Going to the racetrack — for horses or cars — is a day-long outing, so dressing comfortably and making sure you have everything you need for the whole day is key. In some cases, such as the opening of the Grand Prix or the Kentucky Derby, the event is a special occasion that requires fancier dress. Some racetracks enforce a strict dress code, while others allow you to wear street clothes, so long as you stay in the common areas.
Weather and Comfort
Races take place out of doors, where there is often little to no overhead coverage. Because you’ll be moving from indoors to outdoors frequently — for example, from the dining area to the track — dress for a mix of environments. Bring along a jacket, sweater or shawl in case the weather turns chilly or the air conditioning is set on high. In cases of inclement weather, bring along a raincoat or an umbrella.
Accessories and Shoes
To protect yourself from the bright summer sun, wear a hat or sunglasses. Check that all types of hats are allowed — some tracks may not allow for baseball caps or sun visors. Bringing along a small purse or handbag to hold a variety of items including sunscreen, keys, wallet, your phone and a track program. While heeled shoes add elegance and flair to an outfit, you’re better off wearing shoes you can comfortably walk and stand in for several hours at a time. Wearing closed-toed shoes keeps your feet protected from possible debris and dirt, as well as ensuring you meet any track dress codes.
Racetracks commonly advise a smart casual dress code for the general public. Examples include nice jeans or slacks with a dress shirt or polo shirt for men or women. Women can also wear sleeveless blouses or summer dresses. Banned items can include torn jeans, rugby shirts, jogging suits, beach wear and bare chests; all people must wear a shirt. Higher-end racetracks are more specific, and often ban sweatshirts, t-shirts and athletic shoes.
Location and Occasion
For special occasions, such as a top-tier race like the Kentucky Derby, a fancier dress code may be enforced. Certain sections of some race tracks have more specific dress codes — the more exclusive the section, the fancier the dress code. For instance, certain dining areas at the Saratoga Springs Racetrack in New York expects business casual or cocktail wear, meaning dress pants and a polo shirt for men and a modest summer dress for women. The garage area at a NASCAR event, where the drivers and cars congregate, requires smart casual attire; in a relaxing of the dress code, shorts, dresses, blouses and open-toed shoes are now allowed.
References and ResourcesSaratogaracetrack.com: Frequently Asked Questions
Woodbine: Rules and Courtesies
Saratoga.com: Dress Codes
Grand Prix Experiences: About Us - General FAQ
Jayski: NASCAR Corporate and Rules News Main Page