On the age-old question – what to wear to the races?

Working Style

Chris Dobbs is managing director of Working Style - New Zealand's premium destination for all things sartorially savvy. In four stores nationwide (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch) Working Style serves up the very best in made-to-measure suits and shirts, fine Italian and traditional English footwear, and everything in between. www.workingstyle.co.nz

Royal Ascot, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Grand National Ainsbury, Kentucky Derby, Melbourne Cup, New Zealand Cup and Auckland Cup Week... There's nothing like a good horse race to instill fear in the hearts of all men. Why fear? Because besides your wedding day, there's no situation where you're expected to scrub up quite as formally as at the races. But, unlike your wedding, with the races there's no guarantee you won't go home empty handed.

First things first, a traditional black business suit isn't really going to cut it. While you might not have to go as far out as the typical Ascot morning suit, you wouldn't want to wear anything less than a well-cut suit in a beautiful fabric and effervescent colour that ensures you look slick – not stuffy. For Working Style, this season’s key piece is the blue herringbone day suit. Dressed up or down it works for every occasion – races included. 

For those of us who like to play the game safe. Black single breasted with satin lapels is a striking modern classic. Wear with quality accessories to mix things up and lift your look for a day at the races. 

The devil's in the details when you're togging up for the horses. It's the little things that count. Match your tie to your pocket square. Your shoes to your belt. Your cufflinks to your tie bar. Your buttonhole carnation to your lady's dress. I like a spread collar shirt with a full Windsor knot, but there's nothing like a cravat on a more distinguished gentleman. Or be the butt of all your unfashionable friend's jokes and wear a bow tie. Binoculars are essential - both as a style accessory and to help you see what's going on - and if you're feeling particularly dandy take a walking stick along for the ride. Hats are optional but I like a panama. It's less formal than the traditional black top hat and has a bit of James Bond appeal. Waistcoats are also a welcomed addition. 

But most importantly, keep it light hearted. You’ll master the elusive art of looking effortless. 

My final tip is to wear your suit around for a bit before you leave the house. Break it in. Get used to it. You’ll be wearing it all day and for many, all night. There's nothing worse than a guy who looks uncomfortable in his get up. It's cliché as hell but it's the truth – wear the suit. Don't let it wear you.

And if all else fails, a brand new, crisp shirt is a cinch. My pick? A lovely new, double-cuff cotton shirt in a blue gingham print. A definite winner in the sartorial stakes on any race day. 

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