The 2020 racing season is here. And if this is the year you’ve vowed to make your first visit to a racetrack, you may be wondering what to wear exactly.
It’s always embarrassing to arrive somewhere and realize that you’re either completely over- or under-dressed. Pop culture sends us mixed signals: either you’re supposed to dress like Eliza Doolittle heading to Ascot in My Fair Lady or you have to look like an extra in St. Vincent (Bill Murray in a great role). There is no in between.
But here’s the deal: in racing, much like life, there are certain events where it’s customary to dress to the nines, and there are some that are a little more casual. Here’s how to tell which is which when it comes to Thoroughbred racing.
When to dress up:
The time to dress up is on the big days of racing: when a track has a marquee event, it’s fun and traditional to make sure you look ready for a Win picture. Often, tracks will even have fashion competitions for their big events, so plan accordingly. These days are the occasions for hats, braces, bow ties, and shined shoes. This is especially true if you’re heading into the track’s clubhouse, box seats, or other reserved areas – those are the places you definitely want to dress to impress.
When to keep it casual:
If you’re heading to the races on a weekday or a weekend without major races, feel free to dress casually. Whether that means shorts and a T-shirt or business casual is up to you! Also, if you’re going to be spending the afternoon in a picnic area, an infield, or a track backyard, then it’s a good idea to keep it a little more casual, regardless of the day.
But be aware that there are certain areas of racetracks that have dress codes regardless of whether it’s a big day of racing or not. So before you head out, just check with the track to be sure.
Finally and most importantly, wear what makes you happy (within reason and the parameters of public decency laws, of course.) If you feel like dressing up and wearing your favorite hat for a Wednesday afternoon at the track, awesome! If you want to wear cargo shorts to the Kentucky Derby, go for it it. Just have fun. That’s the whole point of an afternoon at the races.