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Equestrian Events

The Grand National: Etiquette and Style Guide

Last Updated on July 4, 2020 by Rachel Thomson

 

The Grand National is a celebration of jump racing at its finest level. The steeplechase racecourse at Aintree is renowned around the world as both a test of endurance and speed. Grand National winners and their jockeys become overnight sensations, applauded for their talent and recognised by their names. Red Rum, of course, will always be a star in the Grand National’s history.

Discover what makes the Grand National such a cherished event in this guide, as well as our etiquette and style tips for women and men.

 

THE HOME OF RACING LEGENDS

The Grand National at Aintree racecourse is the most valuable jump race in Europe and is often referred to as the greatest steeplechase in the world. It attracts the best talent in horse racing with total prize money of £1 million and several Grade 1 races; the highest ranked jump races that require the most skill. The annual three day event is a four and a half mile hurdle race, where horses complete almost two circuits of the racetrack, jump 30 fences and have a final 494 yard sprint to the finish. 

The first Grand National took place in February 1839 at Aintree, when it was known as the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase. Since then the Grand National has created horse racing legends and household names from the horses, riders and trainers that have shone and fallen at this famous event. Red Rum remains the only horse to have won three Grand Nationals, winning in 1973, 1974 and 1977, a record that is unbroken today.

The last day of the meet is Grand National Day which is regarded as the most iconic handicapped horse racing event in the world. Watched by over 600 million people on television, this is the event that everyone talks about and the betting stakes are high.

WHEN IS THE GRAND NATIONAL?

The three day Grand National is held annually in April. The 2020 Grand National will be held from the 2nd to 4th April.

 

ETIQUETTE AT THE GRAND NATIONAL

Press coverage of Grand National racegoers and what they are wearing often exceeds coverage of the actual racing. Here are our top tips for you to make the most of the electric atmosphere at the event: 

Dress the part

Take a look at our guide on what to wear to the Grand National before you attend. Preparing your outfit well in advance will give you time to enjoy the anticipation and lead up to the event, rather than rushing around the shops at the last minute. A day at the races is a special occasion and you should dress smartly. 

Capture the memories

It is so easy to capture fantastic memories with your companions and photograph your fun with mobile phones. Take some great photos but do not go too selfie mad. You will be able to take in the thrilling atmosphere best, if you put your phone away for a time. 

Moderate your reactions if you lose or win

We all want to have a little flutter when we go to the races, but never bet on more than you can afford to lose. Also, do not excessively react if you lose or win – sulking or bragging is unbecoming and may risk friendships in the process. We all want to win big, but if those around you are not on a winning streak, do not sore their wounds further by boasting about your success. 

Picnics are not allowed

Bear in mind that picnics are not permitted at the Grand National. However, there are a wide selection of food and drink outlets at Aintree and if you fancy a treat, head to the Moet et Chandon Champagne Bar.

GRAND NATIONAL DRESS CODE

There is no official dress code set by the organisers for the Grand National, however it is recommended that you dress smart for the occasion. As this event occurs in April, the weather can be mixed, so be prepared to watch the forecast and alter your outfit accordingly. No one looks good in photos when they are freezing cold or wet!

Sports clothes and fancy dress are not permitted at the Grand National. 

Ladies style guide for the Grand National

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The Grand National gives you the excuse you need to dress up. Aintree racecourse recommends you follow their ‘style code’ which encourages you to dress to impress and show off your personality through what you wear. You can express your personality through your accessories as well, with an elaborate headpiece, statement necklace or standout shoes. 

However, if bold garments or colours are not your thing, do not worry. Wear elegant clothes that suit you and make you feel confident. The Grand National ‘style code’ is inspired by Coco Chanel’s famous quote: “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman”.  

Formal dresses, separates or jumpsuits are all popular choices at the Grand National. Whatever you choose, it looks more refined if you do not show too much skin and choose your skirt length and material wisely. You will not want to sit down and find your skirt rides up too high. 

