Why Do Women Wear Those Crazy Hats To The Kentucky Derby?

For guys, the Kentucky Derby is a great opportunity to gamble away their money. For ladies, it’s an awesome excuse to wear an elaborate hat. While other countries are all about bizarre hats – let’s not forget the insane spectacle Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie made at the royal wedding – but here in the good ol’ US of A, wearing one of these on the reg (or to a wedding) would raise some eyebrows. The Kentucky Derby is the one day a year attendees and party-goers who just enjoy day drinking alike can rock one of these unique creations without questioning looks.
There’s a good reason we are bringing up the Brits when it comes to why women wear hats at the Derby. The founder of the Kentucky Derby modeled the race after European-style racing events such as the Royal Ascot, for which men and women wore their very best. When the Kentucky Derby began in 1875, both American and British women alike wanted to wear their finest to the races…and in those days, that definitely meant sporting a headgear. Unlike the local racetrack by my house where most people are donning tank tops and jean shorts, the tradition stuck for the biggest horse race of the year. And besides the obvious, practical reason of blocking out the sun, it’s believed to bring good luck!
Within the seated (read: expensive) sections of Louisville’s Churchill Downs, ladies sport classic wide-brimmed, “Southern Belle” inspired hats. The hats can be decorated with flowers, feathers, bows, and ribbons to express creativity and individuality. Men get in on the hat game too, although their hats are simpler and typically inspired by the style from the 1920s.
As all things in America, people sometimes take the fashion statement a little too far. Instead of the elegant, traditional looks, many fans nowadays tend to go for the zany. Check out some of the crazy looks from years past below, and get ready for hat envy as you see the best decorated head-toppers this Saturday!


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