If you're a guy and you're going to the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes, you may be under the impression that you have to get as dressed up as Iris Apfel on a Tuesday for any Triple Crown event. But if you're about to invest in a mint green horseshoe-printed suit or a necktie, we're here to tell you that neither one of those things is necessary.
People from all over the world have been desecrating the gentility of the Derby, and the related races, with bad, bad looks for far too long. While women use it as an opportunity to trot out some fairly chic day dresses, men, on the other hand, are actively encouraged to treat the race as a fashion free-for-all. Some guys show up in colors that don't exist in the natural world (or their regular wardrobe rotations), and accessorize with clownish neckwear they wouldn't even consider on any other day of the year. And that's just sad.
Instead of wasting the money, time, and effort to put together another iteration of the technicolor dream suit nearly every other guy will be wearing at the races, why not stand out from the madding crowd and wear something that actually looks elegant? We're going to go out on a limb here and say that you could even get away with a well-tailored suit in a color you'd wear in front of your boss. And we're going to go even further and guess that the components of a good looking Derby Day outfit are already hanging in your closet.
Not dressing like everyone else might be a risk for you, but when everyone else looks like a douchebag wrapped in a picnic tablecloth, this might be the day to be daring. Plus, isn't not looking like everyone else what personal style is all about? Rest assured:
You don't have to wear a lot of color.
Don't commit the sin of wearing pink-and-white seersucker just because you think it'll keep you cooler than anything else. Southerners have been wearing lightweight cotton suits for as long as the South has been recognized as a distinct region, so you won't look any less authentic in a suit cut from khaki, gray, or even navy blue poplin. If you're married to seersucker, don't go crazy with your shirt and tie. In fact…
You don't even have to wear a tie.
Yes, the term "dress to impress" is clearly printed on the Kentucky Derby FAQ page, but the only banned items of clothing are jeans, collarless shirts, and anything that's even remotely frayed. If you're
drinking watching the races from the infield, you could even (gasp!) get away with not wearing a jacket.
If you don't over-accessorize any other time of the year, why are you going to do it now?
We don't know why guys who don't wear hats regularly insist on donning straw fedoras to the Kentucky Derby, but they do. Some also go in hunt of foulard-sized pocket squares in prints Emilio Pucci would have scoffed at. If you aren't wearing these things in your waking life, you're not going to look better in them at Churchill Downs. Yes, you think it's a magical place, but that magic has nothing to do with madras chinos and matching, melon-colored hat bands.
—Details associate online style editor Justin Fenner.
Also on Details.com: