Big Hats and Horse Racing


We don’t have a lot of documented history on the hats, but speculation has it that when the Derby was first brought here, they wanted it to be a social affair,” says Courtney Stinson, public relations manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum.

“They went around to all of the women’s clubs in town and invited the women to dress up in their finest to come to the Derby. … In that period, of course, the hat was essential, and the hat just carried through.”

This is the only time of year Gail Brumleve, 43, of Louisville, wears a hat. “A lot of people really want to wear hats all the time, but they’re self-conscious because no one else does.”

Some Derby goers, though, go all out with outlandish hat couture, even men. “About the ’60s and ’70s is when the crazy hat tradition began,” Stinson says. “You’ll see one with horses all over it. You’ll see roses draped from the head to the floor. Anything and everything imaginable.”

Just some facts, Mam, just some facts.


Fashion is the great dictator.
The South Rules when it comes to fashion and the Kentucky Derby.
Southern Belles were always seen carrying a parasol or wearing a large hat because in the South the sun was hot and would burn the skin. In the 1800’s suntans were a sign of a low class. They signified having to work out in the sun with no relief.
Women of breeding never allowed themselves to get a tan, and at the Derby there is too much going on to have to bother with a parasol, so the wide brim floppy hat remains the fashion to this day.-The End

The big hats are a big part of the tradition of the derby. Its almost intregal to the proceedings. Some people claim it gives them luck to pick the best horse. There doesn’t seem to be much history beyond that the style was part of the culture of the era when it first started and simply stayed and grew into the phenomenon it is today with the hat parade and such.

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