Cheltenham Festival is one of the most prestigious horse racing events of the year, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world.
While the focus may be on the horses, the fashion stakes are also high, with attendees dressing to impress. If you’re attending Cheltenham this year and wondering what to wear, read on for some tips and ideas.
Firstly, it’s important to consider the weather. Cheltenham can be chilly and rainy in March, so dress appropriately. A tailored overcoat or tweed jacket is a classic choice for a traditional, country look, while a stylish parka or trench coat can provide a more contemporary edge. Add a wool scarf and gloves to stay warm, and consider investing in a stylish hat to complete the look.
For the outfit itself, a suit is a classic choice for men.
Stick to traditional, muted colours such as navy, grey, or black, and pair with a crisp white shirt and a tie.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, consider incorporating some pattern or colour into your outfit. A checked blazer or a colourful pocket square can add a touch of personality without being too bold.
The Classic Suit
If in doubt as to what to wear, you’ll not go far wrong with a classic suit. It’s a failsafe option that works for men of all shapes and sizes, and it won’t require much if any, additional expenditure. However, while your basic business suit-and-tie combination will be perfectly adequate, it’s not exactly going to mark you out as a man of style. Work suits tend to be slightly dull and, most likely, dark, so you’ll blend in the crowd, rather than stand out. Colour-wise, a deep blue or navy suit will take you anywhere, whether it’s the VIP tent or the queue for the bookies; and is a resoundingly safe yet stylish choice. Its versatile shade and clean finish mean it can be dressed up and down, depending on your mood, giving you a look that’s elegant but not overpowering.
For a more dapper alternative, without venturing too far from your style comfort zone, it’s hard to look beyond a three-piece suit. The addition of a waistcoat adds a subtle sartorial flourish as well as a handy extra layer for insulation. And should you remove your jacket, it will ensure that you still look smart in your shirt. If you decide that three really is the magic number, you can go as bold or simplistic as you want, opting for a busy patterned suit or, conversely, a plain coloured one. Just take care to ensure the waistcoat is as well fitted as your suit, that it is long enough to cover your waist, and, crucially, that you always leave the last button undone.
The Patterned Suit
For something distinctly different and, possibly, daring, a patterned suit will tick all the boxes for racecourse style.
From windowpane check to classic houndstooth, there’s a wealth of choice, whatever your budget, making the patterned suit a great choice for the modern dandy.
Worn well, a patterned suit can look peerless.
The scope for error, though, is enormous. Unlike its plain counterpart, the key when wearing a patterned suit is to keep the focus on the suit itself, rather than visually complicating the look with a bold shirt colour or a tie in a clashing print. Instead, keep it simple and stick with a classic white or blue shirt, which won’t reduce the impact of the suit, but will ensure that you don’t detract from its pattern. Race fashion is, of course, all about being different and creating a look that is stylish yet personal – but you want to stand out for the right reasons.
THE TWEED SUIT
Don’t dismiss tweed as a drab choice – the classic fabric has been reinvigorated by some of the best men’s fashion designers and can really look the part.
While a tweed suit is typically associated with the classic country gent, there’s a great selection of designs with a contemporary slim-fit that look the business, particularly when styled and accessorised correctly.
The classic tweed is, of course, a variation on the distinctive patterned squares and green colouring; but today’s tweed comes in a number of shades, colours and patterns. If green holds little appeal, why not consider a stylish grey?
Whatever colour tweed you opt for, be sure to personalise the look with a shot or two of colour via your tie and pocket square.
SMART TROUSERS & BLAZER
So long as they’re smart and immaculately fitting, teaming smart trousers with a blazer is a perfectly acceptable dress code for the races. It’s worth making a bit of an effort, though; so if you decide the venture down the blazer-and-trouser route, why not try wearing something a little different to your usual style?
A double-breasted blazer makes a stylish and elegant alternative to the more conventional single-breasted designs, which will be ten a penny. Cashmere, tweed or heavy cotton will all give you a distinguished look.
More conventional but still classy is a plain navy blue blazer, ideally with brass buttons – a classic look that never dates. It can be worn with or without a tie.
Regardless of whether you go for a single- or double-breasted blazer, your choice of trousers is key to the look. Smartly pressed, slim-fit chinos (cream is a safe choice, while red is distinctly dandy) with a low rise are hard to beat. Alternatives include moleskins, cords or flannels, all of which are, if you’ll pardon the pun, safe bets. Just make sure that your trousers are an obviously different colour to your blazer to avoid looking a mis-matched suit.
When it comes to footwear, comfort and practicality are key. You’ll be on your feet for most of the day, so opt for a sturdy pair of leather boots or shoes.
Dress shoes are also a good option, but make sure they’re comfortable enough for all-day wear.
Obviously trainers or anything too casual are a big no.
If you’re going to the trouble of sourcing the perfect race outfit, it’s vital that your footwear doesn’t let the side down.
Acceptable footwear comes in various forms, depending on your personal style and your outfit on the day. It should be smart.
In terms of shoe colour and style, aim to match your footwear with the rest of your outfit. If you’re going for a suit, consider a classic and conservative option such as Derbies or a pair of plain black (or brown, if you’re wearing navy) Oxfords. Brogues and wingtips are two alternatives, both of which will ensure you keep the tone of the outfit smart yet slick. If you plan on wearing a blazer and trousers, there’s a little more leeway in terms of choice. Penny or tasselled loafers are a great smart-casual option, while suede brogues will add a rakish touch.
Accessories are also important. A smart leather belt, a watch, and a tie clip can all elevate your outfit and show attention to detail but is there anything more Cheltenham than a flat cap?
Whatever your choice, avoid anything too flashy or over-the-top, however, as this is a traditional event with a dress code.
A tailored overcoat or tweed jacket is a classic choice for a traditional, country look, while a stylish parka or trench coat can provide a more contemporary edge.
While function is paramount, this should not be at the expense of form, so make sure your coat complements the rest of your outfit.
Classic styles such as a Chesterfield or a Covert will always look the part, ensuring your look is still smart while also keeping you warm. For a more contemporary alternative, consider a trench coat, which is wonderfully versatile and will sit perfectly over a suit or blazer.
Finally, remember to wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Cheltenham Festival is a great opportunity to showcase your personal style, so have fun with it!
Hopefully by following these tips and dressing appropriately for the weather and occasion, you’re sure to look and feel your best at this iconic event.