Do you love to drag your man (willingly or not) along to the races, but don’t know how to dress him up to look as suave as you do? Or are you a man looking to enter Fashions on the Field?
Well, I’d like to say you’ve come to the right person, but you haven’t. I’m more than happy to admit that when it comes to men’s racing fashion, I’m no expert. But luckily, I know someone who is.
With over 15 sashes under his belt (or more like over his stylish checkered jackets), Neil Carpenter is my go-to man for all things men’s race wear fashion.
Neil attends around ten races a year and if you’ve ever seen him you will agree he gets his outfits spot on every time. Neil is always up to date with current fashion trends and accessorises each outfit with the right amount of pizzazz and seamless style.
I’ve asked Neil to answer ten questions on how men should dress for the races and his top tips for entering Fashions on the Field…
What are the basic rules for men dressing for the races?
Whatever the setting (work, socializing, gym etc.), I always try to apply one basic principle in terms of how I dress myself – never exceed more than 3 colours (or tones) in an outfit.
As a ‘relatively newbie’ to fashions on the field (FOTF), my ‘three colour rule’ is a principle that I have taken trackside. I often find that sticking to three colours (both clothing as well as obligatory accessories) ties an outfit together succinctly.
I’m not sure whether it’s my English heritage but I personally do prefer full suits. I appreciate that it can be stifling hot, however in the context of entering a FOTF competition I am a firm believer in short term pain may precipitate long term gain, by virtue of some amazing prizes.
Again reverting back to my English heritage and having a predilection to “whinge”, if I can get through the basking heat in Dubai in a morning coattail and a top hat, I am pretty sure other gents can also do the same.
What are some style guidelines to abide by?
If I flick through some of my FOTF photos, I can guarantee the colour of my socks will pick up the same colour either in my tie or hat. I like to ‘book-end’ (head to toe) my attire with very similar colours in the hope that my look is compact.
Regardless of how conservative or creative, one is you can always be playful with the colour and pattern of socks. Personally, I swear by Happy Socks, they have an impressive ever growing range.
Whilst I would recommend ‘matchy- matchy’ to some degree, my personal preference is not to have the same print adorning both the tie and pocket-chief.
Now admittedly he does have a menswear accessories business but Brock Cross (@brockcross), another male FOTF competitor, does this very well by using complimentary colours and patterns in the tie and pocket-chief. His website brockalexander.com.au has a series of tie/pocketchief combinations that you wouldn’t necessarily think to put together but certainly work.
Is a hat necessary?
In my opinion, yes it is necessary. Wearing a hat on a race day is an important tradition and is nowadays a unique occasion to do so. For me, it finishes off the suit and can really help bring an outfit together.
That said, at the end of the day you need to be comfortable in what you are wearing and recently I have seen some super stylish gents without a hat. But again, for me, a hat just adds that extra dimension to a look.
What are the best places to buy men’s fashion?
My suit collection is extremely varied and growing at an alarming rate. The vast majority of my suits are custom made from Peppers Cremorne, however other suits in my wardrobe are at very differing ends of the ‘price spectrum’.
Some I have stumbled across in op shops whilst others are from designers. I have never been a brand person or wedded to one brand per se, my mantra has been “if I like it, I’ll buy it”. Moreover, you can really get some amazing suits (vintage/non-vintage) in op shops and with some tailoring you have yourself a very affordable edgy suit. Late last year, I bought a suit in Vinnies size 46 waist, with some shredding of fabric it now fits perfectly.
Religiously, my shoes are always from Aquila, however I have recently discovered Brando Shoes. They have some amazing styles and designs and particularly during their sale period you can pick up some awesome styles at a pretty good price.
It is no hidden secret (you need not only look at some of my FOTF photos) to realise my favourite hat is a bright felt red piece made by the very talented Nerida Winter (this was a prize I won at my first FOTF in April 2017).
Strand Hatters also has a wide collection of hats ranging from caps, boaters, panama’s and top hats.
