kentucky derby

Late in the summer, thoroughbred horse racing comes to one of the most beautiful racetracks in the country, Saratoga Race Course.  Located in upstate New York in the charming city of Saratoga Springs, the Saratoga Race Course hosts racing from late July to early September.  The two biggest races of the summer are the Whitney Handicap that kicks off the summer racing season, and the Travers Stakes, which wraps it up (with the Travers Stakes being the bigger of the two).

Fashion at the track always includes a hat

If you are planning to go to the big races this summer, you’re probably wondering what you should wear.  Just like many other horse races, where you sit dictates how you should dress.  Although Saratoga Springs has a “new and more fan-friendly dress code”, one thing is for sure, a hat is a must for the ladies (it’s a horse race after all, so that should be a given).  Whether you are going for function (protection from the sun) or fashion (photographed by the media), here are some tips on buying the perfect hat for the big races at Saratoga Springs this summer.

saratoga hat

Fashionable or Functional

Depending on where you sit, your hat can range from informal and functional to dressy and fashionable.   You don’t want to show up in a cheap sun hat in the box seats; that’s way too low brow for this crowd. You also don’t want to be the only person in the grandstand with an abnormally large hat adorned with feathers and flowers.  You’ll stick out like a sore thumb for sure, miss fancy pants. The good news is, it’s pretty clear as to whether you should amp up the fashion or settle for function when it comes to choosing your hat for the big races at Saratoga.

A fashionable hat for box seats

The most formal seating area at Saratoga is going to be the Box Seats.  Here, the men are required to wear a suit or sports jacket, and although there is no official dress code for women listed in their new policy, they do ask that the ladies wear dresses, skirts or a pants suit.  This is going to be the seating area where you’ll want to wear your most fashionable hat to match your fancy outfit.

When shopping for a fashionable hat for Saratoga, something to keep in mind is that the fashion is considered elegant.  So, save the big, over-the-top, over-done gaudy hat for the Kentucky Derby where it will be appreciated and adored.  Instead, you will want to opt for classy and conservative headwear.

A great place to find the perfect hat for the Saratoga races is Samuel’s Hats.  Samuel’s Hats is an online hat shop carrying designer hats, including Nigel Rayment, Arturo Rios and Annabella.  Samuel’s Hats specializes in the more elegant, classy styles that are perfect for the box seats at the big Saratoga races.  Best of all, during the summer months, most of their hats go on sale, so you can pick up a quality hat at a more reasonable price than what most milliners charge.

samuels hats

I purchased 2 hats from Samuel’s Hats over the past two years for my more conservative look at the track. The hats were high quality, and I’ve already worn them multiple times and even traveled overseas with one. They’ve held up beautifully.

The functional hat for everywhere else

saratoga samuels hats

Wearing a hat to the track on a hot sunny summer day is more than a fashion statement. Protection from the sun and avoiding frizzy, flattened, humidified hair are two big reasons to sport a chapeau if you are not sitting in a fashion zone.  You can’t go wrong with a fedora or panama hat or a casual wide-brimmed straw hat.  If you want to dress it up a bit, add a pretty flower to the side to match your outfit.

Did you wear a hat to the Whitney Handicap or Travers Stakes?  Do you have a favorite hat shop?  If so, please share (and email pics) in the comments below along with your fashion tips and/or recommendations!