Fashion | Kentucky Derby Hats

Fashionable Kentucky Derby Hats
Kentucky Derby Hats

The flashy, colorful hats that women don at the Kentucky Derby are a part of the annual horse race's tradition -- and the bigger and bolder the hat, the better.

"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," Courtney Stinson, a public relations manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum, told"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," Stinson said.

When the Kentucky Derby was first held at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Ky., 137 years ago, hats were all the rage and regarded as an essential everyday accessory -- for those who could afford them. At special events such as horse races, women wore fancy and extravagant hats to broadcast their social status and show off their expensive style. Men simply wore top hats.

Over the years, the Churchill Downs hat tradition has remained for women and continues to be a Kentucky Derby staple. Although women aren't required to wear a hat to the races, most do. One common theme among Kentucky Derby hats is roses, since the race is known as the "run for the roses" because the winning horse receives a blanket made of more than 500 of the blossoms.