In some ways, the Spring Racing Carnival is like wedding season; it’s in spring, theres’s plenty to drink, and you have to get dressed up. Some men let their ladies choose their attire for such occasions (and that’s OK, as complementing your partner’s outfit is easy if it’s done for you) but for those discerning men who like to be masters of their closet, figuring out what to wear to the races is something done in private and with a little bit of fashion research.
Enter Nathan Trong, a Personal Shopper and Stylist at David Jones Market St menswear store. Nathan knows his point from cutaway collars, his Italian brands from Danish ones, and knows all the traditional rules of men’s spring racing fashion so well, he can subvert them but not break them.
We met with Nathan in the David Jones Market St styling suite, which looks like a modern gentleman’s club with its dark carpet and leather chairs, and where he shared some brilliant menswear tips and advice for spring racing.
Let’s start with suits - what makes a good spring racing suit?
First of all, all men should wear suits to the races. No sports coats with trousers or chinos, and if you really want to make an effort, don’t just wear your business suit to the races. There’s a distinct difference between a suit you wear to work and one you wear to the races.
I like to take style cues from the Italians, who are all about “Sprezzatura,” which is about looking stylishly nonchalant or effortless. This means choosing suits that are elegant but comfortable, especially for spring racing where you are in a suit all day; so look for ones that are unlined made of linen or wool linen blends. They tend to be feel lighter and unstructured as the idea is to not to look constricted or too rigid. I always suggest brands like Canali, Zegna and Lab by Pal Zileri for great Italian suiting.
How do you know when a suit fits right?
I’m trained in fitting suits, most of us Personal Shoppers and Stylists are. But for spring racing suits, I tend to look at the shoulders. The jacket should rest on the shoulders with a good drape through the rest of the body. The waist should be slightly tapered not fitted, and I always make sure there’s no pulling in the fabric.
Pants should sit on the waist, not the hips; many men wear their pants too low and have no idea where their waist is. A man’s waist is generally four fingers below their belly button.
And are blue suits still trendy for the races?
Yes, blue suits are still OK. But I prefer a bolder blue, rather than a navy. And light grey is another colour option for suits.
Are there as many rules about what shirt to wear underneath?
Not really. But I do recommend a breathable fabric like cotton so you don’t overheat. The key thing with shirts are the collars as they are what’s mostly visible under a suit. It can be a personal preference but I suggest a cutaway or spread collar for the races as it allows you to have room for however you like to tie your tie. Try shirts from Anthony Squires or Thomas Pink, or if you want a bolder check or print, try Danish brand Sand. For something a bit more preppy and relaxed, you can try a button down collar, which has its origins from 19th century American style.Speaking of ties, any tips on accessorising?
A good rule for deciding on the size of your tie is to match its blade with the width of your suit’s lapel. This creates a nice balance to your overall look. I also try to pick one with an accent colour or motif that complements the suit.
Pocket squares shouldn’t match the tie exactly but provide a nice contrast. Overall, you should focus on creating an ensemble where all elements fit together but not match each other.