What to wear to The Kentucky Derby (or Kentucky Oaks)


Updated – April 2018

A  nice fella called from Cleveland the other day and says he’s coming to his first Kentucky Derby.  He asked some really good questions about what men will be wearing and we thought it would be a good idea to share some of our dialogue….

What do men wear to the Kentucky Derby?

Generally the few days leading up to and including the Kentucky Derby are dressier affairs at Churchill Downs, by sporting event standards. 

We’ve all seen photographs of ladies turned out in their sundresses and hats while the gentlemen wear ties, sportcoats and lids (more for sunburn protection than fashion, these days).

Where are your seats (if you have one)?

Before you go shopping… know where you’re sitting.  If your planning general admission in the infield, anything goes.  The college crowd will be partying in turn three while a little more family friendly atmosphere prevails in turns one and two.

There are some very nice tents and suites, however, in the infield where the dress code mimics the clubhouse and grandstand.

I think our seats are in the grandstand

If you’re in the grandstand, clubhouse, terraces, suites, one of the “clubs” or “millionaire’s row” you’ve got good seats with some venues requiring minimal dress.  Be sure to check with Churchill Downs or your host to verify what is acceptable.

I’m told I need a seersucker suitseersucker

Not everyone in the south dresses like Matlock.  True.. seersucker suits (and sportcoats) are very popular just now and we’ve sold a bunch for folks heading to the track but the reality is… if you’re from Cleveland (and may never wear it again)… save your money for the parimutuel windows or some mint juleps.

Save the dress suit for the office.  In our opinion, even if your involvement is business related… this isn’t a business meeting; it’s a sporting event.  Would you wear a suit to the Indianapolis 500 or the Master’s?

So what do I need to bring?

A sportcoat or navy blazer will be most appropriate.

Do I need a wild brightly colored sportcoat?

No.  Though you’ll see plenty of them.

Your year round navy blazer with a pair of nice wool dress trouser — or linen or cotton will be just fine but make note: you’ll see plenty of navy blazers and it might be difficult for your companion to locate you in the crowds.

I want to dress it up but do I need to stand out?bowtieforblog

Of course not…  If your personality says patch madras, by all means… bring it.

But if a more understated look suits you, a subtle check or plaid sportcoat; mid-weight, of silk, wool, silk/wool or silk/linen is ideal for the day and — with a nice pair of trousers and the right accessories… you’ll shine by a furlong!


Does everyone wear “Derby Ties” ?

No, but they’re generally more colorful and sportier than some of the other ties in your closet so many men opt for a new one every year.  Like beads at Mardi Gras, a Derby Tie reflects your appreciation for the event and affirms your participation.

So what else do I need?

Comfortable shoes.  You’ll be walking and on your feet a LOT. 

And… on a bright spring Kentucky day (let’s hope)… sunscreen (even if your seats are under cover or indoors), patience and as many winning horses as you can select !!

SPECIAL NOTE:  Many items are prohibited at Churchill Downs for security reasons so be sure to check out http://www.kentuckyderby.com/visit/security-information before heading to the track.


more questions? specific requests?  call The Fashion Post (502) 423-6700 or email bob@thefashionpost.com

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