You’ve got your crew, your girl and a wad of cash reserved. Set for a grand old time at this year’s Spring Races – what about your suit? It’s time to talk race day style. It’s the one time of the year where men can play fancifully – lashing out on colour, texture, pattern and print – sans judgment.
After an impressive Pitti Uomo 90 in Europe this July, we have the latest summer suit trends, those eyed and tried on the ground in Florence for a successful look. Inspired by the Italians, here’s your gentlemen’s guide to the spring races: suits, shirts, shoes and accessories. Prepare yourself though, things could get bright.
The suit is your spring race day uniform. Suiting can broken down into three categories: modern, classic and statement. What type of guy you are – and who you want to be on race day – will influence what style of suit to wear trackside. Here’s the main man-points to consider, along with key expert advice.
The Modern Cotton
The modern suit can be defined as: single-breasted, two-buttoned and slim fit with a notch lapel and neat trouser break. For the warmer months, the quality of wool remains but is far lighter than in winter, opting for lighter wool/cotton blends with an emphasis on merino wool for assured breathable in the Australian sun.
More contemporary colours are bold blue (think cobalt, sapphire and light navy) and ruby red, as well as desert neutrals such as smoky grey, beige, taupe and cream. The latter is the suit of choice for Cup Day, says Matthew Keighran, Hugo Boss’ managing director for south east Asia and Oceania.
“The beige cotton suit has a very European feel. It’s a summery look, especially when styled with a bold striped, knit tie and small check shirt. The pattern scale is important.” Otherwise, why not try this season’s suit colour – earth tones.
The Classic Pattern
The aristocratic origins of the punting event sees suiting traditionalists fair well on race day. The classic suit swings between the more structured single-breasted style with a fuller notch lapel to a sharp double-breasted suit with a striking peak collar.
“Look to a darker colour palette (greys, blues and soft blacks) whilst focusing on more textured fabrications with seersuckers, and mini linen slubs”, prescribes Brent Wilson, suit designer at Brent Wilson.
It’s about quality fabrics and classic textures and tones, rather than audacious colouring.
“Derby Day is considered the ‘elegant day’ so black and white is traditionally worn. In recent years, charcoal and different shades of white and black have appeared too, breaking up the strict black and white dress code,” says Keighran.
Otherwise, look to neutrals that served the style icons: mid to dark greys, navy and charcoal. For timeless patterns, try this season’s navy pinstripe in a white or even rose stripe. The other classic pattern is check.
“A subtle check is never overpowering but offers a uniqueness that can’t be faulted,” adds Wilson.
The Statement Suit
Statement tailoring is what the spring races is really all about. Especially, for Oaks Day. Traditionally called ‘Ladies Day’, the men get to bloom with colour too. 2016 is big on jewel tone colours — emerald, ruby, sapphire and amethyst — highly saturated and darker than your average pastel.
Look to slim fits and light fabrics, which create this sense of fun. “It’s about comfort and style, which is why cotton/linen options are more accessible,” says Godwin Hili, suit designer at Godwin Charli.
Cropped pants or turned up trousers with thin lapels and minimal buttons all add to the rakishness of the statement suit. If you’re going bold suit, keep the leather shoes neutral, and socks too, adding a dark print like paisley into the accessory mix.
The Suit Separates
Not that into the formalities of a suit? Go for separated and play-up the down play with a fashionable sports jacket. The soft-shouldered jacket in a relaxed approach to race day and begs a pair of cool, contrast bottoms.
“This look is perfect for Stakes Day, which is generally more relaxed. Team white pants with the double-breasted jacket, which has made a comeback this season,” says Keighran.
Go summer nautical with white, cream or beige bottoms with a blue jacket. “Tonal checks will be in play for full suiting options, but feel free to be more contrasting in separates,” says Hili, suit designer at Godwin Charli.
“Consider more neutral, earthy tones (white and beige) for jacketing and pant combos, and keep hemlines shorter on slimmer trouser styles.”
White works with any suit or jacket, and it will get you far in the style stakes with a well-cut suit. But why not play around with pattern, texture and tonality of colour? A baby-blue shirt is a great tonal match for navy or a smart version of the chambray, adding texture and tonal flow to midnight blue suit.
Worn with a coloured jacket, a muted floral shirt is the perfect match. Just be sure to include the colour of the blazer in the flower arrangement, tying both components of the top half together. The other big pattern is checks, classic enough to experiment with bold styling.
“You can take a bright blue suit and pair it with a check coloured shirt. Add a pink tie, pink rose and then step into some tan shoes with a matching belt,” says Keighran.
The shirt collar choice will earn you earn style points too. Look to a cutaway collar for the traditionalist or a straight point cut for the modernised single-breasted gent; ensuring the collar is always crisp. Just remember to keep the shirt snug in fit, so there’s not bunching at the waist or billowing at the back. You can’t hide it if and when take the jacket off.
While sneakers do look cool with suits, classic leather shoes are the only way, advises Brent Wilson, suit designer. “You can’t go wrong with a classic derby or double monk strap in a clean crisp black or chocolate leather depending on your outfit colour,” says Wilson. The only rule? Wear socks, always.
Black Derby shoes are a given, and with a brogue patina for a sense of old-world charm. Stick with black if you’re a purist, venturing into chunky sole territory for a contemporary design.
Tan Monk shoes are the traditionalist’s footwear choice. The double or single buckle design harks back centuries and the metallic bling of the shoe can be tied in with your watch, cufflinks and even a signet ring. Where these with charcoal or navy suit, instead of black.
Colour is a bold way to jazz up a neutral suit. A pastel suede derby or burnished leather brogue in oxblood or midnight blue are fresh versions everybody-has-that tan. Bi-coloured shoes are also popular, mixing different neutral shades across the shoe’s upper or injecting a contrast coloured sole.
Leather Loafers need a dress shoe sole – like the penny or tassel variety — not the driving or boat shoe. Again, play off the suit — polished tan or black when wearing a bold trouser or jaunty and bright if your suit needs a colour lift.
With a sharp suit, sleek shoes and super-fit shirt, your accessories should embody a look-at-me-meets-sophisticated elegance. “If your suit colour is muted, be sure to accessorise well with ties and hankies,” adds Hili. Lapel pins are essential Race Day add-ons giving a metallic spark to any jacket. Or try something Dandy with a garden-y silk boutonniere. Or go the real deal, says Wilson.
“This season we are focusing on actual flowers in wild Australian flora pinned to lapels. Belts are replaced by pants with side tabs and we are matching our eyewear, timepiece and pocket square all together to complement one another.”
What To Avoid
- Satin – this includes bow ties, ties, waist coats and even lapels. Go silk instead.
- Patent – the only leather allowed on race day is shoe-related. But don’t go for the black-tie shine.
- Too much colour – stick to one or two complementary colours and base it out with a neutral.
- Tacky accessories – this means bling-y bracelets and chains. Keep it subtle with metal.
- No activewear – avoid trouser jogger hybrid pants or sport-inspired jackets. And no sneakers. Respect the heritage of race day and make some effort in keeping things formal.
- Mankle – wear socks, at all costs.
Dressing like the Italians, take the time to craft an adventurous version of yourself this Race Day. There’s no room for uncertainty, and confidence will see you on your stylish way. This race season’s biggest trend? It’s individuality, adds Wilson.
“There are a limited few brands that offer the luxury experience, service and product knowledge customers should be experiencing. Seek out these brands,” says Wilson. “They will ensure you get the personalised experience and styling tips you deserve, products that are unique and suit your needs and personality ensuring you look and feel your very best whilst attending this years spring racing events.”