This Is Why People Wear Crazy Hats To The Derby
It began with The Royal Ascot, the most glamorous racing event known for over a hundred years. The races, which are held annually in West Berkshire, England, are as much about sport as they are about the pageantry and fashion. It's like going to SXSW but instead of dressing like a blind hippy (not that that's a bad thing), the patrons dress with as much class and elegance as they can possibly can.
14 June, 1933: An Ascott attendee wears an organza dress with hat and crochet gloves. Via Vogue
20 June, 2012. A racegoer poses for photographers at the Ascot Racecourse on day two of the event. Via Style Bistro
Here's the dress code for this year's Ascot races. They don't mess around.
Anyway, with all the decadence involved with the Royal Ascot, a link soon developed between horse racing and high fashion all over. The tradition jumped the pond from England to America and people attended the Inaugural Kentucky Derby over a hundred years ago decked out in elegant attire. As the hats faded from everyday fashion, the lavish nature of the hats worn to the derby increased, which makes sense; if Christmas were every day, the trees would be smaller. Same goes for the hat wearing. If you have a hat on now, you better be at a derby, or working on a power line.
According to eHow Style, the hats are believed to bring a little good luck. It's the horse racing version of growing a beard for baseball season (which is now, according to my sport-literate co-workers). For the Kentucky Derby, there are little rules and regulations--Ladies of grace in the paddock and club houses sport tasteful, fashionable styles. Ladies in the infield don hats that take on a "zanier character."
Speaking of character, the hats also function as a way for racegoers to express their personalities. Often, the decadent dress codes offer people the chance to flaunt their wealth, but the hats can be as over-the-top or as sublime as the wearer wants.
While the hat-wearing custom is a dominantly reserved for women, men and children have also arrived with their own cranial works of art:
You're never too old, or too, uh... man to play along. Here are some of the best hats I could find. I want to win the lottery and go to there.