With the racing season under way, it's time for gentlemen to start planning what to wear to the races in 2024. Whether you're attending Ascot, Cheltenham or any other prestigious event on the racing calendar, choosing the right outfit is essential to making a stylish statement while adhering to the strict dress codes often enforced.

In this guide, we'll delve into the nuances of race day attire for men, from understanding the dress codes to selecting the right ensemble that strikes the perfect balance between sophistication and sartorial flair.

Understanding Race Day Etiquette

Before delving into the specifics of what to wear, it's crucial to grasp the dress codes typically associated with race day events in the UK. These dress codes not only reflect the traditional elegance of the sport but also ensure a sense of formality and sophistication among attendees. 

While specific requirements may vary depending on the event, the following are common guidelines:

Royal Ascot Dress Code

Royal Ascot, one of the most prestigious events in the racing calendar, upholds a strict dress code across its enclosures. For gentlemen attending the Royal Enclosure, morning dress is obligatory, featuring a black or grey morning coat, waistcoat and formal trousers. A top hat is also a customary accessory, though not mandatory in recent years. 

For the Village Enclosure, a suit jacket or blazer is a must, as is a collared shirt and tie. On your bottom half, you can choose between chinos or trousers. Note: socks must be worn and should cover the ankle.

Whilst there is no official dress code for the Windsor Enclosure, guests are encouraged to dress smartly. A navy or grey suit with a white shirt and black shoes is a great option.

Cheltenham Festival Dress Code

Cheltenham Festival, another prominent event, adopts a more relaxed approach to attire compared to Royal Ascot. While there is no formal dress code, smart attire is expected. A tailored suit, paired with a collared shirt and tie, is a popular choice among attendees. Hats or headpieces (for women) are often worn, especially on Ladies' Day.

General Race Day Dress Code

For other racecourses across the UK, the dress code typically leans towards smart-casual or formal attire. While morning dress may not be obligatory, a suit or blazer paired with tailored trousers is recommended. Collared shirts and ties are often required, and while hats are not mandatory, they can add a touch of sophistication to the ensemble.

Essential Pieces for Race Day

Now that we've established the general guidelines for race day attire, let's explore the essential pieces every man should consider incorporating into his outfit:


tailored suit forms the foundation of any race day ensemble. Opt for classic colours such as navy, charcoal or grey and ensure the suit fits correctly.


Choose a crisp, tailored shirt in a light or pastel shade to complement your suit. White and light blue are classic choices that pair effortlessly with most suit colours. Ensure the shirt is well-ironed and fits comfortably without any bulges or wrinkles.


A silk tie adds a dash of sophistication to your look and serves as a focal point for your outfit. Opt for patterns such as stripes, polka dots or classic paisley designs in coordinating colours that complement your suit and shirt. Ensure the tie is neatly knotted and reaches just above the waistband of your trousers.

Pocket Square

pocket square is a subtle yet impactful accessory that adds a pop of colour and personality to your ensemble. Choose a silk or linen pocket square in a complementary colour or pattern to your tie, and fold it neatly into your jacket pocket. Experiment with various folds, such as the classic presidential fold or the puff fold, to find a style that suits you.


Complete your race day look with a pair of polished leather shoes in black or brown. Oxfords or brogues are excellent choices that exude sophistication and timeless style. Don’t forget to make sure your shoes are clean and well-maintained, as scuffed or dirty footwear can detract from an otherwise impeccable outfit.

The Best Accessories for Race Day

In addition to the essential pieces mentioned above, accessorising plays a crucial role in elevating your race day ensemble to new heights. Consider the following accessories to add a touch of finesse to your look:


A classic timepiece adds some refinement to your wrist and serves as a practical accessory for keeping track of race times. Opt for a dress watch with a leather or metal strap that complements your overall attire.


Cufflinks are small yet impactful details that are essential for double cuff shirts. Choose cufflinks in metal or enamel finishes with subtle designs or motifs that reflect your personal style.

Lapel Pin

lapel pin adds a touch of flair to your jacket lapel and serves as a conversation starter. Opt for a tasteful lapel pin in a complementary colour or design that adds visual interest to your ensemble without overpowering it.


Ensure your belt coordinates seamlessly with your shoes in terms of colour and finish. Choose a classic leather belt with a simple buckle that complements the overall sophistication of your outfit.


Don’t overlook the importance of socks in completing your race day look. Select socks in a coordinating colour or pattern that adds a dash of personality to your outfit while ensuring comfort and practicality.

What to Wear to the Races FAQs

Can I wear a three-piece suit to the races?

Absolutely. A three-piece suit adds an extra layer of sophistication to your ensemble and is perfectly appropriate for race day events, especially those with stricter dress codes like Royal Ascot.

Are bow ties acceptable for race day attire?

Bow ties are indeed acceptable and can add a touch of whimsy and charm to your outfit. Opt for a classic silk bow tie in a colour or pattern that complements your suit and shirt.

Can I wear a waistcoat without a jacket to the races?

While wearing a waistcoat without a jacket is generally considered less formal, it can still be a stylish choice for race day attire, particularly for events with more relaxed dress codes. Ensure the waistcoat fits well and coordinates harmoniously with the rest of your outfit.

Are there any restrictions on footwear for race day events?

While there are no strict restrictions on footwear, it's essential to choose shoes that are polished, well-maintained, and appropriate for the occasion. You should definitely avoid overly casual styles such as trainers or sandals, opting instead for polished leather shoes in classic styles like Oxfords or brogues.

Final Word

Know what to wear to the races is all about striking the right balance between tradition and personal style. By adhering to the dress codes while infusing your ensemble with essential pieces and thoughtful accessories, you can exude sophistication and charm at any race day event. 

Whether you're attending Royal Ascot, Cheltenham Festival or a local racecourse, let your outfit reflect your sartorial finesse and appreciation for the timeless elegance of the sport. So, suit up, accessorise with flair and prepare to make a stylish statement at the races.