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15.06.24

The Season: Royal Ascot 2024

One of Britain’s most popular equestrian events is just around the corner, and while it features one of the strictest dress codes in sport, it doesn’t mean you can’t dress creatively...

The History

More than three centuries ago, Queen Anne discovered a clearing in a forested area near Windsor Castle where she could envisage her horses happily galloping. She bought the area, established Ascot Racecourse, then inaugurated Her Majesty’s Plate in August 1711, the first race to be held there.

1807 is generally considered the year of Royal Ascot’s inception because of the advent of the Gold Cup, its oldest extant race. Many of its traditions date back earlier than that, however. The iconic Greencoats who steward the event today originally served as the monarch’s ceremonial guard in 1744 – legend has it that their green velvet garb was harvested from leftover material used for making curtains at Windsor Castle. And throughout the first century of Ascot Racecourse’s existence, many forms of live entertainment accompanied the equestrian feats on display, such as cockfighting, prize fighting, ballad singers and ladies on stilts.

Royal Ascot’s punctilious dress code can be accredited to the dandy Beau Brummell, who in the early 19th century declared that men of elegance in attendance should wear waisted black coats and white cravats with pantaloons.

In 1822, King George IV commissioned a two-storey stand to be built alongside a lawn, which soon developed into today’s Royal Enclosure. That the space has long proven impenetrable to us ordinary folk
is clear from an anecdote involving Victor Albert Spencer, the first Representative of His Majesty responsible for organising Royal Ascot. The story goes that when vetting applications for admittance into the Royal Enclosure in 1901, he placed letters into baskets labelled ‘Certainly’, ‘Perhaps’, and, most amusingly, ‘Certainly Not’.

The Rules

Exhilarating horseracing takes places on each of the five days of Royal Ascot, from the Group 1 contests that will kick off proceedings on Tuesday 18 June to the £1m Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes and the much-awaited sprint that is the finale of the week.

Every evening, the Bandstand hosts a patriotic singalong of British classics such as Jerusalem and Rule Britannia, with song books and flags distributed among the crowds. Since members of the British Royal Family arrive hours earlier in their procession of horse-drawn carriages, these musical gatherings give each day a pleasing symmetry that leaves many visitors feeling joyful.

There are four enclosures at Royal Ascot. While the Royal Enclosure is reserved for royalty and their guests, the Queen Anne Enclosure is the only one from which guests can access the Parade Ring, Bandstand and Grandstand. The Village Enclosure faces the Grandstand and offers a unique view of the Home Straight where the racing climaxes occur. And guests at the Windsor Enclosure have not only BYOB (and picnic) privileges but also the honour of being the first to see the Royal Procession travelling along the Straight Mile.

The Dress Code

Each year, the millinery on display at Royal Ascot is particularly impressive, with hats or fascinators being the standard for women even in the relatively laidback Windsor Enclosure, where, despite the absence of an official dress code, it’s also customary for men to wear a jacket and collared shirt.

The rest of the racecourse, however, enforces strict dress codes that will inform what you wear. That men have to wear matching suit jackets and trousers in the Queen Anne and Village enclosures means their sartorial flair will depend largely on which tie they choose. While novelty ties are banned only in the Royal Enclosure, we still recommend avoiding anything too loud elsewhere. Instead, choose understated patterns such as those on our Polka Dot Silk Woven Ties or our Petersham Striped Silk Tie. The latter’s corded, textured appearance is pleasing to the eye and creates a subtle sense of depth, making it stand out in an elegant fashion.

In 2018, socks covering the ankle became a condition for men to be granted entry to Royal Ascot. You can find such prerequisites in the form of our Heel and Toe Ribbed Mid Length Socks, made from 100 per cent cotton ideal for warmer weather, and with colourways representing a spectrum between fun and formality. Our Paisley Jacquard Mid Length Cotton Socks, meanwhile, feature sophisticated versions of the ancient paisley pattern. Their deep, regal colourways will complement chinos and suit trousers alike. And they can be matched with our Small Paisley Motif Silk Printed Ties to add a sense of harmony to your outfit.

On the shirting front, we recommend combining summery pastel tones with classic suit colours. One of our Pale Formal Royal Twill Shirts, which we have fortuitously described as ‘wardrobe workhorses’ in the past, will no doubt do the trick. The tight construction of the fabric makes these naturally resistant to creasing. And make sure you add a polished finishing touch to your look with a pair of Thomas Pink cufflinks. From gold plated and silver anodised minimalist studs to bold enamel stripes in rainbow colours and even semi-precious Mother of Pearl, there’s a style to suit everybody – and every shirt. A surefire way to help you stay dapper throughout the course of your day.