The Jockey Club has decided that it is going to drop its dress code with immediate effect. As a result, it means that formal dress will no longer be required by people attended events at any of its 15 racecourse, which means that the likes of the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National weekend will see people wearing things other than suits throughout the racecourses.
It is hoped that the move will make racing feel more ‘inclusive’ and ‘accessible’, removing the need for people to buy a new outfit before heading to the course.
Whilst replica sports shirts and anything that is deemed to be ‘offensive’ will still be banned, spectators will be told that they can turn to up to any of the 342 fixtures hosted by the Jockey Club wearing whatever makes them feel the most ‘comfortable and confident.’ That might well be a request that the Jockey Club regrets when people turn up in pyjamas and a dressing gown, but it is likely that most racegoers will respond positively to the move to make racing as a whole a less stuffy affair.
The only exception to the rule will be the Queen Elizabeth II Stand at Epsom on Derby Day.
What Is Happening
The Jockey Club is often criticised for being quite stuffy and traditionalist. Whilst it isn’t making huge changes to how it operates, the Jockey Club is looking to update its approach to the rules around formal clothing at all of its racecourse up and down the country.
In April of last year, two racegoers were refused entry to the most expensive enclosure at Sandown because they were were trainers, re-igniting the debate around the old-fashioned nature of the dress codes that are applied at racecourses in the United Kingdom.
The Jockey Club carried out a review of the race day experience that people were having. A big part of the feedback that they received was that enforcing a dress code was ‘outdated’ for the 21st century. The new rules will apply to all of the Jockey Club courses, which are as follows:
- Market Rasen
- Newmarket (Both Rowley Mile & July Course)
The biggest event that will be impacted by the changes in the immediate is the Cheltenham Festival, which is taking place in March and will see people able to wear what makes then feel comfortable rather than following any sort of strict dress code.
You Don’t Need To Dress Up For The Races Any More?
For many people, the news won’t necessarily be seen as something good. A lot of people actually like getting dressed up to go to the races, treating it as something special rather than just another day out. The good news is that those people don’t need to start panicking just yet. The fact that the Jockey Club has decided to relax the rules doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to head to a racecourse all dressed up, just that you don’t have to if you don’t want to. It is about presenting racegoers with a choice, rather than forcing them to do something that many don’t want to.
The Chief Executive of the Jockey Club, Nevin Truesdale, believes that removing the ‘expectation’ on people regarding what they should or shouldn’t wear will make the industry more ‘accessible and inclusive’. He said,
“Of course that doesn’t mean we are discouraging people from dressing up for a day at the races if they want to. This is about giving people a choice and the opportunity to come racing dressed however they feel most comfortable and confident, while also bearing in mind the challenges regularly presented by the British weather.”
He also pointed out that dress codes have been removed from a number of fixtures already this season. He said, “It is a common misconception that a day at the races has always required you to dress in a certain way, regardless of the fixture. In fact, even at really high-profile days like the Cheltenham Festival, that has simply not been the case and our only recommendation has been to dress appropriately for the weather.” The big problem, perhaps, has been that not everyone has known that prior to this announcement.
There will be scores of people who will be delighted at the news that they don’t necessarily need to don a suit or an expensive dress in order to be allowed into racecourses around the country. There will also be a lot of racegoers who will continue to get dolled up to the nines before heading to the races. It is difficult to imagine Ladies’ Day at Aintree being a day when the attendees choose to dress down, for example. Instead, it is likely that people will keep going all out for the big days of racing and it is the smaller meetings that will see more relaxed attire.
Does It Apply Everywhere?
If you’ve got tickets for a race meeting in the next few weeks or months, you might be wondering if this will completely change your outfit choice. The reality is that it depends where you’re going and when you’re heading there.
The biggest exception to the new rule is the Queen Elizabeth II Stand at Epsom Racecourse on the day of the Epsom Derby. That will need you to opt for either morning dress, including top hats for the men, or formal daywear. Of course, if you’re the sort of person that owns morning dress and a top hat, you probably weren’t planning to go in jeans and a t-shirt anyway.
The other key thing to bear in mind is that these rule changes only apply to the Jockey Club courses mentioned elsewhere in the article. Royal Ascot, as an example, is not owned and operated by the Jockey Club.
As things stand, no changes to the traditional attire required there have been announced. It will be interesting to note whether any other courses choose to follow the lead of the Jockey Club in trying to make horse racing more accessible to everyone, or whether they will hold onto the traditions that some feel have been holding the sport back.