Horse Racing Fashion

How Classic Hats Became A Staple Of Horse Racing Fashion

Horse racing is one of the most popular social events on calendar, with the biggest races often almost seeming like runways at some of the most illustrious fashion shows in the world.

Fashion is now such a huge part of the sport that it has become woven into major events on the calendar such as Royal Ascot and the Kentucky Derby. Visitors that are dressed to the nines when attending the racing are usually too pre-occupied with what they are wearing for the day out that they often forget that a sporting event is actually the reason for their visit.

However, the two industries have been able to enjoy great success in unison throughout recent history, with hats becoming a famous style to follow for all those that are attending a major event on the calendar. But, when did hats become such a huge fashion accessory to wear at the horse racing?

Why Wear Hats To The Horse Racing?

Wearing hats to the horse racing is a timeless tradition, which can be evident when looking back at black and white images from events such as the Kentucky Derby over 50 years ago.

The tradition dates back over 100 years, with the accessory intertwining with the evolution of fashion. Back in the early days of the accessory and the sport, it was seen as an essential formal attire to show social status and look elegant when attending a race meet.

However, the images of women in hats took to new heights at the horse racing throughout the 1960s, as the sport became extremely popular with higher class members of society. It was believed by those that attended that hats would add even more sophistication to the competition, and this trend has continued throughout recent history.

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Dress Codes

Dress codes are now especially common when attending some of the most prestigious events on the racing calendar, and none are more famous than Royal Ascot. Despite being inaugurated in 1711 by Queen Anne, there was no strict dress codes in place at the famous meet until the 19th century. During this period, it was deemed by Prince Regent that all male visitors should follow strict measures, which included wearing black coats, white cravats, and top hats.

The first measures in the 1800s allowed Royal Ascot to grow quicker, as it was seen as ‘the’ place to be to watch the finest horses in action. In the late 18th century, the dress code at Royal Ascot was made even more stricter, as it was announced that every male visitor in the Royal Enclosure must wear top hats, and this was developed into a symbol of urban respectability in the 19th century.

Hats Remain A Symbol

Fashion and the sport of horse racing go hand in hand, with the event giving visitors the opportunity to dress to the nines before watching some of the finest animals on the planet compete on track. Headwear has evolved throughout history, with many looking to wear slight variations of hats to make their own fashion statements. Flamboyant feathered headwear has been a prominent choice throughout history, showcasing personality and flair, highlighting that no real fashion statement is ever truly off the table when going racing.

However, traditional hats remain the symbol that is common within horse racing, showcasing glamour and elegance for those that wear them. The Kentucky Derby is one of the great racing events in the world that has embraced the world of fashion, with every visitor that passes through the main gates typically showcasing their own sense of style on an annual basis.

The paddock area is typically ablaze with different kinds of hats at Churchill Downs, with each telling their own stories. Fashion has changed throughout history at the Derby, but hats have become the ever present, and they are as common in this modern day as they were when the first Derby was run over 150 years ago. The Derby and Royal Ascot are the two most fashionable events on the horse racing schedule, with each visitor able to express their own sense of style when in attendance at the respective courses before placing their wagers on the biggest races of the season.


Many believed that hats in racing may have lost popularity over the years, but there is no evidence to suggest that, as they remain as popular now as they have ever been. Such is the tradition between the two sectors that a visit to the racing is incomplete for many female visitors before they have found their perfect hat for the occasion.

Therefore, the famous pastime of looking out for the most flamboyant hats on track looks set to live on for generations to come across the world at the biggest events on the calendar. 

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