Dressing Up for the Downs

Writer: Michael Morain
Photos: Kevin Hansen

At last year’s Kentucky Derby, Kevin Hansen didn’t have a horse in the race. But as the owner of Rod & Rivet, the Des Moines-based haberdasher and expedition outfitter that’s opening a second shop this month in downtown Decorah, he still tried to toss his hat in the ring.

A couple of his clients had hired him to assemble some outfits for the racing season and offered to wear Rod & Rivet caps in the winner’s circle if their horse won the Derby.

That didn’t happen — this time — but Hansen still got a fun trip out of it. He and a friend drove down to Louisville for a little betting and a lot of people-watching at the famous Churchill Downs.

The menswear expert said only about 1% of the men in the crowd dressed well for the event. He said most guys either hadn’t tried or looked like they were going to an evening wedding.

By contrast, he wanted each of his clients “to look like a dandy but not a clown.” The trick, he said, is to go with unstructured jackets or suits in breathable fabrics — lightweight wool is actually better than cotton — and to avoid too many colors or accessories. A little flair goes a long way at the Derby or any other summer outing that calls for a bit of style.

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