Text and photograph by Jeremy Hackett
Royal Ascot is the penultimate occasion of the British summer season and it being the year of the platinum jubilee and the first year since the pandemic race goers arrived at Ascot in their droves.
“No Gentleman is to be found in London during Royal Ascot week”. The Royal enclosure car park overflows with prestige motors from Aston Martins to Rolls Royce’s and people unload huge picnics from Fortnum and Mason Hampers and it has been know for some families to bring their own butler. Apparently car park one is the poshest car park and the place to be seen(if a car park can ever be posh) and I have a feeling that once guests have settled down to their banquets they barely leave all day and who can blame them.
I was thrilled to have received an invitation to attend and as my invitation included a ticket to the Royal enclosure where morning dress is mandatory it gave me the perfect opportunity to dust down my morning coat and have my vintage silk top hat polished.
Applications to attend are sent months in advance in order to secure entrance. Back in 1901 it was a very different proposition and applications were vetted by Lord Churchill on behalf of his majesty the King.
It is said that Churchill would have three baskets to rate the requests, in this order 1. Certainly 2. Perhaps and 3. Certainly not welcome. Although racing at Ascot dates back to the reign of Queen Anne in 1711 it wasn’t until the early nineteenth century that a dress code was adopted inspired by the renowned dandy Beau Brummell who declared that the mode of dress be understated and perfectly tailored and the black morning coat became de rigour rejecting the over ornate costumes of the time.
Ascot has always enjoyed royal patronage but it wasn’t until 1911 that it was officially titled Royal Ascot.
People often say that the men all look the same and it is just a uniform but that is far from the truth because it is how you wear morning dress that marks you out from the crowd. What is important is the attention to detail; the coat should be neither too longor too short, the sleeve length should reveal only a small amount of cuff, the waistcoat should fit so as there is no gap between waistcoat and trousers and looks best in buff or dove grey and the striped trousers hang better with braces, certainly not belts, black Oxford shoes well polished and worn with black long socks in order not to make the terrible faux pas of a gap between shoes and trousers.
Unfortunately I saw many cases of badly dressed men some with no socks and others wearing tan shoes, I nearly choked on my champagne. I wonder if it’s time to bring in a Churchillian character to maintain the standard of dress?
It has just occurred to me that I have made no mention of the horse racing where the horses were definitely well turned out it’s because I spent most of my time taking snaps or chatting with friends over caviar, champagne and cigars with no time left to watch the racing.
I did manage to snap one racehorse but that was a bronze sculpture.