Make it a summer of socialising with our highlights of the sporting calendar and what to wear
In the 19th century, the ‘Season’ marked the time when the aristocracy would emerge from their countryside winter hibernation to descend on London for a summer of politics and parties. While times have changed, Britain’s sporting season remains an unmissable spectacle of high-octane pursuits coupled with a quintessentially British sense of style.
A day at the races
The Season traditionally begins with the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March – but the horse racing world’s unmissable summer highlights are Royal Ascot (18-22 June) and Glorious Goodwood (30 July-August). For seasoned racing lovers and amateurs alike, Ascot and Goodwood are the events to see world-class flat racing. But it’s the eccentric fashion and etiquette that more often than not take centrestage. Beau Brummell, the original 19th-century dandy – a man who famously recommended polishing shoes with champagne – is responsible for the rigid men’s dress code in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. Black or grey morning dress, plus top hat, is still a prerequisite if you hope to be rubbing shoulders with dignitaries there or in the Queen’s Stand. However, Ascot overall is a far more accessible affair these days and this is reflected in the increasingly relaxed dress code. Women need to keep hemlines conservative but are permitted to wear trouser suits and jumpsuits – and experimenting with mixed textures and bold colour is encouraged. Hats, of course, are customary. While at Glorious Goodwood (officially the Qatar Goodwood Festival) ‘informal elegance’ is the order of the day. Edward VII once famously described Glorious Goodwood as ‘a garden party with racing attached’ and a sense of fun is still at the heart of the action.
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Need for speed
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is a must for petrolheads of all ages and is renowned as the ‘world’s greatest celebration of motorsport and car culture’. The four-day event takes place in the sprawling surroundings of the 17th-century Goodwood House in West Sussex. This year's edition is extra-special with several new changes and milestones. Most significant is the introduction of ‘The Arena’, described as an ‘amphitheater of action’ with drift cars, stunt drivers and daring car and motorcycle displays. The First Glance Paddock, which gives people a chance to get up close and personal with the latest car models before they hit the showroom, has a new location alongside the FoS Future Lab. The action reaches a thrilling climax on Sunday with the famous hillclimb. This year marks the 20th anniversary of German F1 racer Nick Heidfeld setting the world record in a McLaren MP4/13, driving the 1.16 mile course in just 41.6 seconds. In a year of new achievements, spectators and car brands alike are holding out for a brand-new world record in 2019.
Every summer, thousands of well-heeled spectators descend en masse to the quaint town of Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire for the world’s most famous regatta. Henley Royal Regatta (3-7 July) has been held every summer since 1839 – before national and international rowing federations even existed – making it a wholly unique spectacle. More than 200 races take place on the near mile-and-a-half stretch of river (1 mile, 550 yards to be precise), with only two boats racing in each heat. The five-day event attracts professional competitors from all over the world, as well as a host of prestigious universities including Yale and Harvard. The dress code is something of a spectacle in itself. Those lucky enough to have secured a spot in the exclusive Stewards’ Enclosure (which has a membership waiting list of between six and 10 years) have strict guidelines to follow. Men should wear lounge suits with a tie or cravat and, if earned, a club or team blazer. Panama hats are not compulsory but are encouraged. Other enclosures have significantly lighter regulations and anything goes on the Berkshire banks – but you’ll find plenty of candy colours and jaunty boating hats amid those spectators getting into the Henley spirit.
What a racket
An event that needs no introduction, Wimbledon (1-15 July) is the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. The first Wimbledon Championships took place as a ‘lawn tennis meeting, open to all amateurs’ back in 1877. These days only the crème de la crème of the tennis world take to the famous Centre Court, which has been the backdrop to some of the most memorable moments in sporting history. Who could forget Murray’s poignant win over Novak Djokovic in 2013, or John McEnroe’s infamous 1981 meltdown. The exclusive Royal Box has a strict dress code, with men expected to wear a jacket and tie at all times – Lewis Hamilton was famously ejected for not following the rules in 2015. Smart-casual attire is advised for all other seating. It may be worth looking to past high-profile spectators such as Bradley Cooper, Justin Timberlake and the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex for some sartorial inspiration.