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What Should A Gentleman Wear To Royal Ascot?

The top hat, as we recognise it today, originates from the last decade of the 18th Century. Whilst young men, fresh from their rite of passage – the Grand Tour – were starting to bring some Southern European flair to the British dress code, it was a London haberdasher (who wasn't the actual inventor) named John Hetherington who hit the news in January 1797 with this new style. Indeed, so shocking was his tall silk covered creation, he was apprehended for causing a public order disturbance.

This Top Hat creation was actually an adaptation of a riding hat, with a taller crown and wider brim, but this tweak on an accepted style merely aided its ultimate acceptance as an everyday form of head-wear.

In 1823 the fashion was given a useful innovation by the Frenchman Antoine Gibus – who created the collapsible topper – which proved rather useful in crowded opera houses. It was our Prince Albert however who, in 1850, truly established the style in the British Wardrobe – wearing it rather dashingly in public. Indeed one of Christys’ ‘Prince Albert’ toppers is on display at the V&A museum in London and through this royal endorsement, the Top Hat became the conventional head-wear of the British Gentleman.

From city to country you wouldn't be seen in anything else (apart from a bowler hat maybe!). Its fortunes may have waxed and waned ever since, but the Top Hat more than any other hat style in the world, retains pride of place as the epitome of masculine formal style.

Royal Ascot Selection

Ascot is a racecourse for horses in the town of Ascot in Berkshire, England. The most famous horse race that takes place there is undoubtedly Royal Ascot. Founded by Queen Anne, the inaugural Royal Ascot horse race took place on 11th August 1711. Races took place year over year without interruption, with the exception of one year. Beginning in 2004, the racecourse underwent major renovation and so the race did not take place then.

Every year, Royal Ascot is attended by the Royal family, especially by the Queen. This event is so important to Her – she’s an ardent horse lover – that when the event collided with the Swedish Royal wedding in 2010, she sent Prince Edward and his wife Sophie to Sweden, while the remaining members of the Royal Family attended Ascot. Initially, Queen Anne came to the racecourse in a horse carriage from Windsor Castle and to this day, the Royal family and other VIPs arrive in that manner.

Apart from the horse racing, fashion plays an important role at Royal Ascot. To uphold the dress code, a group of men and women are designated to enforce the rules. Men who forget a tie will have to get one at the entrance and women in immodest attire, such as sleeveless dresses, may obtain a scarf but otherwise entrance is not admitted. In terms of formal daywear, it is probably the event worldwide that gathers the most men in morning coats and top hats, which is owed to the strict dress code.

What Does A Gentleman Wear?

In regards to the dress code at Royal Ascot, there are three tiers of tickets: Royal Enclosure, Queen Anne Enclosure (formerly Grandstand) and Windsor Enclosure (formerly Silver Ring). While the first two have a specific dress code, the Windsor Enclosure attendees are simply encouraged to wear smart clothes without having a specific dress code, although replica sports shirts are not permitted.

The Royal Enclosure

The Royal Enclosure is certainly the most prestigious and exclusive affair. Although attendees will sit in the same area of the Queen and the Royal Family, the area is huge, so you certainly won’t be seated next to Prince Charles. Gaining admittance to the Royal Enclosure requires an application to the Royal Enclosure office and the endorsement of a member who has attended the Royal Enclosure for at least four years.

There is a very strict dress code in the Royal Enclosure for gentleman and are required to wear:


Overseas visitors are welcome to wear the formal national dress of their country or service dress and serving military personnel are welcome to wear service dress or equivalent. Boys aged 10-17 should either dress in accordance with the gentlemen’s dress code or wear a dark coloured lounge suit with a shirt.

Queen Anne Enclosure

The dress code for this enclosure is a little more relaxed for gentlemen, however they are required to wear a suit with a shirt and a tie. Boys aged 13-16 should wear a suit or jacket with a shirt and tie and boys aged 12 are not required to wear a tie, but should be dress smartly. Whilst Ascot encourage racegoers to wear smart clothes, no formal dress code applies in this enclosure, although replica sports shirts are not permitted.

Windsor Enclosure

Whilst Ascot encourage racegoers to wear smart clothes, no formal dress code applies in this enclosure, although replica sports shirts are not permitted.

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