According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, men spend over $1000 a year on their Spring Racing purchases; items largely made up of formal suiting attire and accessories that'll help wearers stand out amongst the masses.
To help inform those purchases, we've put together a comprehensive guide to dressing for the races; from the codes to note and the brands to look out for, to the etiquette faux pas to avoid.
Check The Code
Every year we have to remind ourselves of racing dress codes. They often differ from state to state and from event to event so it's always recommended that you check specific code in question before you purchase your outfit and before arrive at the turnstiles. To help, we've laid out the basics for Derby, Cup, Oaks and Stakes Day in this dedicated article.
Buy A Versatile Suit
With the casualisation of the work space heavily effecting the prevalence of suits in our wardrobes, 2019 may mark the year of your first suit purchase. Ignore the garish Prince of Wales check, put down the Man Men pinstripe and buy a simple navy suit instead.
Call us dullards but a blue suit can be dressed up and dressed down, tarted up and made conservative once more with the aid of a few choice accessories. Think about the life of your suit, what may you need it for in the future. One hit wonders are for chumps and celebrity red carpets.
The Right Suit, The Right Fit
Nothing looks worse that an baggy-bummed suit. Nothing looks better that one that hugs all the right bits. Take a look at your suit and ensure that it first fits in the shoulders. All great off-rack jackets fit in the shoulders. A tailor can pinch, tweak and stitch the rest based on your body shape, including overtly long sleeves.
If you're going for bespoke or made-to-measure, make sure you lean on the tailor's expertise. Be open about what you need your suit to do, the areas you're looking to streamline and the others you're wanting to accentuate. If you're going off-rack, make sure to call upon a knowledgeable retail assistant to help you get the basics right. If the store can't offer that service, find another store.
The Right Suit, The Right Material
No two suits are the same when it comes to material. Cotton, wool, linen and poly blends act differently in both heat and humidity. They also differ in price. Understanding the environment and requirements of your suit will inform your purchases. Poly blend materials offer an entry price point into suiting and are often hard wearing and robust.
Yet, they can also be a little cheap-looking and sometime give of a shiny look and feel. They also have a tendency to heat up over the course of a day. Mid-priced cotton and wool suits are breathable and versatile and a better option if your budget can stretch. Linen offers breathability and a casual aesthetic but are less versatile and wear through easily. Again, revert to your tailor for advice.
How To Spot Value
The general rule of thumb is 'you get what you pay for'. Highstreet suit options will do the job on the day and perhaps a few more after but don't expect it to see you through that inebriated breakdancing routine more than once. Brand such as Peter Jackson, MJ Bale, Country Road, Topshop, David Jones and Myer offer an array of off rack two piece suits from $400.
If you're really looking for a great fit then look at made-to-measure and custom options which give you more flexibility with materials and styles. The popularity and desire for customisation has led new brands to enter the market in recent years including the likes of Institchu, Suit Supply, Suit Shop, Oscar Hunt, Bespoke Corner and Joe Black among many others. Guide price $700 upwards. If you're going full bespoke, don't expect any change from $3000.
Get A Tailor
If you have opted for an off-rack suit or jacket, make sure you get them fitted by a tailor or alterations specialist. These are easy to find and many offer jacket fitting for as little as $25, depending on what is required. Trusting your jacket fits in the shoulders, a good tailor will make sure your sleeves, waist, trousers cuffs and trouser seat are altered to better suit your shape.
Men often forget about the importance of a good shirt. Invest in a shirt made of the right shape and material and reap the benefit come race day. Lean towards lightweight, easy-iron cotton shirts. Lightweight cotton can be prone to creasing, so make sure the composite includes some polymer to ensure you don't spend 25 minutes on the ironing board.
Classic dress shirts do not have a pocket on the chest and should have a collar of at least a few inches to ensure it stands up against your neck just so. Experiment with classic and cutaway collar options and find something that fits your style and face shape. Block colours are often the most versatile with white, blue and pastels being the most popular shirt colours when it comes to Spring Carnival. The high street offers a bunch of options and brands such as Tailor Made, Charles Tyrwhitt and Thomas Pink offer personalisation options through their websites.
Get Under Shirty
You'll sweat. Regardless of whether it's the sun or your punting that's getting you hot under the collar, opting for an under shirt will help with any light perspiration.
Make sure you get something that mirrors the stitching of your shirt so that it doesn't show through too much beneath your shirt. Bonds, H&M and Uniqlo offer a great range at a good price point.
Shoes really are a simple affair. Adhere to the dress code then show off as much flair as you dare. More casual race meets offer some room for experimentation. Loafers, driving shoes and wicker loafers can be paired with even the most conservative suits.
But if you're a little more classic in stature and nature, opt for a straight lace-up or a leather brogue to finish off your look. As with all new shoes, make sure you've broken them in before you spend a day walking too and from the bar punter's booth. If you don't make sure you pack enough plasters to deal with the aftermath.
Shoe specialists like Aquila and Florsheim and online retailer such as ASOS and ICONIC have a wide variety of brands and styles in stock.
Double Down On Accessories
If your suit is simple, you can double down on the accessories to jazz up an otherwise corporate look. Ties, belts, lapel and tie pins and pocket squares give a navy suit an affordable facelift. Alongside the usual high street brands, websites such as OTAA and Etsy offer fun and playful options at affordable prices whilst the big-name department stores and designer boutiques will stock brands like Rubinacci, Drake's and Reiss Owen.
Cast A Shade
Sunglasses. They are still the one accessory that seem to illicit a sense of celebrity or silver screen stardom. Find a frame that fits your face and make sure that have UV protection to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun. Here we offer a handy guide on how to find the right shape for your face.
Adhere to the following rules and go faux pas free come race day.
- The last button of your suit should always be open.
- Always button your jacket when standing up.
- Always unbutton your jacket before sitting down.
- Always button your shirt all the way to the top.
- The tip of you tie should almost (but not quite) meet your waistband or belt.
- Your waistcoat should finish at your waistband or belt.
Make sure you do a little once over of the following things before heading out. They may sound obvious but you'll be surprised how many swing tags you see peeking out of blazers on Cup Day.
- Check pocket stitching. Remove all loose temporary stitches.
- Check new tags have been removed on pants and jackets.
- Check for stickers and spare buttons.
Make sure your haircut is as sharp as your suit and book in an appointment with your favourite barber. Ensure you have a full consultation before he or she picks up their scissors. Talk through your wants, desires, daily hair routine and ensure they are fully across your desired outcome.
You would be surprised how many men don't talk to their barber in any significant way and end up regretting it. If you're looking for some inspiration, we've profiled some of the best celebrity styles here.