Style Basics

What to wear for your Kentucky Derby party (4 practical tips)

By on April 20th, 2018

Whether you watch the horse race or not, Derby Day is always a fun time. There are mint juleps, big hats, and lots of colorful outfits. While the sartorially inclined tend to view the day as pretty much a national holiday, it’s important to remember that for Kentucky Derby attire outside of the actual race track in Kentucky, pretty much anything goes. It’s a chance to wear whatever fun ensemble you have available. That being said, we wanted to give you some Kentucky Derby style tips for men in this article.

Step 1: wear a jacket

While you’ll see plenty of guys wearing only a vest or maybe just suspenders with a dress shirt, we recommend going the extra mile and wearing your favorite sportcoat. Outdoor Derby parties can get a bit hot depending on the weather, so opt for a summer-weight sport coat if you have one. Unstructured and made in a breathable cloth is best. Otherwise, bend the rules of etiquette a bit and leave your jacket unbuttoned. Skip the neck tie (or bow tie) and leave your shirt sleeve cuffs unbuttoned to help ventilate and keep you cool.

But the key thing to know is that just by wearing a sport coat, you’ll be well dressed and respectful of the event’s heritage. And have some fun with the sleeve buttons by introducing some thoughtful contrast.

Kentucky Derby style tips for men[However, if all you have available is your go-to dark suit jacket, you’re better off forgoing the jacket and heading to Nordstrom Rack and picking up some inexpensive suspenders; maybe some colorful socks too.]

Step 2: wear a hat (or spruce up those shoes)

Obviously, Derby Day is all about the hats! Drop into your local hat store and try a few on. When you find one that puts a smile on your face and makes you dance, that’s your hat!

But, if you really just don’t wear hats outside of baseball caps (like me), then instead, direct your creative mind power to your shoes. Have them shined, but also, pick up some colored laces to give your shoes a little more personality for the party.

Step 3: on the details, try something new

The Kentucky Derby is the perfect time to try out one of those menswear details that you’ve always had your eye on, but for whatever reason, never wore. Here are a few ideas:

Kentucky Derby style tips for men with details

Step 4: Use contrast

Lastly, use contrast to your advantage this year. Not only is it relevant advice for dressing for the office, but it’s doubly important for a celebratory event like the Derby. And in the springtime, any amount of color is fair game!

In the example below, you’ll see that we paired a lightly saturated sport coat with a bright blue pant. This really helps each of the pieces to shine on their own for what they are. Have a white seersucker sport coat? Great, pair with some colored pants. Are you wearing a white dress shirt? OK, but be sure to add some color elsewhere — perhaps in your pocket square or jacket. Get the idea?

Kentucky Derby style tips for men

Wrap up: Kentucky Derby style tips for men

Any one of these Kentucky Derby style tips will help you to look your best, no matter what party you’re attending. The most important thing to remember is that this day is your opportunity to wear whatever you want. There really are no boundaries on color or creativity. And you can’t be overdressed, either!

Wear something that puts a smile on your face, grab a mint julep or some champagne, and have fun this year!

Further reading

If you didn’t find the time to build out a fun Derby Day jacket, no problem. You still have time to get a summer suit or sport coat designed.