Complete your outfit with a stylish blazer which will also keep the chill off your arms on cooler days. 

Make strides in comfortable heels

Block heels and low kitten heels work well for the Grand National, giving you added height and the illusion of longer legs, without the pain of wearing skyscraper heels. Avoid stilettos as you will be on your feet for several hours. It is also a good idea to wear your shoes in before the event to check they will not give you blisters. 

All about the hat

Hats are optional, but we think the Grand National offers the perfect opportunity to wear fabulous headwear that complements your outfit, especially on Ladies’ Day. Every year ladies wear a selection of hats from the bold and extravagant, to the more demure pillbox hats in subdued colours. The hat you choose depends on your taste and what will go well with the rest of your attire. 

Consider how wearable your hat is for comfort, as you should try not to remove it during the day as this will mess up your hair. Too much veiling at the front and it becomes difficult to eat and drink. A low brim can also obstruct your view, not good when you are trying to watch the excitement on the racetrack unfold. 

Ladies’ Day Dress Code at the Grand National

Ladies’ Day is held on the second day of the festival and there are fantastic prizes to be won in the Style Award competition. It is not just for ladies either – men and women are encouraged to enter. Just make sure you dress up and showcase your best race day outfit. 

There is no theme to the fashion for the day, however adding a fabulous headpiece or hat will make sure you are dressed for the occasion. Dress colours that work well for the races are brights, pastels, and neutrals such as cream. Leave your little black dress at home as the Grand National gives you a chance to experiment with colour and wear lighter shades. 

If you are a gentleman dressing for the style competition, think about updating classic tailoring with a pair of dapper two-toned shoes or adding colour to your style.

Menswear for the Grand National

There may be no official dress code for the Grand National, but do not depart from dressing smartly as a day at the races is an occasion itself. 

A timeless suit and tie

A suit and tie with a matching jacket and trousers will always look smart. Some will even wear a top hat and tails to the Grand National. The formality of your tailoring depends on your personal preference. If a full suit is not for you, always wear a jacket and tie with your trousers. 

A quality tailored blazer over a tailored shirt will ensure you look the part and give you long-lasting wear for several occasions throughout the year. When choosing a blazer, ensure the shoulder points match where the tip of your shoulders end, neither pulling too tight nor falling below the shoulder. If the forecast for the Grand National is looking bleak, a tailored tweed jacket is always a smart option that will offer you warmth. 

A tie or cravat instantly elevates a gentleman’s outfit from smart-casual to smart. Choose a contrasting coloured tie to your jacket and coordinate with a matching pocket square. 

Dapper loafers

A smart well-made loafer is a modern alternative to the traditional brogue or lace-up shoe. As the Grand National gives you more freedom with what to wear, you can opt for a style of shoe that is more contemporary than a classic lace-up. It is a good idea to treat yourself to an alternative smart shoe, rather than wearing the same shoes that you may wear to work every day with a suit. 

Wear only the smartest loafers to keep your look from going too casual, and no driving or deck shoes. Loake expertly crafts some of the finest footwear for men and has slip-on loafers in several styles. Try Loake’s Nottingham Shoes in leather or suede or their Eton Loafers. These loafers are made to a quality construction and feature Goodyear welted leather soles, meaning you can get a lifetime of wear from your shoes if cared for well. 

Trainers of any type are a definite no-no and do not complement dapper clothing.

Gentlemen’s accessories

The art of dressing well as a gentleman means considering the smaller details that can complement your outfit. In addition to a tie, accessories to consider include a stylish watch, cufflinks, and an umbrella to keep the British showers off you. Cufflinks are a marker of refined style for formal wear and are another way for you to express your personality in your outfit. You can choose from a wide selection of cufflinks online at A Hume, including brands Murray Ward, and Deakin and Francis

 

*Sources referred to for the creation of this document.

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