Michael 84

What To Wear To The Races – A Men’s Style Guide

What To Wear Guides
Monday, 2nd March, 2020

What To Wear To The Races Men

Are you going to the races, but have no ideas what to wear?

Don’t worry, this style guide will make sure you’re looking the part for the big day out.

Gentleman, having a day at the races is not just about putting a few bets on the horses anymore, well, has it ever been?

Fashion at the races is almost more important than the horse racing itself, and has been known to take centre stage.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time you’re going, it’s an annual tradition for you and your friends or if you’re a seasoned veteran, this is one event where nailing the style is key.

There’s always been a lot of emphasis on what the ladies are wearing, and who’ll have the best or most outlandish hat, but men’s style is just as important.

Knowing what to wear to the races is important, and you should be as stylish as your female counterpart.

Let the ladies bring the glamour, and the gents bring the style.

It’s time to get suited and booted!

Men's Suits For The Races

The Dress Code At Horse Racing Festivals

I’m not talking about the fashion rules just yet, I’m talking about the actual dress code or guidelines different festivals and events have in place. They will differ, they can even differ on the day you go, or even the enclosure you are looking to enjoy your day at.

Some are a bit dressier, some a bit more casual, so to get the anxiety out of the way it’s best to check their own fashion advice on what is and isn’t allowed.

Going to the races has always been a bit of a fashion event in it’s own right. There’s ladies day for the girls, with the best dresses, outfits and of course hats of fascinators. When it comes to men, it’s time to suit up and dress to impress.

Men's Suits - Racing Attire For Gents

What To Wear At Royal Ascot

One of the most important horse racing meetings in the calendar, and has a dress code to match. This very much depends on which enclosure you will be going to, with some having more strict and traditional dress codes than others.

If you’re going to the Royal enclosure, gentlemen are required to wear a black or grey morning suit which includes a waistcoat and tie (no cravat), a black or grey top hat, black shoes with socks.

The Queen Anne enclosure dress code requires a suit with tie, shoes and socks, with the village enclosure requiring a smart jacket, collared shirt and tie.

The Windsor enclosure is the least formal but still requires you to be smart, with a jacket, shirt and trousers, but there’s no formal dress code.

It goes without saying that sportswear such as football shirts are not allowed anywhere, along with fancy dress. You can read more on the Royal Ascot dress code here.

What To Wear To The Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is one of the key dates in the racing calendar, and with it being in March, weather can play a part in your clothes.

The good news is there’s no formal dress code, but if you want to look the part, men usually wear suits around the club enclosure and hospitality areas.

Fancy dress is permitted in March but you can be turned away at their discretion. This is however a guide to looking your best, so a suit is always going to be advised around here. You can find out more on the official Cheltenham website here.

What To Wear To The Grand National Men

What To Wear To The Grand National

If there’s one day in the racing calendar which everyone looks out for, it’s the Grand National. The race at Aintree is the jewel in the horse racing crown, even if you’re not a racing fan, it’s tradition to have a bet every April.

The weather can be as unpredictable as trying to pick out a winner, but there’s plenty of ways you can keep stylish. The televised event means that all eyes could be on you, so it’s even more important to look your best, as everyone else will be.

There is no formal dress code at the Grand National at Aintree, but sports clothing and fancy dress is not permitted. Wearing a really good fitting suit is something you should definitely be thinking about, the classic colours of grey or navy will never go wrong.

If you’re into pea-cocking this is one of the events to do it at, wearing patterns or colours could be considered, with stand outs such as greens, reds or beige. Another option could be separates, which is wearing a different colour blazer to the trousers, just make sure they compliment each other.

You can read the official dress code guidance here on the Grand National website.

Suits For The Races

When it comes to horse racing attire, the most obvious thing to wear is a suit. A day at the races should be fun, and you don’t want to look like the same as you do every day in the office, so you can wear something which is a little more bolder or brighter than your usual black suit you may wear at work.

It’s the perfect opportunity to show off your own personality and add a bit of style and colour to an outfit, and a great excuse to get dressed up.

You can try different colours such as plum, light or dark blues, cream or beige colours will also work well in the summer and give you more of a lighter look. You can look at something patterned, rather than a plain grey colour, try a modern check pattern in a mid grey colour.

In the Summer and warmer months, you can opt for wearing a linen suit, which will keep you cool while still looking effortlessly stylish. If you’re buying for versitility, a 100% wool suit is the perfect fabric to select.

Separates - Mix And Match Suits For The Races

Mix And Match Jacket And Trousers Colour Combinations

Separating the colour combinations is something which is really exciting and could very well set you apart from the rest of the crowd. It means exactly what you think it does, simply wearing a different colour bottom to top.

