A Rakish Guide to Dressing for the Races

Dressing for the races can be a sartorial minefield that many fail to cross. To avoid embarrassment, allow The Rake to show you the ropes.
David Niven, Hjordis Paulina Tersmeden, Veronique Peck and Gregory Peck arriving at Royal Ascot, circa 1960s.

Despite dressing and advising numerous customers on what they should wear, as well as creating ranges of morning suits to be worn in my two decades on Savile Row, I had never attended Royal Ascot, the annual highlight of the sartorial sporting calendar. I was occasionally invited but it invariably clashed with the summer edition of Pitti Uomo in Florence. And it certainly wasn’t part of my lifestyle growing up, as my family and friends were more interested in greyhound racing. A night at “the dogs” is a pleasure not to be missed but it does not demand quite the same level of dress etiquette (although shirts must be worn at all times, even in the warmer summer months).

When the opportunity to finally visit the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot came I was warned that I had an overly romanticised vision. Morning dress is required for gentlemen in The Royal Enclosure and the rules are strictly enforced; black or grey coat, top hat, waistcoat and tie. No cravats, thank you very much. Morning dress is also worn at weddings and should be worn at investitures, royal garden parties and daytime state occasions, but you do not hear of anyone being turned away for wearing a dark lounge suit. My expectations were still quite high and I was not prepared for the spectacle that greeted me that sunny June afternoon. It was middle-class cosplay; a Comicon for the privately educated. So many ill-fitting and poorly chosen garments gave the event the feeling of a fancy dress party or the last home game of a Premiership football team. The hat perched on the back of the head with the plastic wraparound sunglasses, the pink satin tie and matching pocket square, the overly long trousers sat too low in the waist exposing shirt beneath the waistcoat, the short comedy socks. The bad shoes. The bad language. The horror.


June 2017


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