There’s no arguing with the fact that a dress code creates a sense of occasion, and with so few opportunities remaining, embrace the last few. Ascot doesn’t easily allow the release of your inner dandy – you don’t want to frighten the horses, or the royals – but a bit of thought and creativity goes a long way.
In many cases a strict dress code is now outdated. As we have seen the departure of hat-wearing from our society, so too have we seen the arrival of a more fluid approach to dressing. Royal Ascot and the Henley Regatta, however, remain occasions on which stringent rules must be observed. 2012 has even seen a tightening of policy for Ascot, after whisperings last year that many guests were unsuitable or insubstantially dressed. The new rules are intended to clear up any “misunderstanding of what constitutes appropriate attire for this formal occasion”.
That means no to jeans, shorts, and sportswear. For admittance to the royal enclosure this year, you are required to wear either black or grey morning dress with a waistcoat and tie – not a cravat – a black or grey top hat, and black shoes.
You’re permitted to remove your top hat within a restaurant, private box, private club, or on a terrace, a balcony, or in a garden. Hats may also be removed within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden. Don’t entertain the thought of customising your top hat in any way with unorthodox ribbons or bands, unless you want to land yourself in hot water.
Regarding overseas visitors, national dress may of course be worn. We wonder if this permits Frenchmen in Breton tops…?
If you’re attending the Henley Regatta this year, you should don a lounge suit, a jacket and flannels, or a rowing blazer if you belong to a club, with a tie or cravat. No dress code applies in the Regatta Enclosure, although many people still choose to dress up.
So, a celebration of the classics is in order. Cut and fabric, as ever, are of paramount importance. If you’re thinking of dusting off the suit you last wore to your second cousin’s nephew’s wedding in 1992, think again. Consider the details – colour of sock or pocket square, style of cufflinks or watch. And enjoy yourself.
Words by N. A. David