So that’s a different colour jacket to the trousers. This type of tailoring and fashion has become increasingly popular and is a trend I personally love, especially for the summer seasons.

For this to work you have to make sure that you find trousers, a shirt and a jacket which compliment each other well, which is not always an easy task.

Using core colours is a good way to make sure everything matches up well; Dark blue or navy trousers should work with a grey jacket, to finish off with a light blue shirt.

On the flip side, some light beige trousers with a navy jacket and a classic white shirt will work well too.

Suit Button Rules - How To Button A Jacket Properly

Oxford And Derby Shoes to Wear To The Races
Smart Shoes from Kurt Geiger

Footwear – Keep It Smart

Your footwear should be smart, so we’re talking shoes, not trainers, not even smart ones. That said, it doesn’t mean they have to be boring. In terms of colour and style they should be fitting with the rest of your outfit.

If you’re wearing a suit you may want to keep it smart with a pair of plain black or brown Oxford’s or Derbies which will keep the tone of the outfit smart and slick.

If you’re going for a more colourful look with separate jacket and trousers or chinos, you could try a pair of brogues which can still be smart but inject some colour into your footwear, or a pair of smart suede shoes.

Smart Shirts To Wear To The Races

Shirts – Stick To Timeless Colours

If you’re going to inject some colour into your look with the suit/jacket/trousers, you’ll want to calm down the colour palette and neutralise your look with a shirt in a timeless colour which will keep you looking distinctive but not like you’re over doing it.

Timeless colours include white, greys and blues, match these up with the rest of your outfit. A bright white shirt will go with almost anything, if you have any doubts, and it will set it up nicely for a tie.

Matching Pocket Square And Tie For Your Outfit

David Watson Pocket Squares

Don’t Forget A Tie And Pocket Square

Being smart is all in the little details, so you should not neglect them. You’ll want a tie to go with your shirt and jacket combination, so make it a good one. Again, just because it’s quite a formal piece that doesn’t mean it has to be plain and boring.

Go for something with a colour which compliments the shirt and jacket, inoffensive patterns and stripes are a really good idea and add more of an edge than a plain tie would.

You’ll want a pocket square too, depending on the rest of the outfit you can go for the simple but classic square fold, which is as easy to do as it sounds.

If your outfit is understated you can dress it up with a distinctive pocket square, which can create a real talking point and add a touch of uniqueness.

Remember that you can go for a matching tie and pocket square, or for even more individuality, you can get two which compliment each other (as well as the suit) but don’t match.

Men's Dress Watches For The Horse Racing

Sunglasses For The Races

Accessories – A Watch And Sunglasses

Watches are for men what a diamond ring or expensive handbag is to a woman. It’s one of the only pieces of jewellery or accessories we wear, and I think some investment should be made in getting a really good, man’s watch.

The choice to make when it comes to watches, is to wear a dress watch to go with your smart suit. These come with a leather strap more often than not, with a simple and classic face.

You can spend as little as £100 on a nice minimalist watch, a few hundred on a good watchmaker, with prices going up to the sky for a luxury timepiece.

When it comes to sunglasses, a good pair of Ray Ban are timeless and will last for years to come. A good pair of aviators or clubmaster sunglasses could be worn, and always look stylish.

What To Wear To The Races When It’s Cold

Wear an overcoat to the horse racing when it's cold in the Winter

If you’re going to the races when it’s cold, you might be wondering what to wear. In the horse racing world there’s plenty going on in Spring and Winter, and these months can get a bit chilly to say the least. It could be raining, windy or just freezing cold.

For example the Cheltenham festival takes place in March, which can have unpredictable and variable weather conditions. With that said, the dress code is more relaxed, and you’ll be able to wear something more appropriate, if the weather conditions are a bit on the cold side.

To maintain a smart look, you can go for an overcoat. This will keep your look smart while also keeping you warm. Go for an overcoat which compliments your suit colour, you could  wear a camel overcoat, or choose something a bit darker such as black, grey or navy blue.

For footwear, it could be preferable to go for a pair of Chelsea boots. These are the smartest boots you’ll find, and are almost like shoes, but are ankle length.

You can keep yourself warm by wearing a scarf along with the suit, which will add some detail to your overall look, and will not look out of place in the Winter.


Whether you choose to play it safe and elegant with a nice fitting blue suit, or you go down a more colourful look with separates, remember you’re there to have fun.

Think about the outfit as a whole rather than single pieces, making sure the colours of different pieces work well with each other.

