iStyle: Racing certainties

Topman has relaunched its retro LTD range – with  top gear very much the aim, says Rebecca Gonsalves
  • @R_Gonsalves

Whether men deserve their reputation as creatures of habit is a matter for some debate, as is the use of sweeping generalisations referring to half the population. As such, although trends are important for men, there are certain references that never seem to go out of fashion – they are simply tweaked and  refined to evolve continually.

Approaching the “if it ain’t broke” view from a different angle is  Topman, which has just relaunched its LTD collection with a range of vintage-inspired pieces. On first glance, it appears very much in keeping with the perennially popular Americana varsity theme, with zip-front bomber jackets, rolled-hem jeans and  numerous variations on the classic T-shirt, but the real inspiration was not the norm. The designers behind the range dubbed “Pitwall” instead looked to the British racing tracks of the Forties – a time when motor  racing as a popular spectator sport was under starter’s orders.

“So much of the styling, the fit and the prints of the Fifties are key to the LTD aesthetic,” LTD designer  Nick Eley says. “But finding a fresh take on a well-reinterpreted era  was always a conscious decision  for us. Our initial inspiration was a trip to the Goodwood Revival – the beautiful old cars, the Forties- and Fifties-themed dress and the  history of the racing circuit were the starting point for a theme that saw us delve into the world of the early pioneers of motor racing.”

While nodding to the past, there is no chance of looking like a relic with this interpretation: “Finding the right balance between modern and vintage is tricky,” Eley explains. “The last thing we wanted to do was  produce a historical range of  motor-racing garments. The clothes needed to be wearable and contemporary; taking inspiration from both the drivers and their mechanics allowed us to do this.” Traditional racing stripes and leather jackets of the drivers are combined with modern embroidered cotton jackets, mechanic-print T-shirts and short-sleeved sweaters, ensuring that the clothes can be layered without  feeling “too overtly ‘motor racing’”.

Topman’s main line is also  inspired by “what goes on around us”, with the growth of sportswear and streetwear playing a major part. LTD is a way to appeal to an older customer and differentiate from  the brand’s other offerings aiming for, somewhat ironically given the inspiration, a less breakneck speed than seasonal trends.