What To Wear To The Races
Thursday 20 October 2021
What should a man wear to the races? It’s a question that crops up every spring, when guys look desperately in their wardrobes and think, “I have no idea what I’m doing here.” But never fear. We’ve got your back.
Men's race outfits
Men’s races fashion all comes down to finding the right kit. And the reason this gets complicated is that race day fashions kind of depend on the race. Each ‘day’ of the Spring Carnival has its own unspoken (or very loudly spoken) dress code, and you need to do your best to stick to it. Within those boundaries though, you’re free to express your individual personality. In fact, we encourage it. The whole year round, guys strap themselves into boring corporate suits and stroll out the door. Men’s race day fashion is a chance to really crank up the colour.
Spring racing men's fashion
First things first, check the dress code of the ‘day’ you’re planning to attend. The Spring Racing Carnival has overlapping layers of etiquette. Some areas of the track, like the Member’s Enclosure and the Birdcage, even require more formal attire than others. To make things more complicated, each day has its own official flower too (usually more of a problem for the ladies, but some guys do like an old-fashioned boutonniere). When you’re looking at Spring Carnival men’s fashion, do your research first.
Summer Racing men's fashion
Summer races men’s fashion is more about comfort and style. Most race days in summer don’t have the strict dress codes of the Spring Carnival, so you’ve got a little more leeway (it’s still a good idea to quickly check the track’s website—they always have some style guidelines handy). For summer, we recommend lightweight suiting separates, loafers without socks, or breathable suit fabrics, like unstructured linen. Stick to lighter tones too. Pinks, whites, blues, greens and tans are all perfect for summer racing.
Race Day Suits
The all-important race day suit. As with business suits, avoid pure synthetic materials and stick to natural fibres and cotton blends. Races men’s fashion is all about sleek and sharp. You want slim-fit suits that hug the torso and elongate the leg (think ‘trim’, not ‘tight’). Consider colour, too. There’s nothing wrong with neutral tones, like light grey or charcoal, but you should try and punch them up with a colourful tie/pocket square combo. The two things you really want to avoid are: sloppy or corporate. We’re going for neat, dapper and fun. Not drab, loose or boring. Shop Suits
Race Day Shoes
Never ever neglect your race day shoes. Half of race day men’s fashion happens below the ankle. For most races, you’re going to be looking at Oxfords or Derbies. A lot of race tracks have lifted their ban on going sockless, so loafers are also a great alternative, especially ones with more personality, like tassel loafers. If you’re shooting for dressy, stick to full leather Oxfords or brogues. If you’re going more casual, think about suede Derbies or some cheeky penny loafers. Shop Shoes
Race Day Ties
Tie choice can be a little overwhelming, especially for race day outfits. A good rule of thumb is to pick one accent colour, maybe a blue, purple, pink or yellow, and find a tie that carries it through. This doesn’t mean a block of bright purple (for example). Instead, find a simple floral or geometric pattern with some purple running through it, then match that with your pocket square. Give some thought to materials, too. If silk is looking too corporate, switch things up with wool knit or grenadine. Shop Ties
Race Day Suit Separates
Separates have become an important part of men’s horse racing fashion. They won’t be appropriate for every day, or every part of the track, but some of the more relaxed summer races are a great excuse to bust out the blazer-and-slacks combo. The trick is finding a dedicated knit blazer (pale pink, grey, light blue and tan are all useful colours) and matching it with a simple, neutral block trouser (ivory, beige and white are best). Throw some personality in there with a colourful print shirt, or a plain white shirt and patterned tie. Finish the look with good quality sunnies and a matching tie clip. Shop Suiting
The Caulfield Cup doesn’t have a strict etiquette code, and most guys use this as an excuse to swing for the fences. Break up colour blocks with checked jackets, floral ties or geo prints (but not all at once). Pink and blue with pops of yellow are always popular, as are paisley shirts with a solid-colour suit. Get creative.
Melbourne Cup suits tend towards the formal and sophisticated. Think less crazy patterns and more suave elegance. Tan suits with blue shirts and navy ties are a great choice, or you can go the classic navy suit and white shirt combo (just remember to dress things up with something fun, like brogues and a floral tie). FYI: the Melbourne Cup flower is a yellow rose.
Oaks Day is Ladies Day, and guys usually embrace their softer side here. That means ditching the navies and greys of Melbourne Cup and leaning more into pale pinks, soft blues, floral patterns and pastel tones. Oaks Day men’s fashion is a great excuse to bust out the separates: maybe a pale pink knit blazer and tan dress chinos. Monk straps or loafers are also a good move.
What to wear to Stakes Day? Well, it’s the last day of the Cup Carnival, and that means you can loosen the tie slightly. It’s a more relaxed, informal racing day. Separates are definitely the go here, and you can even look to suede or Nubuck footwear, for a bit of textural edge. Whatever you do, think light and fun. Stripes, checks, loud prints, unstructured jackets. It’s all good.
Derby Day is the opposite of Stakes Day. It’s one of the more formal events on the spring calendar. In fact, the dress code is strictly black and white. But just because men’s Derby Day outfits are monochrome and minimal, doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Pinstripe black suits, black hats, a flash of purple sock, black bowties, charcoal grey jackets, three piece vests, herringbone white shirts. There are plenty of ways to add texture and visual interest.