Also a lot of clothing and accessories I find simply walking around various cities and shops. For example, I discovered my grey top hat whilst running the Berlin Marathon – the negative is that I couldn’t remember where I saw it on the course. The next day I had to retrace the route to find the store (luckily it was within the first 10 kilometres from the start).
What advice would you give to a man who’s never been on stage let alone walked a catwalk?
First and foremost, confidence is key.
You need to walk on stage standing tall and proud as if to say “Yes, I look good, I feel good and you [the judges] are going to notice me” as opposed to looking down at the floor, zero eye-contact and looking completely disinterested. Given that you have a finite amount of time on stage, first impressions really do count here.
Be confident in what you are wearing and show it off to the best of your ability. I fully appreciate that it can be nerve-wracking going on stage and seeking some form of validation from an esteemed panel of judges, however the excitement of being on stage and having some amazing photos taken should override whatever the judge’s decision may be.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions of other male FOTF entrants regarding the process and what to do. I certainly did, and in fact still do. I have benefitted from the sound advice from other male FOTF regulars, for example Michael McApline, Hamish Lardi, Brock Cross and Michael Dunn.
How important is it to have a well fitting suit?
I am fortunate enough to have a tailor that is equally as passionate about putting a well fitted suit together as me. If you are entering FOTF, for me, it really is a must.
My biggest bug bear is trousers that are too long and baggy – either tack them up yourself or take them to a tailor. And if they are then too short in the leg then so be it – short trousers are after all increasingly becoming a trend.
What colours are trending this year for men?
There were several colour trends going on at the track ranging from shades of red, green/emerald and yellow through to shades of grey and brown. This was evident at the Black Opal Stakes Day where the men’s finalists all had a different take on the set criteria embracing a different primary colour in their suit of choice.
The one colour that I would love to do more with is burgundy, I appreciate it can be tricky to match with but I think if done right would look seriously stylish.
Where do you find inspiration?
A very good question… and without sounding stalker-ish, I get inspiration from other FOTF entrants (both male and female) by looking at their past pictures and thinking what part or parts would suit me and what would I change.
Also ‘suggested’ pages on Instagram especially those coming out of Europe. It is from here that I got my inspiration of pairing check with check. A lot of it is trial and error and with op shops and online retailers makes it more affordable to try different things.
Also, say you are stuck on the tarmac and need to kill some hours, google men’s suit fashion or men’s suits – some of my accessory inspirations have come from this.
Which men’s Instagram accounts do you follow?
If I look at my “recently viewed” Instagram pages they are @this.is.malice, @mrturner, @byhim and @stuarts_select_style. Whilst they are extremely varied in terms of style and content, I like each individually for their originality, which in turn gives me ideas.
What’s the best FOTF win you’ve had so far?
This is a tricky question for me. I would love to say my first FOTF competition as I felt like the boy who somehow wandered into the VIP room and feeling so out of my depth, but winning Best Dressed Couple with the stunning Lisa Wellings at the Dubai World will certainly take some beating.
I am renowned for thinking everything is a great idea when it is first posed and agreed to travel to Dubai for 2 nights. From having extreme jet-lag, literally melting in the heat and having never entered a couples competition before, everything seemed to fall into place. The experience combined with the opulence that Dubai has to offer made it an experience that I’ll never forgot.
What’s the best part of FOTF?
This may sound trite, however it gives a platform for men and women to dress, feel good about themselves and head trackside. It would be totally remiss to not acknowledge the excitement if you happen to win, pick up a prize and the ever important sash, but truly I get more enjoyment in putting a combination together.
You don’t know what’s going on in someone’s personal life so to possibly escape, feel good about themselves, get a few compliments along the way and network with like-minded people must surely usurp everything else.
Wow what fantastic and informative knowledge shared by Neil! Thank you so much for answering our questions and helping men out there dress for their day at the races!
Men have you entered Fashions on the Field before? Share a photo of your race day outfit in the comments below to give other men some race day inspiration!