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How to Suit up for a Day at the Races

With spring officially here, the Great British weather is finally reaching the point where spending a day at the races might actually be worthwhile — with less risk of getting soaked to your skin. This also means that you are going to have to start to think about what you are going to wear for your grand outing. We’ve all seen the pictures of the glamorous and often flamboyant stylings of many of the women at the races, but somewhere off-camera the men are there, looking stylish and demure in the background in a bespoke suit.

We won’t be covering the top and tails of Royal Ascot in this article, but we will be taking a look at putting together the perfect outfit for the rest of the UK’s most popular racing festivals. Read on to find out how you should go about dressing to impress for a day out at the races.

The jacket


Before we get into the ins and outs of the suits, shirts, and ties, we need to talk about a jacket. Even though we just spoke about the nice weather, remember, this is the UK that we are talking about and you should never be out of grabbing range of your jacket. For the races, we suggest a nice wax jacket — a staple of many race-wear outfits, especially in the early spring and autumn when the weather is more unpredictable. You don’t need to look further than Barbour for one of these jackets — they’ve been making them for over 120 years and many of their designs have endured the test of time. You can pick one up from Jules B, who stock a good range of their classic and contemporary styles.

The suit


While a store bought suit can be adequate, a day at the races deserves a more refined kind of suit — so it’s off to the tailor with you, my son. You generally have two options at a tailor: bespoke and made-to-measure. Both will involve having your measurements taken, but a bespoke suit is made for you from scratch, whereas a made-to-measure suit will come from a stock template that is tailored to your measurements in the essential areas.

Each of these will give you a nice custom fitting compared to a store bought option, but a bespoke suit will match you perfectly while a made-to-measure suit will be pretty comfortable. If you feel like you will be a little overwhelmed by all of the options, take a look at this video by Pur-Suit that will teach you about the golden rules of suit fits.

Another difference between the two is evident in the price — bespoke suits will cost more than the made-to-measure option, but you are paying for a totally unique product that is modified to your own style specification. A tailor will probably present you with a selection of material options in a range of different price brackets, and which one you choose will depend on the look you are going for and also the size of your budget. This guide to suit fabrics and thread counts from AskMen will give you a good overview of the choices before you make a decision.

The shoes


Please don’t think you are finished when you’ve sorted out your suit — the right pair of shoes will complete your look for the races. Walking shoes, trainers, and the like are a major no-no at festivals, so you will need to invest in a pair of smart shoes that go well with the design of your suit. A pair of black or brown Oxford or Derby style shoes are a common go-to, and will guarantee that the suave factor of your outfit extends right down to the ground. Brogues are also a popular choice for the man at the races, but there is a plethora of shoes on sale that you should avoid, as discussed in this enlightening article by Esquire.

Follow these style pointers and you can look forward to your day at the races confident that you will be looking smart, stylish, and ready to play the part of the gentleman gambler. One final point: don’t forget to bring a trendy wallet, as you will still want to look good even if your luck is running low.