There is a common joke that when it comes to weddings, that even the most sensible, practical and down-to-earth bride-to-be will turn into a meringue-and-frill wearing cake decoration on the big day.
I've been to enough weddings to know that this is not always the case. But I've also been to enough racing events to be able to say that when it comes to horses and gambling, there must be a similar switch inside the average male brain. For some reason a good many become convinced that it's a good idea to leave the house dressed like a budget Bugsy Malone.
In theory, selecting an outfit for a day at the track that doesn't make you look like a complete tosser shouldn't be that hard. But the minute that men get a whiff of hay and saddle-soap, the standard common-sense approach to style and general well-intended sartorial choices that normally guide them vanish. Instead it's ties that are wider than they are long; ill-fitting suits in novelty colours; and white, square-toed shoes that could have come straight out of a European catalogue from 1994.
So how does one successfully dress for the Sport of Kings without looking like a poorly dressed extra from a B-grade gangster film?
First, it's about understanding the fine balance between sporting a look and simply looking sporting. Joe Farage of bespoke Australian label Farage suggests the first step in keeping abreast of the fashion race is by keeping your race suits separate from your work suits. “When it comes to the tracks, stay away from the business suit,” explains Joe. “You're going to the races, not to the office.”
The easy way of doing this, suggests Joe, is by maintaining the royal theme of the day and investing in the key fabric of the season – a lightweight Prince of Wales plaid, perfect for both looking and keeping your cool in the spring humidity.
“For men this Spring Carnival season, the look is classic with a modern twist,” explains Joe. “The most important thing is to start with a perfectly fitted suit – a subtle Prince of Wales check or Birdseye detail will give it that trackside edge. Some other key colours for the season are variations of blue & rich navies, but grey is a great traditional staple for Derby Day.”
Next up, don't be afraid of colour. Melbourne-based brothers Joshua and Izaak Woodley are the men behind the latest must-have brand for the well-dressed gentleman, Yacht Club Attire. They advise accessorising with a touch of colour as a great way of keeping your race style sharp.
“Suits made of lightweight wools are a must for warmer weather,” Joshua says, “which can be brightened up with bright-coloured accessories such as pocket squares and ties. Knitted silk ties and colourful socks are also on-trend perfect finishing touches.”
Despite previously voicing my inherent mistrust of hats in another article, there is undoubtedly a rich millinery tradition that goes along with Spring Carnival attire. Should you feel the need to invest in that final touch and adorn your head, the narrow-brimmed trilby is a nice touch without the ostentatiousness of the fedora.
And finally, remember that less is always more. If it feels over-the-top, it probably looks it. “Whilst the races is a great time to showcase your own personal style,” says Joe Farage, “it's not a time to go overboard; know when to say no. And never forget to polish your shoes – a race day look is about the details.”
Gents, what influences do you draw upon when deciding what to wear to the races?