cut a toe off to be this close to an F1 showcar and know F1 cared back. But they don’t… on this night, they wanted Betty-Influencer and Joey-YouTuber to take some pics & by chance the merchandise will end up in the shot. All perfectly placed and planned for this eventuality.

It definitely felt like that. Everyone was trying extra hard to look cool and there was very little talk of F1, if you could even talk over the DJ. But there wasn’t zero talk of F1.

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Just don’t ask for an Aperol spritz.

We ran into Sarah Hannigan and Tiggy Valen of F1R THE GIRLS, which is a podcast about F1 from a “fresh, female perspective.” They were quick to admit that a pandemic binge of Drive To Survive got them into the sport. But, like, who cares? I’m certain they watched more F1 than I did last year and they clearly love the sport. Parker frequently mentioned that it would be hard to imagine a NASCAR event so easily pulling such a young, diverse, female-skewing crowd to one of its parties.

Parker’s piece ends with this important point:

F1 in America may be playing dangerously close to the sun. I hope we can avoid it taking all the other motorsports with it.

There’s that old Yogi Berra line about a restaurant being so popular that “no one goes there anymore” and that’s certainly a risk for F1. What if tennis becomes the next cool thing? What then?

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While F1 may stay young and cool forever in America, that’s not usually how it happens with trends. No one wears Livestrong bracelets anymore. People don’t regularly go disco dancing. When was the last time you saw a Koosh ball? Just look at modern baseball, which can only sustain a few celebrity players and is losing fans overall. It used to be America’s pastime and now the sport is trying to figure out how to make games shorter.

F1 may not always have the cultural currency it has right now (especially if F1 continues to be a bunch of dickholes) and Drive To Survive isn’t guaranteed to last forever. The loss of it means risking all that’s been built up in the last few years.

I’m sort of hopeful that this might not happen. Pretty much everyone who went to the Rolex 24 noticed that the crowds were actual crowds and, in fact, it was a record year for the race. While Sarah and Tiggy are die-hard F1 fans, we had a good chat about the first Indy Car race they attended (Laguna Seca) and they were planning to see a NASCAR race in the future.

In some ways, this is the dream. Back in the late ’90s I’d have been pretty excited to discover that A&F was selling a shirt with Giancarlo Fisichella on it.

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It’s very easy, especially as an aging nerd, to scoff at the many people at this event who probably had no idea how F1 actually works and probably believed the F1 car there was a real F1 car. It’s far less work to turn my nose down at the folks who came to the sport through DTS than it is to try to extend a hand and bring them into the great world of motorsports.

But we have to do it. If this moment fails then Parker is right, it might just doom motorsports for the rest of us, and I love motorsports. Plus, I have no more right to claim F1 or IMSA or any other racing series because I got there first. There will always be old fans and new fans and it’s the responsibility of older fans to bring the new fans in and not turn them away.

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67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
25 days ago

I sort of wish the “f1 trendy” thing would stop so all the fans who have been watching forever can get access to the sport again without giving the shirt off our backs to pay for streaming and shit. I remember back when f1 would be on cable-tv and the ones who were watching was true fans of the sport itself and knew the names of all the drivers. I understand that the DTS series and everything feeds a lot of money and new fans into the sport,but it all has drawbacks.

Tim Connors
Tim Connors
26 days ago

90’s & early 00’s apparently are back in full swing. Model in the lead pic is rail thin with shiny abdoment adornment and wearing low-rise jeans. Abercrombie & Fitch? I honestly didn’t realize they still existed (never could afford it back in the day anyway).

JDE
JDE
26 days ago

Is A&F still considered cool? Were they really ever? I see the D-list and wanna-be celebs as well as F1, just weak attempt by that company to gather hype for the lowest cost at first.

Arthur Flax
Arthur Flax
26 days ago

J’accuse you Matt, Parker Kligerman and Kristen Lee of being “Scenesters and D-list influencers” even if you are knowledgeable scenesters. And if not scenesters, I accuse you of being young or relatively young F1 fans. My pals and I have been gathering at 0 dark thirty every Sunday morning for probably more years than you have been alive to watch F1. (For example, somewhere in my basement is a VHS tape of that sad morning when Senna met his demise. I was watching. And had been watching F1 for many years prior.)

On the positive side, you and your scenester pals will be alive to celebrate F1 racing well past the time we oldsters are extinguished.

So I don’t really have a problem with young, heavily fragranced scenesters (I love that word) gathering to celebrate F1. Given 30 or 40 years, some of them will still be watching.

But I’d like an invite because it sounds like fun. Even if my normal attire is plaid, Dockers and Sketchers.

Strangek
Strangek
26 days ago

If it’s all a fad, I’ll still be here watching the races when the influencers go on to influence other things.

Tim Connors
Tim Connors
26 days ago
Reply to  Strangek

Zoom out enough and everything is a fad.

1973 BMW Bavaria Addict
1973 BMW Bavaria Addict
26 days ago

F1 does understand that indy is a much more competitive sport, and that GM has a hilariously broad history in the world of powertrain development, right?

Probably not. They clearly still think Britain is the world’s largest economy, france is starting land wars, and Citroen has the corner on the emerging FWD market. Maybe they should go back to explaining to me why fuel economy and tire management is better than noise and speed.

And maybe Andretti will make it in next time as IBM-Andretti-Salesforce-RBS

/rant/

Travis Jones
Travis Jones
26 days ago

Who thinks F1 is cool? It’s everything wrong with motorsports.

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
26 days ago

I demand a Fancy Kristen review of this event!

But, at least somehow, they are trying to expand F1 fanhood beyond the enthusiasts, because is not the same sport as I used to watch as a kid. Still remember waking up early in the morning at Sundays, when F1 was at the “european season” to watch a grid that had Senna, Prost, Mansel, Piquet et. al.

I still like F1 (but honestly, WRC is better), but can’t convince my kid that is cool.

Maybe with influencers around we will have a new generation that genuinelly likes F1. Those who doesn’t understand or like will not stick around.

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