Dress code: Henley

Monday, June 28, 2010
Apologies for my lengthy absence. A new job is distracting me from the important work of blogging regularly.

Ascot is only just gone, and another major sporting event on the social season begins this week. Henley Royal Regatta is a bizzare and wonderful occasion - a five day sporting and social fixture that is simultaneously one of the most prestigious rowing events in the world and also one of the most important dates in the traditional social season. It attracts spectators who probably never watch rowing the other 360 days of the year (except perhaps for the Boat Race), and international rowers who, in the words of a former Great Britain rower who once coached me, 'value a Henley medal more even than a World Championship Gold'.

Whatever your level of interest in the rowing itself, being a good spectator is a sport in itself. Dressing up in the sort of bright blazers and ties that are so rarely appropriate for the rest of the year, and choosing one of the many bars, enclosures or just beautiful picnic spots along the bank is all part of the fun.

Only the exclusive Stewards' Enclosure actually has a dress code (jacket and tie for men, dresses reaching the knee for women), it's well worth making an effort regardless of where you will be watching from. Although a lightweight summer suit is perfectly acceptable, a far more traditional option would be white cotton 'ducks' and a blazer (light chinos are a worthy substitute for people who have little use for white cotton trousers for most of the year). The best kind of blazer is colourful and, probably, stripey. However, at Henley more than anywhere else, I would strongly caution against wearing anything that could be interpreted as a rowing or club blazer if you are not infact entitled to one. The almost infinite variety of clubs and crews represented at Henley mean that anything but the very simplest blazers run a risk of being misinterpreted as identifying you as a member of a club; to the embarrassment of all concerned. If you don't have a blazer to which you are legitimately entitled then it is not important, you will hardly be the only one, just wear a plain blue or cream blazer or, at most, one with a simple and generic stripe.

More on the oddness of rowing blazers themselves in a few days, when I have dug mine out of the cupboard and found time to photograph it.