Men’s Dressing Guide for The Royal Ascot
The Royal Ascot’s dress code leaves punters confused year in year, year out. To demystify the rules and expectations, here’s a sensible guide to getting your outfit right.
Taking pride of place as one the most prestigious events in the British summer time social calendar, Royal Ascot has the strictest dress code of any racing day. By a furlong at least… (that’s the first and last poor joke we’ll make here).
There’s good reason for such strong traditions for the five-day event too, given that Royal Ascot was founded by Queen Anne all the way back in 1711, and it’s hosted just a few miles from Windsor Castle. Even today, members of the Royal Family are annual attendees. So, in the presence of such royalty, why not take the chance to fit the bill dressing wise? It’s not too often we get the chance today to dress so formally and in such eminent company.
While some people are intimidated by the minutiae of dressing rules, they do serve as something of an advantage in that you know what to wear. Get it right, and there’s no getting it wrong, as it were.
While Royal Ascot has relaxed some of its rules a little in recent years, most prominently in 2017 when it permitted jumpsuits, it still won’t do to show up for the Royal Enclosure in a formal business suit – no matter how slick it is.
However it’s also worth noting that the rules and expectations vary depending on which enclosure you’ll be watching the races from.
So, to help clarify things for you, in this dressing guide we’ll take you through the expectations for what you should and can wear, depending on where you’ll be watching from.
Dressing For The Royal Enclosure
If you’ve landed a place in the Royal Enclosure, good on you. You must be doing something right to hold the most prestigious ticket going. Which means you simply must get the dress code bang on. The Royal Closure has the strictest rules, but also the most simple. Here’s what you need:
- A three-piece morning suit in black, grey, or as of 2020, navy.
- A necktie (never a cravat)
- A top hat in black or grey
- Black shoes
- Socks are a must
Should you choose to wear a grey morning suit – suitably known as Racing Grey – these are always worn with a grey top hat to match. Since top hats are rarely seen anymore, save for occasions like these, let’s bring you up to speed a little on the style, and just as important, the etiquette:
Affectionately known as “Toppers” or “High Hats”, the top hat was a fixture of formal occasions through the years, and sometimes still is, but it’s worth remembering that the shape and height of these has evolved.
Black Silk top Hats are the most traditional and usually worn with black morning suits. You could also plump for an antique silk hat, the pinnacle of formal cool, but these are a prized item – often selling for as much as £15,000! It is also worth remembering tat top hats have a code all of their own and are now made in a variety of materials – Beaver, Rabbit Hair, Felt and so on.
Paying attention to the height, shape and brim width of your top hat is incredibly important too, as they each signify the suitability for wearing at different occasions. For a example a 5 inch stack is suitable for most formal occasions whereas a 6 inch stack is more correct for morning wear occasions.
Our advice? If in doubt, play it simple with silk in a colour that matches your morning suit. Better yet, seek the advice of a good Hatter like Lock and Co. or Bates on Jermyn street before parting with you hard earned money.
Finally, your top hat etiquette is worth keeping in mind:
It should be removed when indoors at restaurants, in private boxes, and if you wish, you can remove it when watching the event from a terrace or balcony, or when you’re in a garden.
Dressing For The Queen Anne Enclosure
The rules are slightly less formal in the Queen Anne Enclosure, and with great access to the Grandstand as well as the surrounding lawns and restaurants, this is some place to enjoy Royal Ascot from.
Morning Dress isn’t essential here, as it is in The Royal Enclosure, but don’t be surprised if you encounter lots of people still dressing up to the full – it only happens once a year after all.
Here’s what you need to look the part:
- A two or three – piece suit in full length
- Suit colour is your choice, but jacket and trousers must match
- Ties are a must – no cravats or bow-ties
- No hat is necessary
- Leather shoes (Black not essential)
- Socks are essential
To sum it up simply, the Royal Enclosure look is very smart. The classic British Savile Row look is simply astounding in this environment.
However, you can still let loose a little and express yourself. Play around with the idea of a silk tie or dark brown shoes, perhaps choose a lighter coloured suit, or jazz it up a little with a double breasted jacket or waistcoat.
It might seem predictable that we’ll say this, but if you’ve got a ticket for the Queen Anne Enclosure, it’s the perfect time to reach out to your tailor for guidance. They’ll know exactly what looks great, what stands out just enough but not too far, and they’ll know what you should avoid.
Dressing For The Village Enclosure
The Village Enclosure has only been around since 2017, and it’s one of the most buzzing places to be. The dress code is much more relaxed here, and perfect for a more modern, sharp, but still expressive look. Here’s what you need:
- Jacket and full-length trousers
- Jacket and trousers can be separate colours and/or patterns
- Collared shirt
- Tie (no bow-ties or cravats)
- No trainers allowed
It’s best to keep the shoes quite smart here, but the rest you can have fun with. If you feel like wearing a sharp, formal three-piece, go right ahead. If you feel like embracing summer and donning a more relaxed jacket and separate look, feel free.
Check out our Jackets & Separates Style Guide for some more guidance on this one.
Dressing For The Windsor Enclosure
Previously known as The Silver Ring, the Windsor Enclosure makes a wonderfully pleasant, and more budget friendly location for watching the racing drama unfold. It may even have the best view of the track. As far as dress code goes here, you’re more or less free to do whatever you want, as long as it’s not fancy dress or a replica sports kit.
That said, just because you can abandon all the formalities, this is Royal Ascot. Why not live up the occasion a little?
We still recommend seeking out a beautifully tailored outfit, made to showcase your best features and personality. In fact, The Windsor Enclosure gives you a fabulous opportunity to really go all out. Perhaps a beautifully eye-catching patterned shirt, or a distinctive jacket lining? Maybe a beautiful tweed look in a lighter colour? Or perhaps a shorter trouser cut for summer? You’ve got freedom here, so make it work for you.
For some further guidance, check out our style guides:
And do remember, when it comes to luxury suit tailoring, the essential way to stand out and look amazing lies in the fundamentals – an expert eye, a complimentary cut and fit, and a beautiful cloth.
On that note, take a look at our Guide to Cloth Selection for Luxury Tailoring here.
We trust that this guide for dressing at Royal Ascot is helpful. A very important piece of advice is that you should make your preparations early, to allow you plenty of time to get everything right. Marc Oliver, as always, is here to help. Contact Us to arrange a consultation.