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Mar, 26 2024

What To Wear to the Kentucky Derby: Outfit Guide

close up image of a Generation Tux Slate Blue suit with Champagne accessories

The Kentucky Derby is the oldest consecutively held thoroughbred horse race in the United States. It’s one of the most prestigious events of its kind, watched and attended by hundreds of thousands annually on each first Saturday in May.

The race is steeped in a rich 150-year history that’s teeming with traditions, not least of which include sipping mint juleps and singing “My Old Kentucky Home.” Equally significant is Derby fashion. Attendees exude Southern charm with a mix of creativity and self-expression that enlivens the infield at Churchill Downs.

The occasion presents the perfect opportunity to dress up and be seen. But what’s the ideal Derby Day ensemble? Is there a dress code that race-goers must abide by? And, what’s the best way to get a well-fitting suit?

Read on for these answers and more.

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Kentucky Derby Fashion: Is There a Dress Code for Derby Day?

While there are no rigid clothing requirements for attending the Kentucky Derby — meaning you won’t be turned away for not wearing a hat or pastel suit jacket, for example — guests are encouraged to wear upscale attire. That means that, no matter where you’re sitting, you’ll see many attendees dressed to the nines.

And just because Derby hats aren’t required, wearing funky and fashionable headwear to the race is a tradition in and of itself, and something you can have fun experimenting with when building your perfect outfit.

Image of groom wearing a Generation Tux Sharkskin suit

Top Considerations When Dressing for Race Day


On Derby Day, the race runs rain or shine. If the weather forecast calls for cloudy skies, bring a piece of water-repellent outerwear to protect your vesture.

Classic and Traditional Styles

The Kentucky Derby has a classic and traditional ambiance. With that in mind, stick to timeless styles such as two- or three-piece suits. A well-fitted and classic suit design in a light color like beige, light blue, or gray is often a good choice that balances the event’s formal roots with modern style.

Image of groom wearing a Generation Tux Postman Blue suit

Seasonal Style

Beyond being held in the springtime, the Kentucky Derby takes place during daytime hours (gates open at 8 am). To satisfy both of these factors, a lighter-colored suit is your best option for Derby Day, as lighter shades don’t absorb as much heat compared to darker options and are more appropriate for the time of year.

Personal Style

Attendees shouldn’t view the event’s dress code as an attack on their personal style. There are plenty of clothing combinations to work with while operating within expectations to help build an outfit that’s both elegant and totally you.

Ultimately, you’ll want to choose a Derby outfit that reflects your aesthetic while still adhering to the traditional atmosphere that’s emblematic of the Run for the Roses. To achieve that, reach for colors that stand out to you and accessories you love.

 image of groom wearing a Generation Tux Slate Blue suit with coral accessories

Dressing for the Occasion: From Shirting to Suiting to Shoes and More

From the suit jacket down to the socks and shoes, there are plenty of ways to create a look that’s unique to you while balancing historic Derby Day traditions.

Suiting Options

Bright colors are the unofficial dress code for Derby Day, so you can’t go wrong with a suit in Postman Blue, Mystic Blue, or a classic Bright Blue.

Or if you wish to stick with a neutral base, opt for the British Tan Suit or something gray, such as a Gray Sharkskin Suit, Cement Gray Suit or Gray Plaid Suit. Something versatile like a Slate Blue Suit can serve as a solid foundation that accessories take to the next level.

Looking for the perfect outfit? Browse our catalog.


Derby Day is the optimal time to take your color choices to the next level. While you can't go wrong with a white shirt, don’t be afraid to reach for something a little more lively. Try Pink Tickweave, Blue Honeycomb or Purple Microcheck to embody the unofficial pastel pledge that many event-goers abide by.

If you’re feeling something even bolder, choose from classic patterns such as Gingham or Windowpane Plaid. These timeless designs pair well with lots of different suit colors.

Image of groom wearing a Generation Tux Sharkskin suit with lilac accessories

Neckties and Bowties

Skipping the tie or bowtie is perfectly acceptable at the Derby since they aren’t required. If you prefer a more casual look, there’s no foul if you don’t reach for a tie.

That said, ties can add a touch of personality and pizazz to your Derby Day ‘fit, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Many attendees choose to wear a long necktie, but we think a bowtie gives off a debonaire vibe. And it doesn’t have to look overly formal, either — especially if you select something in a cheerful color or pattern.


A belt, suspenders, cufflinks, a pocket square, lapel pins — you name it, you can wear it on Derby Day. Accessorizing helps add more visual appeal to your outfit, so don’t be afraid to get funky with fun pocket square colors and patterns, a belt that matches your shoes or a fun lapel pin that reflects your personality.


Sure, the Derby is a sunny outdoor event, but we don’t recommend open-toed shoes like sandals or flip-flops. A pair of dress shoes or loafers is the perfect complement to any suit, and there are lots of different styles that can be dressed up or down with ease.

Image of man tying his Generation Tux Brown Dress shoes

And let’s not forget about socks. If you’re conservative with your style and prefer a more neutral suit, try brightly colored socks or a pair in a fun pattern. This is an easy way to embrace the fun element of getting dressed up for the Derby while further personalizing your look.


While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, fun hats are to be expected on Derby Day. The Run for the Roses provides the perfect opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Whether you choose a bowler hat, boat hat, or fedora, don’t shy away from topping off your look. Just remember to keep it classy with the material by opting for something made of wool or cotton and avoiding less formal options such as straw.

Image of groom wearing a Generation Tux Slate Blue suit with a tan hat

Going with a date? Try matching your accessory colors to your date's Derby Day fascinator or hat for an elegant, cohesive look.

Get the Perfect Derby Day Outfit Delivered Right to Your Door

Find your perfect Derby Day look with our expertly crafted suits, delivered right to your door. Unsure about sizes? Our fit algorithm, developed with 40 years of suiting expertise, guarantees the right fit — every time.

Before you hoof your way over to Churchill Downs this year, get inspired and confidently select your Derby Day attire with free color swatches and an award-winning customer service team ready to assist you.

With countless combinations we help you build the perfect look

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