The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports

On the first Saturday in May “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” takes place in Louisville, Kentucky.

Men and women from all over the world will flock to Churchill Downs, dressed in flamboyant colors and the biggest hats, ready to take in the spectacle of the first leg of the Triple Crown, a competition of three-year-old thoroughbred horses. And perhaps sip a mint julep or three.

A bit of history: Churchill Downs, home to the Derby, was founded by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr.. After traveling Europe and becoming enamored with the races in England and France, he returned to Kentucky and organized a racing club that would build the facilities today named after the Churchill brothers who sold the land for the track. Though the track found support amongst enthusiasts, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s under new management that the Kentucky Derby became the preeminent race in the nation.

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Once the status of the race was cemented in local culture, it wasn’t long before traditions began to emerge surrounding the annual event. The mint julep quickly became the drink of choice at the Derby and is synonymous with the event. Sipping these drinks, spectators mingle amongst the crowds on the infield wearing their brightest colors, women often in large and elaborate hats. These style choices, significantly more extravagant than attendees’ normal attire, are inspired by the fashions of the wealthy Southerners that attended in the event’s early years. Indeed, many of the present day elite are sure to have their faces seen at this event, with hundreds of private planes flying into the local airport every year for this weekend alone.

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With the advent of television and internet, the celebration of the Derby has become a nation-wide phenomenon.

Restaurants and hotels across the country host events on the first Saturday in May and the bright colors and mint juleps are no longer regulated to Churchill Downs. Many brands and outfitters have Derby-specific lines for the early Spring that are heavily promoted.

Lilly Pulitzer is a great example of the exuberant colors and patterns that will be seen at the Derby, and they still promote Derby-specific items. Often featuring sales and deals, Lilly is known for its bold patterns and brings that together with the theme of horses, roses, mint juleps and more for their featured items every year for the Derby. The bright pinks, greens, blues and yellows evoke the season and a sense of confidence that finds a welcome home in every Derby Day celebration. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.13.08 AMWhile this is the choice of many women who will attend the Derby in-person or at a watching-party, Pulitzer had some short-lived menswear that fit the bill as well, with brightly colored madras blazers, floral bowties, and blindingly colorful pants. The womenswear line is alive and thriving, however the menswear is only available secondhand through eBay, Etsy, and local thrift stores.

Vineyard Vines recently jumped on the bandwagon as well, opening up a Kentucky Derby section of their online store. While many of their options are garish and showy, such as their floral blazers, bow-tie embroidered pants, and other flashy options, they have added some tasteful necktie and bowtie options this year that are on-theme with the Derby but could translate well through the rest of the year too.

One of the benefits of these event-specific lines that brands are promoting is that they often find themselves steeply discounted just days following the event, providing the perfect opportunity to plan for next year and save a dollar or two in the process. No one would ever fault you for being thrifty, so this is a great option for those who might find the price tags on these single-day items a bit exorbitant. 

The treasured celebration of the Kentucky Derby is one of history, the return of Spring, the Southern culture, and of the simple joys of communal revelry and exuberance once in a rare while. We want to know how you plan to celebrate this, so grab your biggest hat, your madras bow tie, a mint julep, and share your celebrations with Navy Blazer.

Alexander DeLuca
Alexander is a university administrator, author, and proud New Englander. He lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

One Response to “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports

  • Proper Form
    11 months ago

    I’ll be hanging out in the infield with the rest of my recent college graduate brethren. Box seats are hard to come by, and when can find them, the sticker price can be even harder to fathom.

    While the infield gets a bit of a bad wrap, I think it’s also a hidden gem, still allowing access to much of the paddock and shop areas. Just pray the weather holds out.

    My jacket arrives this week (light and navy blue plaid from Hickey Freeman) and I look forward to picking up a bow tie from a local clothier on Saturday. They are having an open house to benefit Hope Scarves, complete with Bow Tie cookies from a local baker and Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Balls.

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