Derby Attire: What To Wear

Find out what to wear to this iconic event with help from our professional clothiers.

By: Kim Keller, Clothier - Dallas, TX
February 5, 2024

The famous Derby at Churchill Downs is one of the most exciting events of the year. It is the perfect time to dress up, have a mint julep, and enjoy some horse racing. As the date of the Derby draws closer, it's high time you start preparing your outfit for this prominent event. Because the Derby isn't just about horse races; it's also a fashion spectacle. 


Derby attire is a blend of elegance, style, and tradition. Knowing the dress code is key to ensuring you're dressed suitably for the occasion. The derby day dress code for men can be a little complicated, but there are specific guidelines that you can follow to stand out stylishly. Keep reading to ensure you look sharp and feel confident during the event!


Get a Free Wardrobe Consultation

If you are wondering if our service is a good fit, our clothiers would be happy to talk with you and evaluate your current and future wardrobe needs.

We serve busy, successful professionals by meeting them in their homes or offices, on the go, or wherever Is convenient.

Understanding the Men's Dress Code

The Derby is renowned not only for its gripping horse races but also for its stylish attendees. Dressing appropriately for this esteemed event is essential, as it is a reflection of your style and your respect for tradition. While attending the Derby, adhering to the dress code, which is generally defined as smart casual or dressy attire, is crucial.

For men, a suit or sport coat in a light color is advised, paired with a dress shirt and tie. Furthermore, trousers and dress shoes are a necessity. Opt for light colors such as beige, light gray, or medium blue to stay cool under the sun, and be sure to break up the color palette with accessories, in line with the derby style. 

Accessories can enhance your Derby attire, adding an element of sophistication. A stylish hat, preferably a fedora or a wide-brimmed hat, is highly recommended. Moreover, a belt that complements your outfit and matches your shoes is a must-have. A pocket square in a vibrant pattern or a pastel-colored bow tie can instantly elevate your ensemble. Don't shy away from experimenting with unique patterns or textures, but always ensure they complement your suit and tie, and avoid flashy or excessive jewelry, as it can detract from the overall look.

Go Big and Bold on Colors and Patterns

When it comes to color options and patterns, the Derby is known for its vibrant and bold fashion statements. While traditional colors like pastels and floral prints are always popular, don't shy away from experimenting with bolder hues. Opt for rich jewel tones or even metallic shades to make a memorable impression. Stripes, polka dots, and intricate patterns can also add an interesting dimension to your outfit.

If you want to stand out, expertly mixing bold patterns and colors is a surefire way to get your style noticed. Pair a light dress shirt with a sport coat or blazer in a loud pattern like a bold checkered or plaid pattern. Avoid matching patterns, but you can opt for complementary shades like green plaid and pink to add colors. Go for a seersucker or our colorful Holland & Sherry South Pacific linen blend suits to stand out!


Another great way to make a fashion statement at the Derby is by wearing pink. This color has become a staple of derby style, and you won't regret adding a pop of pink to your attire. Wearing pink shows confidence, and adds an element of sophistication to your outfit. Incorporating a pink bow tie or necktie into your outfit is a subtle, fashionable way to stand out from the crowd.

What Not to Wear

When attending the Derby, it's critical to dress appropriately for the occasion. Let's address some common fashion faux pas to avoid. While bold patterns and colors are the way to go on derby day, there are certain things men should avoid. 

Steer clear of jeans, shorts, t-shirts, or athletic attire, as these are considered too casual for this event. Stick to dress shoes like loafers or lace-up oxfords and leave the sneakers behind, and don't forget to ensure that your shoes are polished to perfection. Also, ensure your clothes fit well – oversized or ill-fitting garments can detract from your overall appeal. Remember to dress in a manner that showcases your style while respecting the conventional dress code of the Derby.

Plan Ahead and Order Custom Clothes Now

At Tom James, we understand the importance of dressing appropriately for special occasions like the Derby. With our broad range of premium clothing options, including custom suits, shirts, and accessories, we can assist you in creating a standout look that complies with the dress code while reflecting your personal style.

It's always best to plan ahead and ensure you have the perfect attire so contact your Tom James clothier 8-12 weeks before the Derby to discuss and order your ensemble. Custom clothes are ideal for this festive event as you can incorporate your sense of style into your outfit and make sure you stand out in the crowd!

The Derby is an opportunity to show off your fashion style and it's important to dress to impress. The dress code for men on derby day can be nerve-wracking, but by following the guidelines mentioned above, you'll surely stand out stylishly. Don't forget to add a pop of pink, aim for bold patterns, avoid sneakers, and order Tom James custom clothes to ensure you have the most fabulous outfit. The Derby comes once a year, so now's the time to show your style – go bold and make it memorable!

Get Started Today!

Learn more about our product & services from a world-class clothier and see if a professional wardrobe service fits your lifestyle.

If we're a good fit, our clothier will meet with you in your home or office at your conveinience.

We use your zip code to align you with the nearest Tom James Clothier. We use your email and phone number to contact you and schedule your wardrobe consultation. See our Privacy Policy for details.


"I like Katie because she really understands my needs as a client. You can have a suit made, but I didn't want a boring suit. She had great ideas and thoughts about creating something that fit my personality. Not just throwing me a suit that everyone else has. Which is kind of what I dealt with earlier. So working with Katie was a real 'breath of fresh air' in that regard. And she has a delightful personality as well."

Custom Clothier Katie Harris

Katie Harris

Tom James of Columbus

"Daniel with Tom James provides an exceptional wardrobe that spans from casual to elegant. The fit and workmanship is extraordinary. Daniel goes the extra mile to satisfy his customers. He takes ownership of any problems that may arise. He is focused on achieving high customer satisfaction while at the same time delivering a product that is fairly priced. I expect that even the most discriminating client will be happy with the attention to detail Daniel provides."

Custom Clothier Daniel Wiebracht

Daniel Wiebracht

Tom James of East Texas
© 2024 Tom James Company
Tom James Company Logo

Please Select a Region

USA Great Britain Europe Australia Canada