Yes, you’ve a lovely rotating selection of suits hibernating in the cupboard. They do have their purposes, but that switch to spring delivers an inevitable urge to freshen up. Fortunately there’s a great reason beyond splashing out for the sake of new-season looks: spring racing.
Dressing for spring racing requires all-weather considerations. You want something classic, adaptable and – with a little knowhow – can be easily transformed from casual into smart.
“A three-piece light grey suit is a good start,” says Sam Wines. As a model and editor of fashion blog Man of Style, Wines has a stockpile of smart ideas for tinkering with a look – including mixing and matching, or taking the pants from one suit and the jacket from the next.
In local parlance this is known as “broken singles”, but Jonathan Lobban, brand editor-in-chief at M.J. Bale, says the Italians have a better word for it: spezzato.
“[Spezzato means] you can break up the suit into separate elements,” says Lobban. “That way you can maximise what you already have without having to purchase new garments every season.”
We asked Wines to give us some tips for buying a great suit, as well as changing up the look and abiding by individual race day rules.
Wines’ first tip for buying a suit you’d like to tinker with across the season is to choose a colour foundation to work from. Wines likes grey, which is versatile and ideal for multiple use. “I like a herringbone, glen plaid or pinstripe pattern which has a little bit of pop,” he says. “Fashion goes in cycles, but if you go for some stylish Oxford shoes to match a well-fitting suit, you’re going to be wearing it for years to come.”
Lobban believes every gentleman should have a navy suit in their repertoire, due to its versatile use. “You can wear it to work, you can wear it to the races, you can wear it with casual tailored clothing such as chinos and denim jeans,” he says. “You can sub it in as a sports blazer.”
Lobban says that at M.J. Bale, tailors work to emphasise the individual. “The whole art of tailoring is in being able to amplify your positives,” he says. “If you’re a thin man with sloping shoulders, tailoring can make the shoulders larger and seem more athletic. If you’re a football player, we can take the padding of the shoulders out and nip it in around the waist to give you that more traditional silhouette.”
From this foundation, you can build up with classic accessories to subtly transform a look. Mixing and matching shoes, belts, blazers, ties and vests in either loud or quiet varieties, hats and sunglasses can switch up your look from Derby Day to the Oaks.
Lobban says the key is not overdoing it. “Accessories are such a subjective thing – it comes down to your personality,” he says. “If you’ve got a pretty classic suit, you can add an accent or a pop of colour through your pocket square. But when it comes to suiting, the best accessories the better.”
Ultimately, the goal is to be the man in a suit, not a suit with a man in it. Keeping it classic is always the classy move. “We don’t really believe in trends. It can be quite absurd that things have to change every six months,” says Lobban. “The whole purpose of good suiting is that, really, the man is noticed, not the clothes.”
With opportunities for wearing a suit sprinkled liberally throughout the spring racing calendar, Wines gives us his tips for mixing it up on different days.
The formal occasion
The glamour of the Spring Racing Carnival peaks on Saturday November 4 with Derby Day, which according to Wines is “the most formal of days”. Bearing in mind the day’s monochrome palette requirement of black, white and grey, one needs to keep their look simple and classic. “For Derby Day, you could just wear this full suit as a three piece, with a white shirt and a black tie.” Easy.
Whether you’re actually in Flemington or on site at Royal Randwick’s huge Melbourne Cup party, the biggest event in the Spring Racing Carnival calendar goes down on November 7.
Wines says your fashion choices at Melbourne Cup Day can match the day’s casual atmosphere. He suggests you try rotating in some elements from your regular wardrobe for effect. “For Cup Day you might just wear the jacket as a blazer and some black chino pants,” says Wines. Failing that, “you could still make it work as long as you had a swathe of different accessories.” Wines suggests complementing your look with a light-blue shirt, a navy stripe or polka-dot tie, and brown leather accessories.
Focus on fashion
For a glamorous edge to a fashion-focused day like Spring Champion Stakes Day, keep the brown shoes and belt, sport the suit blazer, black chino pants, and “you could probably rock a light shade of pink or a light blue shirt,” says Wines. Pair it with a pink, purple or geometric tie, and “pocket square to match,” for some subtle flair.
Go out with a bang
Wrap up your four-day fashion spree at Australia’s richest meet, The Everest and “go just the jacket and pants,” says Wines. Complement with a burgundy or red tie against a white shirt, and revisit the black leather accessories for a sophisticated but relaxed look.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with M.J. Bale.