Spring Racing Carnival: men are dressing better than ever

It's fair to say men haven't always covered themselves in glory when it comes to putting on the ritz for the races.

But the tide is turning.

Guys are really thinking about their clothing this year – it’s catwalk stuff.

Don Bagnato

On Derby Day - when tradition dictates that black and white predominate - it was arguably gents who outshone the traditional leaders in trackside style, the ladies, with some far-from drab selections.

Many did not opt for the matching suit and pants – instead, colours and patterns were mixed, and different textures were introduced through hats, ties and pocket squares.

While women largely played it safe, men thought outside the square, not necessarily sticking to the black-and-white colours, and taking more fashion risks – like Hupert Gutsa, who wore leather fingerless gloves with his Tom Ford suit.

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Dom Bagnato, of the eponymous men's fashion line celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, was a Myer Fashions on the Field judge in the menswear category. "I was ecstatic with the level of dressing and detail among the guys who came to the competition," said. "I have not seen that in years. Guys are really thinking about their clothing this year – it's catwalk stuff."

Hats were the key accessory. "Every single finalist in the menswear category was wearing a hat. It was crazy."

To be on trend, Bagnato suggests that men follow something he's been doing for years – utilising a "clashing of colours and textures and patterns".


"While we're not taking credit here, because it's a way of dressing, this year guys are definitely more confident to mix things up. Different bottoms to tops, patterns with checks – guys are either experimenting by decision or accident, and it's created this fresh, modern look."

There is only one rule to this approach to avoid a potential fashion faux pas. "If people are doing it for the first time, one of the components has to be 'quiet'," Bagnato said.

"You can't have three competing elements in your shirt, tie and jacket. The safest way to do this look is to give respect to the colour palette, so that everything is in a blue or rose or navy shade. The moment you bring in an accent colour, it gets a bit dangerous. If you do – using, say, a nice burnt orange or a cherry red – then keep the other two components quieter."

Blue, he says, is still a dominant colour for menswear: "We've done sky to royal blues, mixed up with earthy colours. This trend is at its peak now. And tan is big for shoes, as well as chocolate. Brogues are still strong. I also love seeing a sporty element to a dress shoe – something that is a bit chunky."

Double vision

At either end of Flemington's swanky 'Birdcage', two sets of identical twins provided evidence that there's a surprisingly wide spectrum available to men when it comes to sharp style.

On the one hand was modelling siblings Jordan and Zac Stenmark at the G.H. Mumm marquee - Zac in Farage (a popular label on the day among men and, notably, model Montana Cox in a tuxedo suit) and Jordan in velvet Gucci. "I was going to wear the Gucci jacket no matter what the weather was like," said Jordan, admitting relief when the day's top was a cool 18 degrees. "You have to sacrifice for style. Go hard or go home!"

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the enclosure in the Swisse marquee, the singing brothers Madden – Joel and Benji – sported matching leather jackets and sneakers for the occasion. "I tried to dress up in my own way," Joel said.

If you're the type who doesn't mind the spotlight, you might well follow the lead of Melbourne Fashion Festival partnerships executive Shiva Singam, who donned a Comme des Garcons frock coat, accented by patent orange Vivienne Westwood shoes.

"I wore them as they're supremely comfortable, and best of all, composed of plastic - hence weather suitable," Singam said.

"Being orange, they just pop with the otherwise all-black of my outfit. As my frock coat looked slightly Papal, I channelled the Pope's red bespoke patent shoes."

His best style tip? "Remember that the best accessory is confidence. Wear what you choose boldly."

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