Whilst my local Beverley Race Course is no Ascot or Kentucky Derby, a day at the races is a perfect time to don your best heritage threads. All the Pimms, polite manners and strawberries are incredibly British, and what better excuse to showcase your fashion know-how with true British style? Think tweed, think tailored, think tremendously posh.
It doesn’t matter how much money you’re gambling (for me, a woeful maximum bet of £5 on a horse that stacked it) or how elegant your evening happens to be (far too much beer and a dreadful hangover), there’s no excuse not to look every inch the proper gent. A day at the races really should be a day well-dressed.
English Heritage Style
Many will approach the suit for the races with a very modern approach: standard skinny fit suit in navy, grey or black – and that’s completely acceptable. As long as a degree of smartness is retained, the blazer-shirt-trouser combination is unbeatable if well-fitted and of decent quality. Everyone from ASOS to Armani does a suit for formal occasions and this really depends upon your price bracket.
However, I always feel a day at the races commands a more inspired approach that takes ideas from traditional British garb. How far you go down this route is ultimately up to you. The three-piece tweed number is the pinnacle of true heritage style and although a stuffy ensemble to pull off, you’ll look the ultimate scholarly, well-groomed gent – nobody really needs to know your BA in Media Studies from Leeds University wasn’t Classics at Cambridge.
Teaming woollen blazers with a plain shirt and matching trousers is also entirely appropriate and a nice alternative to the all-guns-blazing Etonian look. In addition, brown jackets endlessly compliment cream chinos for a more laid back feel to your outfit, but I feel a disclaimer is necessary here: only don proper, fitted chinos, not the drop-crotch excuses that clutter the high street as of late.
This adherence to the more traditional aspects of heritage wear is a recurring theme; try experimenting with quintessential British brands like Barbour, Sunspel and Pringle – all labels that have recently resurfaced on the style radar.
- Asos Slim Fit Suit In Tweed
- Topman Navy Skinny Suit Jacket
- Topman Camel Herringbone Cord Heritage Blazer
- Asos Slim Fit Tweed Blazer
- Alexander Mcqueen Plaid Wool Blazer
- Reiss Canyon Patch Pocket Herringbone Blazer
- Canali Slim-fit Corduroy Trousers
- Reiss Chaplin Classic Chinos Heather
- Paul Smith London Straight-leg Brushed Cotton-twill Trousers
As always, nice and simple wins the Grand National here. A crisp, clean-cut shirt is an integral component of ‘dressing up’. Avoid matching your shirt colour to your tie (it’s a racecourse, not a conference room) and you should only toy around with neutral tones.
Patterns and prints can be done well, but to be safe, stick to a basic understated style. Don’t worry about falling into typical tedium territory – statements and originality can be provided through ties and subtle accessories.
Light stripes are also encouraged, but again, exercise caution: busy pieces can often distract from a well-crafted, tailored look. Wooden, polished buttons are always a nice touch, but simple and black are more than acceptable.
Finally, leave novelties and bright colours at the door – it’s a formal event, not a youth club disco.
- Farah Vintage Hudson Bordeaux Shirt
- Topman Dusky Rose Striped Smart Shirt
- Nn07 Mens Derek Striped Oxford Shirt
- Topman White Washed Oxford Shirt
- Austin Reed Quick Iron Pink Single Cuff Shirt
- Paul Smith London Slim-fit Cotton Shirt
Every man should own a good pair of leather shoes, and in an ideal world, every man should own an incredible pair of leather shoes – the latter of which should be dusted off for a day at the races.
Loafers, brogues and derbies are classic buys and will definitely last the test of time, but feel free to update these traditional styles with coloured soles, coloured uppers or distressed leather – all of which are very recent trends.
For a more worthwhile investment, lean towards classic colours and silhouettes. The downside of a really great pair of hard-wearing formal shoes is the price tag unfortunately. Prices can literally go up to the thousands, but some high-end brands such as Kurt Geiger and Reiss have an awesome collection that requires minimal savings.
Don’t stress too much though – Topman, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel (among others) offer brilliant alternatives, and there should be plenty in decent vintage stores.
- Topman Cypress Tassle Loafers
- American Apparel Larkin Shoe By Bass
- Reiss Bologne Toe Cap Oxford With Leather Sole Tan
- Kg By Kurt Geiger Arden Washed Loafers
- H By Hudson Burgess Brown Leather Shoes
- Topman Ben Sherman Quey 2 Brogue
- Paul Smith Shoes Bordeaux High Shine Marcel Brogues
- Grenson Gzero Leather Derby Shoes
- Gucci Fringed Leather Longwing Brogues
A glint of gold from a dulled cufflink or an excellent choice of tie can provide the finishing touches that propel a good outfit to a brilliant outfit.
Classic and traditional can never be beaten, and don’t be afraid of taking some vintage decisions – narrow 60s-style woollen ties and solid blocks of colour are a great style nod towards the forefathers of fashion.
Feel free to combine with matching pocket square or handkerchief, and these are ultimately variable – looking cool individually or in tandem. However, always include one or the other for a final piece of elegance.
Alternatively, the braver among our kind may utilise the cravat, injecting a Hermes-style print into a seemingly understated outfit. Don’t stop there though; simple cufflinks and statement watches (more Mougin & Piquard as opposed to Rolex) are perfect at a rather high-end event. You have extreme flexibility when choosing your accessories, so indulge as you see fit.
- Alexander Olch Woven-wool Tie
- Lanvin Engraved Rose Gold-plated Tie Clip
- Lanvin Rose Gold Plated Onyx Cufflinks 125034
- Reiss Moore Lux Formal Belt Black
- Drakes Printed Wool And Silk-blend Pocket Square
- Turnbull & Asser Contrast-edge Silk Pocket Square
- Allsaints Daito Pocket Square Set
- Mougin & Piquard X J.crew Grande Seconde Stainless Steel Watch
- Timex X J.crew Timex 1600 Stainless Steel Watch
Inspired By Lookbooks
There you have it, all the heritage advice you need in order to create a classic, traditional look based upon decades of style history. A gentleman’s hobby deserves gentlemanly dress – all you need now is a pair of binoculars, a decent bet and a well-earned drink to finish a fantastic ensemble.
A day at the races never looked so sartorially informed.