The English summer is a glorious thing. You may scoff, particularly those of you who believe the lie that it only ever rains here. In fact the UK gets a lower rainfall per year than Mexico – we just never know when it’s going to happen. Come summertime I can think of no other country I’d rather be in, winter is a different matter.
Our days are bright and sunny without being overbearing, and the humidity is such that you don’t have to spend your time sat indoors lest you sweat through a days clothing. But above all, if you’re inclined to make the effort, it can be a glorious festival of fun and sartorial delight.
I was reminded of that fact this week having received confirmation of my tickets for both the Royal Enclosure at Ascot and the Chap Olympiad – more on that last event in my next post.
But let us review.
The Derby, Epsom Downs 3-4th June
I’ve become a regular race goer over the last few years and while not quite as formal as Royal Ascot, if you’re in the Queen’s Stand on Derby Day then it’s full morning dress, otherwise it’s a minimum of jacket, collar and tie in all other locations. Most take the opportunity to dress up. The women look stunning, particularly on Ladies’ Day, and it would be wise to follow suit. Far less regulated than Ascot you don’t have to be sponsored to get Queen’s Stand tickets.
Royal Ascot, Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th June
It’s too late to get tickets for the Royal Enclosure but you can still get Grand Stand tickets. Friends and I did this a few years ago and had a great day. The dress code is still formal, but not morning suit. The design of the course and grandstand means you’ll get access to just about everything and have a wonderfully enjoyable day. This is the place to display your summer suiting wardrobe. This may surprise you, but it’s easier to get tickets to the Royal enclosure if you’re a foreigner. Americans, Kiwis and Australians need only apply through their embassy – ballots are closed for this year, but there’s always 2012.
Glorious Goodwood, 26th-30th July
Spread over the week and set high on the beautiful South Downs, Glorious Goodwood is another of the great social and horseracing events on the sporting calendar – and yes it’s actually known as Glorious Goodwood. Whereas Ascot is all pomp and ceremony, Goodwood is one long summer garden party with horse racing tacked on. While a certain amount of formality is required, thanks to King Edward VII the morning suit is discarded in favour of linen suits and Panama hats – and Champagne is replaced by Pimm’s. Personally, I enjoy Glorious Goodwood more than Royal Ascot.
Glyndebourne Festival, May to August
Not a sporting event this one, but a celebration of Opera. A uniquely English affair, the Glyndebourne Festival is set in the grounds of John Christie’s country house. An extended interval provides time for an evening meal, with organisers encouraging opera goers to make full use of the grounds and host their own picnics. By convention the dress code is black tie. You don’t have to be a member to get tickets, although members do get priority booking.
Now I’m not suggesting you go to these events simply to dress up, I happen to enjoy opera and a day at the races. But in a world which grows increasingly informal, it’s nice to know that there are still opportunities for you to combine summer fun with high sartorial standards.
I’ve listed a fraction of what’s out there: Wimbledon, the Henley Regatta, Cows Week and the Chelsea Flower Show round out the ‘formal’ list. If, however, you’re looking for an alternative ‘Season’ well there’s plenty of enjoyable attractions providing a touch of old school glamour, and these will be covered in my next post.