In one of my favourite scenes from the 1995 comedy Clueless, Cher is getting driving lessons from her former stepbrother Josh. As she drives down the middle of the street, causing general havoc, he says to her:
“Hey. James Bond. In America, we drive on the right side of the road.”
She replies “I AM. YOU try driving in platforms.”
In days of yore, driving a motorcar required a specific style of dress. Driving shoes, car coats, soft leather gloves and travel caps were de rigueur for driving – not just for fashion but also for safety and warmth.One simply did not leave the house without taking care to dress. Driving was serious business and no one was wearing platform shoes – or any footwear that negatively impacted driver safety - behind the wheel.
In modern times, of course, driving has become totally mainstream. With the advent of reliable interior climate control, driving fashion has taken a real nose dive. Why button up your car coat and wrap your neck in a silk scarf when you can blast the heater and drive to the 7-11 in your pyjamas and flip flops?
Take, for example, the resurgence of driving shoes. Thanks to racing and car enthusiasts, driving shoes are slowly becoming more and more popular, especially for commuters who find they can wear the shoes on the road and in the more casual office. With softer soles and an extended tread to prevent heel scuffing, driving shoes help give a better feel for the pedals and can be fashionable to boot.
Of course, you don’t need to buy driving shoes to drive – but wearing proper shoes can have a big impact on driving safety. High heels, loose sandals and thick or hard-soled boots all make it more difficult to manipulate the gas and brake pedals. It’s always best to wear flat, lightweight shoes for driving – and if those won’t do for work, consider keeping a pair of “just for driving” shoes in your car.
Car coats – A-line, thigh-length coats designed to offer warmth and a free range of movement in the legs - are also big seller this year, both for men and women. Leather, wool, corduroy -- you name it, they've made a car coat out of it. Usually made of lightweight but warm materials like wool, the car coat was originally designed for driving in an open car, when things would get chilly pretty quickly. The car coat helped to keep the driver and passengers warm and also protected their clothes from weather and road dust.
These days, owning a car coat isn’t a must but it’s important to make sure that whatever coat you’re wearing in the car gives you a full range of movement. That tight leather jacket may look great but if you can’t raise your arms in it, you probably shouldn’t wear it behind the wheel. And while lap blankets went out of style in the early 20th century, having an extra blanket in the car (as part of your emergency kit) is key for winter driving, just in case you get stranded.
You don’t need special driving wear to be safe on the road. But it’s not a bad idea to check your outfit before you head out to the car. And put those platform shoes on AFTER you reach your destination.
How do you dress to drive? Do you try to keep things stylish AND safe? Let us know in the comments!
- Erin F.