Racetracks in America are known for many things. They are known as places where some of the most amazing animals on Earth exert their power and display their competitive spirit.
They are known as places where luck is waiting to be found, either by the richest horse owner or the poorest hunch bettor.
And they are known as a place where people who appreciate high fashion can flaunt their creativity (and in some cases, their budget). On June 10th, before we know the 2023 Belmont Stakes results, the last Triple Crown race, people will flaunt their outfits.
Many people still think of the racetrack as a locale for those who are looking to be seen. Each track has a slice of their own culture, as well: Saratoga, in upstate New York, has a vastly different definition of “style” than Del Mar in Southern California.
How can you make your fashion mark at the racetrack and stand out in a good way?
The first and foremost way is to treat a day at the races like the special occasion it is.
As I mentioned before, each track has its own culture. If you want to know which track has a scene that will vibe best with your fashion choices, you will want to do a little research first.
Many tracks in the American South reflect the grandiosity of antebellum aesthetics. As such, the men might attend dressed in top hats and have long coattails. The women will have gowns decorated with lace and frills, and will perhaps be accompanied by a parasol.
Tracks in upstate New York will most closely resemble the strict dress codes found at old-money European events, in particular Royal Ascot. Head coverings are a must, but the clothing trends toward a tasteful display of money rather than a flashy one.
Southern California is another case entirely. The tracks in that region tend to showcase more modern tastes, along with the bright, showy colors and sleek silhouettes emblematic of nearby Hollywood.
Find an outfit that will stand out from the rest, but will not have those around you thinking you took a wrong turn when traveling to the track!
Shoes: Form, Function, Or Both
Another reality of the racetrack is that most of the racegoers- that is, nearly everyone who does not spend the day in a private box- will do a lot of walking during their outing. The strappy sandals or well-buffed loafers may look cute and match your outfit, but you may be risking blisters or rolled ankles with either choice.
Flats or walking shoes may be less interesting or less likely to make a splash. However, limping painfully or sprawling face-first on the ground is certainly not going to make the kind of impression you want!
To Top It All Off
Undoubtedly, the one article of clothing most heavily associated with the racetrack is the hat (or headpiece).
The bowler hat, one of the most popular items of gentlemen’s fashion of all time, got its American nickname from horse racing. The brimmed hat with a round dome came to be called a “derby” because many Americans tried to emulate the popular styles featured at Great Britain’s premier racing event, the Derby Stakes. The hats were a particular favorite of the Earls of Derby, for whom the race- and by extension, any other race referred to as a “Derby”- is named.
While bowler hats are not as popular as they were 100 years ago, some younger racegoers may choose to wear them ironically. Women going for a sporty ensemble may add one as well.
Traditionally, however, women wear large, colorful hats or fascinators (headpieces that are clipped directly to the wearer’s head). These harken back to the days when women went to the track primarily to be seen, as they were often blocked from participating in other ways such as betting. Today, women can do any job or task on the backside or in the grandstand, but they still like to add bold splashes to their outfits to make their own statement.