The supposed purpose of Derby might be horses, but aside from the two minutes of the day when we actually watch the ponies go around the track, most of our time and attention is spent on other matters. Derby, my friends, is really about the fashion — and the booze, but mostly the fashion. And it’s not surprising that some of our New York friends might be a little apprehensive about what exactly that entails. Our gentlemen pals especially seem to have some trouble when it comes to fully embracing their inner Southerner: Not everyone can pull off pastel-colored pants.
Southern style brings up some very specific images to people: somewhere between Colonel Sanders and average LSU frat bro, a mix of Scarlett O’Hara and a Real Housewife of Atlanta. It’s a delicate balance, mixing the traditional with the contemporary, so it’s no wonder our poor Yankee buds are feeling overwhelmed.
But not to worry, Z&S is here for you! And rest assured you don’t have to dress head to toe in Lilly Pulitzer or Vineyard Vines (but, like, don’t let us stop you, if that’s your jam)in order to embrace the dapper spirit of Derby. Here, by special request, are some simple guidelines for the gentleman (also applicable to ladies in some cases), to make dressing for Derby Day easier.
1. Keep it simple. And by simple, we mean stay single-minded in your sartorial choices. It’s all about staying on theme. Whether that theme is mint green or maybe American flags. Go full seersucker if you want. But pick a lane, and commit to it.
2. Brighter is better. I know New Yorkers have trouble with this — we love our blacks and our greys and our navy blues here — but Derby is a time to embrace color. A pop of coral here! A splash of marigold there! Gentleman, there are only so many times when bright blue pants are appropriate. Carpe chino, seize those slacks.
3. Bowties are cool. For the dudes, and ladies, who want to achieve automatic dapperness, just slap on one of the Eleventh Doctor’s favorite accessories. And keep it classy: Avoid the clip on.
4. Hat! Hat! Hat! The hat is the most important part of any Derby outfit. You can see Zelda’s post from last Friday for ideas for the lady types among you, but hats aren’t just for the girls! While we’re embracing our “Eliza Doolittle at Ascot” look, there are plenty of choices for the dudes: the boater, the fedora, the homburg, etc. Embrace the hat, and learn your hat etiquette.
5. Have fun. Seriously, guys, this is your one chance to wear those shorts with the lobsters on them, so just do it. Embrace your inner bro. We’ve all got one. Break out the Sperry’s and the seersucker, and don’t forget a pocket square to tie the whole outfit together! We’re all just here to get drunk and look fly while we do it. You are a classy ass dude, and you know it. All that’s left is to take the plunge.
Okay in all seriousness, I am not a fashion authority, and I am especially not a men’s fashion authority. But this is all in good fun! If you want an actual expert’s opinion on how to achieve peak Derby Fashion, this handy guide from Esquire is certainly helpful, as well as this one from The Art of Manliness. Suit up, and party on.