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Why Hats Are So Popular In The Kentucky Derby?

Source: nationalgeographic.com

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world with a rich tradition that dates back hundreds of years. The Kentucky Derby started as a horse race for the elite, which means that the fashion element of the Derby was very important.

Man and women that attended the Derby wore elegant outfits with many elements and accessories that were specially designed for the race day.

Over the years, the Derby managed to hold on tight to this tradition and people attending horse races nowadays pay close attention to their fashion and style. When it comes to choosing an outfit for the Kentucky Derby, there are some things that you might want to pay close attention to.

Let’s will focus on the importance of hats in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, whose odds you can find on TwinSpires, and highlight a brief history of this fashion element that defines the Derby.

All About Kentucky Derby Event

Kentucky Derby is a horse race event annually held in Louisville. The lavish event takes place every 1st Saturday in May.

They celebrate the race more like a festival. Around a week or two is how long the event lasts. It starts with the opening at midnight followed by a fireworks show and many races other than the horse race and steamboat race. When attending the sports show, people take special note of the attires they wear. Most of them, women, get a chance to showcase their inner southern belle.

What differentiates the Derby event from any other horse race is not the world-class horses, spectacular races but the hats!. People from all over the world attend the show with their sublime to eyes soothing hats. There are no hard and fast rules when you are picking one.

But most people prefer over-the-top hats which have a showstopper look. Every person has an extraordinary eye-catching design.

In the seated section of the Derby Churchill, you see people with varied types of hats, different, stylish, elegant, wide-brimmed, ribboned. Each of which carries their personalities. This long-established tradition of wearing creative hats is almost as important as the event itself. They award the champion of the horse race with a blanket of around 400 roses sewed on it. Therefore, the name goes ‘Run for the roses’.

The History of Kentucky Derby Hats

Hats have always been an important fashion element in the Kentucky Derby that dates back to earl Derby celebrations and is drawn upon British and French racing traditions. Even though the Kentucky Derby is now one of the most popular horse races in the world, in the early days it was patterned after the Epson Derby and owes many of its traditions to its English predecessor.

It all comes down to Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., which was the man that helped to establish the Kentucky Derby and funded Churchill Downs. Before his incredible horse racing journey in the US, he and his wife, Mary, traveled to England and France and noticed that the attendants of such races are well-dressed.

Source: thehouseofmacgregor.com

They were impressed with the fashion of the horse races in Europe and decided to bring back that fashion to the US. This is where the tradition of the Kentucky Derby hats was born. One of the first Kentucky Derby races was reserved for the elite, which turned out to look flawless.

Additionally, Mary, rode around town dressed to the nines in an open carriage, just to sway others to attend the Derby.

Since then, the fashion traditions developed quite naturally, and once it was made clear that the Derby is a fashion statement, most people carefully nurtured this tradition.

Why Do People Wear Hats in the Kentucky Derby?

In Kentucky, Hats take the center of popularity for American Heartland Horse races. The ritual of running for the roses runs for around 2 minutes.

Crowds from all over the world attend the celebration with their elegantly suited Kentucky hats. The objective behind the attire is that women took pride in their hats, being southern belles. The hats are in short, the crowning glory of every woman attending the ritual.

The founder of the Churchill Downs, where the event takes place, has encouraged the people attending the festival to drape themselves with their finest outfits. It awakens the long-dead culture of wearing hats. They were one accessory that very women used for their formal attires. It has made the event unique and nostalgic for some.

They dress in their signature hats, hoping that it will act as their lucky charm. Reasons can be as small as their envy to attend royal weddings, television vanity, or simply because it is fun.

Importance of Hats In Horse Racing

Since big horse racing events like the Kentucky Derby have always been about fashion, making a statement on your appearance is a very important thing. Apart from the exciting race, the fashion at the Kentucky Derby also became a primary entertainment for the audience.

The Kentucky Derby lasts for two minutes, but the fun starts days before the main event when people turn up for the prep races and a few other carnival activities spiced up with the latest fashion.

In order to stand out on the race day, showing up with a unique hat is necessary. Additionally, hats can highlight your entire outfit and give you the ability to match color combinations.

Most Popular Kentucky Derby Hats

There are many different types of hats and choosing the right hat for your figure can apply the balance to your outfit.

Best Women’s Hats

The Boater Hat

Source: independent.ie

This is the most common type of hat that became synonymous with British social events, which means it is also popular for the Kentucky Derby since this race day holds many British traditions.


Source: vanityfair.com

This type of hat has a base that fastens onto the head with either clips or a comb. You can add different elements from flowers feathers and pearls to make it more interesting.

The Pillbox

Source: edition.cnn.com

A flat crown-shaped, straight and upright side is an interesting type of hat to wear.

Best Men’s Hats

The Fedora

Source: bon-clic-bon-genre.us

The most iconic men’s hat is traditionally worn on the Kentucky Derby with pinched sides and lengthways creases along the crown. It is a great hat that can highlight your entire outfit.

The Top Hat

Source: ft.com

The top hat is used to accompany the morning dress in The Queen’s Stand.


Source: ibzstore.com

This hat is a very similar shape to the Fedora but they are made from woven palm leaves or straw instead of felt.

Bottom Line

When you swirl through the internet looking for the Kentucky Derby, all you will find are the pictures of famous and beautiful hats people have worn on that day. People prepare all year to attend that one-in-the-year event.

Each person makes a difference with their look. A magnificent view of colors, like the return of old royal days entangled with modern fashion. Those sights are a never to miss one. Folks who could not make it to the show watch it online.

People often have questioned ‘What is in a hat’?. But as silly as it may look, it gives the feeling of mystery and excitement that no one can deny.