Once a year the town of Ascot transforms into a global stage for flamboyant hats, fascinators, and horse racing. The Royal Ascot, attended for the first time this year by the Duchess of Sussex, began in 1711 and attracts around 300,000 racegoers each year. The tradition of wearing brightly colored and daring hats has since become one of its main attractions.
For design expert and cultural commentator Stephen Bayley, “Snobbery is the science of analyzing visual and aural data to determine class. And the British have raised this mere science to a high art form. Take hats, especially the fantastical display headwear at Royal Ascot or a royal wedding. Every nuance of style, shape, color betrays the ambitions and status of its wearer. It may be a pretty scene, but it’s also cruelly revealing.”