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The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby

Did you know the Kentucky Derby is the longest running sporting event in history? With 145 consecutive races, the Derby has not been missed since it began in 1875. “The Run for the Roses”, it is affectionately known, did continue during the most trying times in our nations (& world’s) history; The Great Depression, World War I & II, and the Coronavirus Pandemic. The race is known for being one and a quarter miles, but when the Derby first began fifteen horses raced one and a half miles for 10,000 fans. 
Kentucky Derby Race at Churchill Downs in 1907 / Universal History Archive / Getty Images

The Derby grew very quickly, and just 20 years after it’s genesis a 285-foot grandstand was built for fans. The Triple Crown of Racing was ‘introduced” in 1919, but it actually was 4 races to begin with. The term Triple Crown was not used until 1930 when the New York Times wrote an article about Gallant Fox who won The Triple Crown, which consists of The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes, and The Belmont Stakes. 

The Kentucky Derby in 2015 / Chris Graythen / Getty Images

13 horses have won The Triple Crown.
  • 1919 - Sir Barton 
  • 1930 - Gallant Fox
  • 1935- Omaha
  • 1937 - War Admiral
  • 1941 - Whirlaway
  • 1943 - Count Fleet
  • 1946 - Assault
  • 1948 - Citation 
  • 1973 - Secretariat
  • 1977 - Seattle Slew
  • 1978 - Affirmed
  • 2015 - American Pharoah
  • 2018 - Justify
  • Traditions
    The Mint Julep

    The mint julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, so when you get together to watch come ready with one of our mint julep cups and crushed iced for the perfect cocktail.  Our favorite mint julep recipe is 2oz Bourbon, 1oz simple syrup, 4-5 mint leaves (crushed), and a little splash of water served over crushed ice! 

    Bluegrass Provisions Co. Mint Julep Cup

    The attire from the derby became a tradition in an unconventional way. When the Kentucky Derby first started, the race had a negative reputation. Founder Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. set out to change this reputation. Spoiler alert: it worked. He encouraged everyone to invite their high class friends and have proper picnics in the infield. The Derby is now a place for high-society Southerners to be seen in their best outfit.

    Kentucky Derby Fashion 1920s

    Due to being the longest running sporting event in history, there is rich tradition behind the Kentucky Derby. Many folks who don’t attend the Derby still honor these traditions at home. The clothes at the Kentucky Derby are a special kind of preppy; the Derby has always been the place to be seen wearing the latest fashion. In the 1920, hats and gloves were day-to-day pieces of clothing, and every lady would be wearing a strand of pearls around her neck. The fashion of the 30s and 40s followed *suit*. Very formal, preppy, high-fashion attire. But in these decades, the formal suit was more popular than dresses as an outfit of choice for the ladies attending the Derby. Hats and gloves were still adorned by attendees. 

    Kentucky Derby 1920s

    After the war, fashion reflected the wealth that couples in the 50s experienced. Women were well-dressed in, yes again, suits. The skirts were likely one of two styles: fitted to the body or billowy under a petticoat. Hats and glasses were still part of a well-dressed woman's wardrobe and would’ve been seen on any high fashion woman at the Derby. 

    Kentucky Derby Fashion Post-War 1950s

    Fashion rules really changed in the 60s, ditching the style and culture of the 20th century. However, the Derby was (and is) viewed as a high class event, and women considered this the opportunity to dress to impress. Around this time, the trend of over the top hats is thought to have started. Due to the letting-go of past fashion rules, hats left the fashion scene, no longer a day-to-day accessory. With Millionaires Row now opened, high class women took pride in picking out an over-the-top hat for the race; the hats get crazier and more extravagant as the years go by.

    Kentucky Derby Fashion 1960s
    Kentucky Derby Fashion 1970s-1980s
    Kentucky Derby Fashion 1990s


    Outfits Inspo

    What is a blog post about the Kentucky Derby without some Derby inspired outfits? Whether you attend the Derby itself, a Derby themed party, or want to dress for The Most Exciting Two Minutes in sports, we have you covered! 

    Kentucky Derby Outfit Mood Board - Men

    Of course for the men, seersucker is a must! The Derby is a fun excuse your the guy to get just as dressed up as their dates. Plaid or pastels are the showstopper at the race. Grab a cute bowtie and our new Woven Mystery Belt and you are sure to be the best dressed fella!

    Kentucky Derby Fashion Mood Board - Women

    Ladies, you get to have some fun with this one! Find a stylish dress, pair with a strappy shoe, a classic earring, our hoof pick belt, and an awesome hat. The Derby’s official “What To Wear…” page suggests carrying a large bag within the size regulations to carry your sunscreen, sunglasses, water, a poncho for May’s unpredictable weather, and an extra pair of shoes if you will be watching the race from the infield. Keep a smaller bag handy, like a crossbody, for your phone, cash, and any other essentials you’ll need easy access to for the day. 


    We hope everyone is celebration the most historic sporting event in true fashion! Be sure to shop our belts, accessories, and mint julep cups for your Kentucky Derby Party this year, and tag us on Instagram with your Bluegrass Provisions goods. 

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