Iconic Style, Racing Heritage: Three New Piloti Shoes Pay Homage To The Great James Hunt
James Hunt ranks among, if not at the top of, the Formula 1 food chain when it comes to the unmeasurable stat called charisma. Then there’s also the fact that he became World Champion in 1976, his first year driving with McLaren in a season that saw him racing against a pretty talented pack of colleagues (yes, we’ve all seen Rush. No, we don’t care if it embellished a bit). So while his character can’t be confined to spreadsheets, season points are easily tallied and they tell the story of a skilled pilot who somehow pulled off the feat of earning more notoriety for his life outside the car than in it. He was quite good at pushing pedals and handling a steering wheel and gear lever, but when you think of Hunt the first things to come to mind aren’t likely to be his win percentages.
He embodied British wit, the playboy lifestyle, and the undeniable allure of racing drivers in an era characterized by big wings, long hair, and the ability to speak your mind without being relegated to the sponsor’s wishes entirely. He drank, he smoked, he swore, he made women go wild, and at the end of the day he could back up his antics by being damn quick in a racing car. Sex symbol, motorsport hero, James Hunt somehow made F1 seem even cooler than it already was. But he paid his dues and earned his keep. Starting in humble Minis he graduated from touring car racing to Formulas soon enough despite his father’s wishes that he pursue medicine instead, and before he found ultimate success with McLaren Hunt drove for a number of other teams and oftentimes on his own dime before joining Lord Hesketh in F2 where he and the aristocratic partiers would soon make the plunge into F1, the top rung.
Hunt would exit the sport only a few years after his championship-winning season, wherein he took up a position on the other side of the scene as a commentator. He practiced the same style in the booth as he did in the seat though, and his lack of restraint on the mic is better characterized as honesty than showmanship, so say those who were there for it. He would tell it as he saw it, and his humor mixed with technical knowledge and genuine insight to earn him an even larger fanbase than he’d established in his former job. The point is, Hunt is more or less a legend today, as he was then. Someone revered by those who never knew him and respected by those who did.
Lately Piloti has been tapping into the history of the motorsport alongside their continued developments in modern competition-based footwear, and on the heels (sorry) of their recent Le Mans-edition shoes they’ve just released three new pairs in an homage to the late James Hunt.
Channeling English restraint by not splashing logos and colors everywhere, the JH-11—named in accordance with his racing number while driving for McLaren in 1976—features just a few subtle nods to the man whose signature is embossed in the black leather. The red, blue, and yellow stripes add one of those “if you know, you know” touches to the handsome design of the tumbled Italian leather sneakers, and if you’re wondering where they came from those are the colors of his old school, Wellington College. Like the other two styles, these are hand-made in Portugal.
The number here represents the 10 wins that Hunt achieved in Formula 1, and like the pair above, are also embossed with his signature. The helmet tricolor is present on the upper heel section of the smooth black leather, while the Union Jack also makes an appearance this time. These are slip-ons as you can see, and while the driver they’re named after was known for showing up barefoot to quite a few parties that would see most wearing their finest footwear, they do their namesake justice by representing a dose of casual style mixed in with the formal side of life.
You’ve probably noticed the naming theme by now, and have likely guessed that these refer to the year in which Hunt became World Champion. The JH-76 loafers take the traditional design of such shoes and add some modern elements like the red rubber soles on the front end, and an embossed design—the Union Jack—on the tongue strap. The colors of his helmet feature twice on the shoe, and if anyone asks which fashion house they stand for, just tell them that sex is the breakfast of champions. If they don’t get it you can always say they’re hand-made in Portugal with Italian leather by a designer that’s been worn by “top sportsmen the world over.” Hey, you won’t be lying.