Men’s Race Day Outfit Ideas And Inspiration

Outift Ideas And Attire For The Races This Season

Above – A selection of suits from Hugo Boss

Colourful Suits Which Are Perfect In The Summer At The Horse Racing

Neutral Colour Suits To Wear At The Horse Races

Above – A selection of suits from Gucci

Stylish Blazers Which You Can Wear

The featured blazers above are from Tommy Hilfiger

What To Wear To The Races: Men

  • Fix up look sharp – Wear a suit
  • Make sure you’re grooming is on point
  • Make sure you’re smelling good with your best scent
  • Winter racing event? Wear a smart jacket or overcoat
  • Get the details & accessories right: Watch, cufflinks, tie, sunglasses
  • Summer Horse Racing Event? Wear a lighter colour suit, or wear “separates”, different colour trousers & jacket.

In summary, the perfect outfit to wear while going to watch the horse racing comprises of:

  • A suit – Any colour, or if it’s the summer, separates which consists of a blazer and complimenting trousers
  • A smart shirt
  • Smart shoes – Oxford or derby shoes (Chelsea boots acceptable in Winter)
  • A dress watch
  • Tie
  • Pocket Square
  • Sunglasses – if you need them
  • A pea coat or overcoat in the Winter if it’s cold

The Major Horse Racing Events In 2020

Now you know what to wear, here’s a rundown of the biggest horse racing events for 2020. Remember that different festivals, meetings and events may have different dress codes, so it’s better to check up before you go.


Tuesday 10th March – Friday 13th March: The Cheltenham Festival. dress code


Thursday 2nd – Saturday 4th April – Randox Health Grand National, Aintree. dress code

Friday 10th April – All Weather Championships Finals Day, Lingfield Park

Friday 17th – Saturday 18th April – Coral Scottish National, Ayr

Friday 24th – Saturday 25th April – Bet365 Jump Finale, Sandown Park


Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd May, QIPCO Guineas Festival, Newmarket

Tuesday 5th May – Thursday 7th May – May Festival, Chester

Wednesday 13th May – Friday 15th May – Dante Festival, York

Saturday 16th May – Lockinge Stakes Day, Newbury

Friday 22nd May – Community Day, Haydock Park


Friday 5th June – Saturday 6th June – Investec Derby Festival, Epsom Downs. dress code

Tuesday 16th June – Saturday 20th June – Royal Ascot, Ascot. dress code

Thursday 25th – Saturday 27th June – Northumberland Plate Festival, Newcastle. dress code


Friday 3rd July – Saturday 4th July – The Summer Festival, Sandown Park

Thursday 9th July – Saturday 11th July -Moet & Chandon July Festival, Newmarket

Friday 24th – Saturday 25th July – King George Weekend, Ascot

Tuesday 28th July – The Start of the Goodwood Festival


28th July – Saturday 1st August – Goodwood Festival, Goodwood

Wednesday 19th August – Saturday 22nd August – Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival, York


Thursday 3rd – Saturday 5th September – Sprint Cup Festival, Haydock Park

Wednesday 9th September – Saturday 12th September – St. Leger Festival, Doncaster. dress code

Thursday 17th – Saturday 19th September – Ayr Gold Cup, Ayr

Thursday 24th – Saturday 26th September – Cambridgeshire Meeting, Newmarket


Friday 9th October – Dubai Future Champions Day, Newmarket

Saturday 17th October – British Champions Day, Ascot – Dress Code

Friday 23rd – Saturday 24th October – Autumn Afternoon Meeting, Doncaster


Friday 13th November – Sunday 15th November – The Open, November Meeting, Cheltenham

Friday 27th November – Saturday 28th November – Winter Carnival, Newbury


Friday 4th – Saturday 5th December – Tingle Creek Christmas Festival, Sandown Park

Saturday 26th – Sunday 27th December – Christmas Festival, Kempton Park

Sunday 27th December – Welsh Grand National, Chepstow

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Michael Adams

About Michael

Michael Adams is the founder and editor of Michael 84, blogger and T-shirt designer from Newcastle, UK. Sharing men's fashion tips, style advice and lifestyle information for all guys.

  1. Nelson Said,

    Do you know where i can find the grey blazer in the right hand photo under the heading ‘Wearing a suit at the races’?


    posted on Thursday 14th July, 2016 at 12:55
  2. Michael Said,

    Hi Nelson,

    I am afraid I do not have information on that particular image, the other suit inspiration looks have their brands written under them.


    posted on Thursday 14th July, 2016 at 15:08
  3. Harrison C Said,

    Every occasion has their unique dress codes so people who love Ascot and horse festivals are good to go for these fashion tips. Thanks Michael; Good job!!

    posted on Saturday 6th October, 2018 at 18:43
  4. Michael Said,

    Glad you like the tips, it’s always good to arrive stylish at Ascot 🙂

    posted on Monday 8th October, 2018 at 11:47